Monday, September 12, 2016

100 Days of Poetry - Part II

So, on 18th July, 2016, I began this series called #100DaysOfPoetry, and decided that I am going to collate the individual poems here in sets of 10.

The first 10 can be read here - Part 1

The next 10 are -

11. John Donne - The Good Morrow

Context - I studied this during my Masters in Jamia, and instantly fell in love with this love which is beyond cartographic definitions.

Poet - Among the greatest of metaphysical poets, John Donne is also remembered for his profound prose. He was the master of 'conceits', which are a category of metaphors where the comparison is rather abstract. In fact, Helen Gardner has famously commented on conceits by calling them a 'comparison whose ingenuity is more striking than their justness.'

Takeaway - The beautiful notion that when you are with your lover, your world converges in the little space you inhabit.

12. C. Day Lewis - Walking Away

Context - I found this hidden away in this amazing book called 'Poetry Please', which is a collection of the 100 popular poems from BBC Radio 4 programme. 

Poet - Cecil Day Lewis has held the distinction of being the Poet Laureate of UK. A 20th century poet, he is of Anglo-Irish origins. If you have ever heard the name Nicholas Blake - the author of detective novels, he is the same guy. Till date, he is remembered as a voice of revolution in poetry and politics. 

Takeaway - The last line - "And love is proved in the letting go."

13. Agha Shahid Ali - Tonight

Context - FAVOURITE poem. By far. 

Poet - A Kashmiri poet, Agha Shahid Ali is a dear, favourite voice from the postcolonial corpus. His poems smell of nostalgia, of a lost land, of lost culture, of despair, of identity, of conflict and seamlessly blend traditional notions with modern connotations. He is credited with giving ghazals their just place in English language. And I can go on about him, 

Takeaway - Each couplet in this poem is a discourse in itself. The poem in the attached image is incomplete - find a version which has the epigraph. This is a ghazal in English, following each rule by the book of the Persian poetic form. And it is beautiful. So beautiful. By the way, can you figure out who is the narrator in this poem?

14. Judith Wright - Failure of Communion

Context - Judith Wright lay on the unexplored terrain of poets for me, especially since the first poem I read of hers was supposedly a 'ghazal', and it just did not seem to be one. That put me off. Rediscovery began with this poem.

Poet - Wright is an Australian poet and environmentalist. Among her poems, 'Woman to Man' has the most hallowed status. And rest, I am still exploring. 

Takeaway - The subtle sensitivities of relationships encased in-between the words. Oh so nice! 

15. Margaret Atwood - The Moment

Context - Stumbled upon it while randomly googling Margaret Atwood poems. (Yes, I do that.)

Poet - Atwood is a contemporary legend. On her recent visit to Delhi, she has been known to cause a stampede. Of Canadian origins, she dons many hats - poet, environmentalist, novelist, critic etc. Handmaid's Tale is perhaps her most read work. 

Takeaway - Stoicism. That is my takeaway. What is yours?

16. Lord Byron - She Walks in Beauty

Context - Among love lyric, this has been in my imagination since much before I can recall. Many writing exercises have begun with these oft-quoted words. 

Poet - Byron is a Romantic poet, and also the genesis point of the term 'Byronic Hero' - the charming recluse, or the tortured charmer. Byron himself, being a Romantic poet, dwelt extensively on the theme of 'nature' and its dichotomy with civilization and urban living. Nature, while being used to evoke metaphors, was also the all powerful entity, and an apt companion for humanity. 

Takeaway - Beauty, and a companion for lovelorn nocturnal readings. 

17. P. B. Shelley - Good Night

Context - I just needed a nice 'good night' wish to send across to a friend and was reminded of this. 

Poet - Another Romantic poet. Like fellow Romantics, he too dwelt deeply on the power of nature, and in addition, the power of human intellect. He saw the poet as a seer, a commentator and a visionary. 

Takeaway - Thinking what is a 'good night' for me. 

18. e e cummings - i carry your heart with me

Context - This has been a poem which is close to my heart for its simplicity and for being a literal specimen of meaning lying 'between the lines' and hidden along punctuations. 

Poet - cummings is remembered for his eccentric usage of punctuations - you'll find no use of capitals, abrupt parentheses, lines beginning after gaps - and this was not all random. Meanings, gaps, emotions could be located in the way the words were arranged. Though inspired by the avant-garde style, much of the content of his poems is traditional. 

Takeaway - Simplicity and universal assertions on love. Carrying your beloved's heart in yours, firmly, carefully. 

19. Frank O'Hara - To John Ashbery

Context - Friendship Day

Poet - Frank O'Hara is an American critic, writer and poet. Interestingly, his work is inspired by Jazz, surrealism and abstract art. 

Takeaway - O'Hara wrote many poems to Ashbery, his friend of 20 years, whom he affectionately called 'Ashes'. This one was penned in 1954, and here he imagines them both reading this together like a pair of ancient Chinese poets. 

20. Keats - quote on Poetry

Context - I cannot stop being inspired by the Romantics, can I? Late night Twitter scrolling led me here. 

Poet - Keats is, again, Romantic. And he propounded the 'negative capability' theory of poets, of which I am such a fan. 

Takeaway - He calls 'imagination' truthful. Can you see how subversive and beautiful is it at the same time?

The next 10 will come up soon :) 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Why PC Scares Me

All this is a little scary, really. And that is because I believe in balance. I believe in binaries. I believe in the net being zero, always. I believe in good being neutralised by bad, smile with sorrows, and heaven with hell.

The fear stems from the fact that perhaps the Almighty has reserved hell for me post mortal departure, because what I am living in at present is, definitely, closest to what heaven would seem like.

Would you believe it, that exists a place on the planet, in the heart of our very own city, where -
- people listen more than they talk
- people are unafraid of expressing all good thoughts
- negative thoughts are as good as non-existent, not just on the surface, but deep down below
- books are shared and hoarded like the greatest treasure
- smiles are the currency to buy and invest in invaluable human emotions
- humility is indispensable, but so is show-off with a casual shrug
- you are allowed to be you, just you, but you have no option but to be the best version of yourself.

I am, of course, referring to PC, which as become more than a mere poetry sharing forum now. If it was just that, it wouldn't have come so far. It is a place where we all are nourishing thoughts, cradling words and bringing up such verses which attract our collective emotions, while being distinctly unique. It is a zone for us to connect not just with each other, but also with our common heritage - because acquiring knowledge is non-negotiable focus. It is a haven for kindred spirits to gain touch with themselves, while they go about shaking hands and hugging each other.

If there was ever a live example for you to understand how hugs heal, this is it.

Poets' Collective is going to be 2 years old soon, but I have already lived a lifetime ensconced within its secure embrace and caring warmth.

Last meet up was a revelation for me to understand and witness the scale we've achieved - in terms of numbers and goodwill. And I will go back where I began - it is scary. Sustaining scale, perhaps, is easy; but sustaining beliefs is not.

Couple of us, at this end, will always try and keep our hearts in the right place as we try and give solace to yours. If I was to talk as PC, I would thank you all, who come and spend time with us, love us, tickle us and then overwhelm us.

And then, as Adhiraj bhai says, #GadarKaayamRahe.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016



We make myths out of the unrealized.


Love untouched
Is love curled
Into a scared ball
Pushed against the wall
Of the darkest passages
Of your most familiar,
Personal dungeon.
Love untouched,
Is not love undone.


He crept with feline grace
Shimmering, into that glass filled
With the only true liquid love.
He reflected, contorted,
Changing forms.
Elegant now.
Grotesque later.
Caught in a glass.
Tightened in a bottle.
Corked in a vision.
Free in the world.
Invisible in the Universe.


Things fall apart
But the centre holds.
Silly centre.
Caught into its own
And twirls
And folds.


Love unrequited
Has its colours.
Break it through a sheet of liquid.
Sparkling clear?
Blurred, dear?
Buried, fear?


While walking through a desert
I conjured a water in my mind
I conjured mirage in my mind
An illusion of an illusion later
I conjured comfort in my mind
(Illusory, from the disillusioned)


Liquid love, is not life force.
Liquid love, is love, and liquid.
It is love, which is liquid.
Hence it flows,
Like fluids, it grows,
To take shapes of visions,
You were scared to profess.
Dreams are comfortable,
Or, are they, really?


Myths were created for truth.
Layered with dust of a millennia
Shrouded within tongues infinite
They gain magic, lose truth.
What is our truth, my dear?
Our love is magic, or a myth, mere?
Was our story made by us?
Or kindled under a curtained hush?


She talks for both, when he talks for none.


Love untouched,
Is not love undone.
Love unloved,
Is love left pure
A gentle cure
To heart’s busiest hum.
The din of dreams,
Conflicted streams.
Pain is but a figure of speech. 


Loving is so short.
Forgetting is so long.
And myths are eternal.

PS – Thanks for Yeats, Neruda and Bachchan.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

100 Days of Poetry - Part 1

I started putting out my favourite poems across social platforms about 10 days ago, in a series called #100DaysOfPoetry. The reason was simple - the innate need to share which impacts you deeply, with a hope that it manages to impact and connect with a few more humans in the same manner. I was pleasantly surprised with the response this little daily initiative generated. On last count, four other friends had started sharing their favourite poems in a similar series.

This seemingly small number also feels grand, because it comes as a good answer for all those who consider poetry esoteric, elite and unreachable. It helps us know what people like us are connecting with. It helps us read great, time-tested poetry, in a period where all of us are just spewing out words under the delusion of being great writers ourselves. Don't get me wrong - I have no problem with people believing they can be great writers. My only problem is with poor reading, and lack of a desire to learn and know from where emerges our heritage of poetry.

So, while the series goes on, I also want to catalogue and chronicle the poems somewhere, lest I forget all the great words and great artists I came in touch with. Here are the first 10 of the poems I shared, compiled for a heart-warming reading rendezvous.

1. Dylan Thomas - 'Do not go gentle into that good night'

Context - I had watched the movie Interstellar. And how can anyone who has watched the movie miss out on this beauty!

Poet - Dylan Thomas was a Welsh poet, and also an extraordinary orator. He died prematurely, at the young age of 39. In this short life, he had acquired fame for poetry, and ignominy for his extreme drinking habits. Popular opinion remembered him as 'roistering, drunken and doomed poet', and while critics remain divided on how brilliant or abysmal his poetry is - I remain in love with two of his works. The one pasted below, and another titled, 'And death shall have no dominion'.

Takeaway - Don't accept doom. Don't accept darkness. Don't accept what others might call a definite down or a certain calamity. Stay alive. Behave alive.

2. Pablo Neruda - 'We have lost even this twilight'

Context - When I am even slightly mushy, and I want to read something which I know for sure will hit my heart, I randomly pick up Neruda. He never disappoints. 

Poet - Neruda was a Chilean poet, politician and diplomat. Interestingly, Pablo Neruda was only his pen name, but he later legalised this into his official name. His most beautiful collection of poems is in a book called 'Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair', and I cannot thank Dr. Saif Mahmood (Saif bhaiya to me), for gifting it to me last Diwali. Melancholy, love and eroticism effortlessly combine into his poetry, and dissolve into the soul of the reader. 

Takeaway - Vivid images and this warm, but sad feeling of love inside my heart. I draw no meanings from Neruda's poetry. I draw only love. And a calming despair. 

3. Akif Kichloo - 'Let us ignore the stars tonight'

Context - Chanced upon it some months ago. Kept it close to myself. Stumbled upon it just in time for sharing. 

Poet - I do not know much about him, except I know he is a contemporary poet and a product of digital postmodernism. He posts his poems on Instagram and has a steady following. Also, I discovered I have a common contact with him, and hence, I am dying to invite him to a future edition of a PC meet up!

Takeaway - The precision in the thought that 'lonely will always love you more'.

4. Strickland Gillilan - 'Watch Yourself Go By'

Context - I have no idea where and when I learnt this poem, but it has been a part of my childhood. For the longest time, I did not even know the name of the poet, but this was a good way of discovering. 

Poet - Gillilan is an American poet. Other than that, I have zero knowledge of him!

Takeaway - It helps sometimes to step out of your skin and see yourself as others would. Not to create pressure, but just to gain perspective to oneself. Try it. 

5. Walt Whitman - 'O Captain! My Captain!'

Context - 'Dead Poets' Society', what else? Duh! Immortal lines from a poet made immortal by an immortal movie. 

Poet - One of America's all time greatest poets, and a trailblazer himself. Sample his poems, any. If you're lost, pick up a copy of 'Leaves of Grass' and lose yourself to the 'power' of his words. His words are literally powerful, and that is why he ruled over 19th century poetry. Most importantly, he understood and advocated for a relationship between poetry and society, both potent of affecting each other positively. 

Takeaway - Reliving that last scene and feeling vigour run in my veins as I read it aloud to myself. Poetry is meant to be read aloud. Inspiring generations to action. 

6. Hoshang Merchant - 'Poem'

Context - I had picked up Merchant's anthology, called 'Sufiana', which compiled his poems written at different times in life. This poem, titled 'Poem', comes from there. 

Poet - Hoshang Merchant is an Indian English language poet, born, curiously, in the year 1947. About a year or more ago, I had heard him recite in the India International Centre, and I remember being serenaded by both, his presence and his recitation. I later learnt he is gay, and has edited India's first anthology of gay writings. Reading him left on me the impression of a poet rather well read himself, functioning within the strains of memory, identity and history - the rubric of postcolonial writings. 

Takeaway - Look at the imagery. Look at how the physical transcends to emotional, and leaves a sort of spiritual satisfaction in completing that journey to the earth. 

7. Thomas Hardy - 'A Confession to a Friend in Trouble'

Context - Found this on Twitter, shared by @Syddie. 

Poet - I could never cope with Hardy as a novelist, and had no inkling he wrote such wonderful poetry! Hardy the poet proved to be better than Hardy the novelist. His Victorian realism remains a struggle, but his poetry found a smooth way to my heart. 

Takeaway - I am analysing that still, but even at first reading, the poem left on me an impact of strength and hope. 

8. William Wordsworth - 'She dwelt among the untrodden ways'

Context - The Lucy poems are among my all time favourite and I often catch myself reciting them. Unaware. Like an old childhood melody. This poem just popped in mind. 

Poet - Wordsworth is, of course, the great Romantic poet. He is my favourite among all the Romantics, a view not favoured by the well-read and well-informed literary enthusiasts, but I cannot help falling for his simplicity time and time again. Nature, love, emotions find easy expressions in his poetry, and what I connect with is the nurturing solitude which recurs in his poems - as if worldly engagements are a contamination poets must necessarily keep away from. 

Takeaway - Beauty. Despair. Simplicity.

9. Elizabeth Bishop - 'The art of losing'

Context - Shared by Supriya Kaur Dhaliwal, a wonderful poetess herself, who began her #100DaysOfPoetry series with this!

Poet - Literally zero idea!

Takeaway - I once read that you are not made by the things you have, but the things you missed. This poem reminded me of that, and the depths to which art makes you go and investigate, even at the cost of generating chaos. 

10. Walt Whitman

Context - Rains! Random reading up on poetry on the rains led me to this beauty. 

Poet - Not even 10 days and Whitman is back on my list! Read up on him in poet number 5. 

Takeaway - An enhanced beauty of rains :)

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Liberalization Generation

I was one among the 4 individuals who features in the Sunday Magazine of the Indian Express, which talks about the liberalization generation and their choices, pressures and aspirations. In a conversation which stretched over a couple of days, many things became apparent to me as I spoke to Ankita, who asked incisive questions to put her story together. Titled, 'The Winner Takes It All', the page long story brings out the concerns and comforts of our generation, which evolved alongside the Economic Reforms to which our country owes much of its present shape. You can read the whole story here - - and it was a privilege to be featured alongside my friend - Akshat Mittal, whose comment on how our generation has the ability to convert passions into professions was my pick of the lot.

While talking to Ankita, I realised, how fortunate are we to belong to our times. We do have our share of pressures, but the opportunity to exist as unique individuals is overwhelming, and available to all. The internet and social spaces have eliminated any filtering interface, which makes it that much easier to build ourselves into a version of our Visions. The opportunity is democratic - the skill and perseverance is the differentiator. Our aspirations are set high, and hence our focus must be set higher. The perils are there - too much interactivity, too many choices, too much distraction, too much pressure (active and passive both) - but the deterrents (and deterring addictions) have existed in all ages, and so shall they continue to. The point I am trying to make is, anytime someone tries to talk to me about social media as taking away from reality - I have scores of examples to quote where digital has been used (exploited) to create, curate and inspire real experiences. Secondly, it is time we understood virtual experiences as a part of our reality - enriching, informing, integrating and entertaining. And thirdly, if there are individuals who prefer a virtual existence to real - I'd like them to have it. Digital-social spaces have been empowering for people whose physical participation was often unconsciously discriminatory. Persons with Disabilities are a case in point.

The space to exist is huge. The chance to construct our dreams is tremendous. The power to bring people together is unprecedented. And the opportunity to just be ourselves, assertively firm and fluidly evolving, is overwhelming. Your struggle - to find who you are, what drives you, what lends you happiness, and what do your doggedly dream of.

There. For more perspectives, hop onto the Indian Express link and read on!

Read here -