No Nation for atheist

When I pronounce
I am an atheist,
People around
looks at me suspiciously.
There is no nation for atheist.
The country is for Hindus.
The other country is for Muslims.
The countries are for Christians.
When I pronounce
I am an atheist,
Young boys and girls around,
looks me at with amaze.
Where there is Nation,
there is religion.
No Nation for atheist.

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I Came Home

Waddling in the fields
Chasing grasshoppers
Filling my basket with greens
this was the life I left behind
when I first moved to Chennai

Life looked better
Posh and modern
until one day in class
a friend asked me
how I dodged bullets in the streets
to come this far
and some men auctioning my worth
in the streets
from hundred
to five hundred rupees

So, I left.

Delhi sounded warmer
Until I had to sit
For the final call of interview
who ridiculed me for
what I aspired to become
Still, I stayed.

In my first job
my lunch break was separate
they blamed it on the work
so each day
I rummaged my lunch box alone
but scrumptiously
even though they called me a cow
when I walked in
saying I must’ve eaten
Even the grass in the lawn

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Ei Shor Amare Ki Dise

This city, what has it given me
These two hands that built each building 
This city, what has it given me
My hands that cleaned the drain
Brought food to your door
Made each street footpath drinking hole
The heart of each brick in your home is stained with my blood
Drops of my sweat on the floor of your factory 
This city, has it given me anything but thirst at high noon
I had brought myself to this city on a dream
Planned a family under a tarpaulin tent
Sitting on the pavement my wife 
Pushed her dried breast into the mouth of our child
While I carried pots of butter on my head 
To feed yours
I boiled the entrails of a chicken in my pot
And delivered Shahi Kabab to your mouth
I drown in a darkness that’s darker than the inside of the factory
While you take an afternoon nap on your bed of notes
With my hands I pulled every cart in the city
My youth peeled off with every turn of the rickshaw pedal
This city what did it give me but walking and burning 
There’s no more fermented rice it’s been ten days now
And this city changes channels to bide time
Your channels don’t shout about my hunger
Don’t show you how I am walking to my death
The city I built, so one day I may find joy here 
This city is not mine anymore
Look at the streams of the walking dead 
Leaving your city
What did the city give me
My hands laboured to build each building
Apart from stabbing me in the heart
What has this city given me
It was me in your railway lines
It was me in your vegetable markets 
It was me in your labour lines 
It was me in your sweeper colonies 
I came for two handfuls of rice 
I came for a foot of space
City, what am I to you?
Tell me, city, I got here 
Where do I turn and go???

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Waiting for Galahad

There is some comfort in knowing that scorching heat would kill it,
force its death in the stomach, maybe.
The newspapers also say that it wouldn’t survive in extreme cold
but that is only for the foreign born. Till then, we linger between
the passing of the hours and the silent streets—one day living into
the next
the next
the next

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Mini India

Have you heard a parrot speak Urdu?
I have, in my friend Zahiruddin’s house.
A mynah talking in Hindi?
Even that, in my friend Nimai Singh’s house.
What about an ass reciting Sanskrit slokas?
Yes, very often in Agya Gokul Shashtri’s garden.
A cat speaking Bangla, meow meow, ki bolo ki bolo
A dog mouthing English
A goat conversing in Meiteilon?

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Like the waiting to meet
The woman you’ve been burning for
Who had messaged saying she’ll come on her own
I also waited for many days
For those unknown gentlemen
Who told me they would come to shoot me.
They arrived one afternoon and
We met at last, face to face.

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our kitchen taps are broken
and our dirt hides thick on tile lines and
unscrubbed bathroom walls
the laundry bag is full and if you peeped into
our sixteen year old washing machine
you’ll find clothes there
bleeding colour
from the laundry attempt made by
my sister
eleven years old

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Our Ngari and their Masala

Tired was I because of the hectic college schedule.
Hadn’t had breakfast because the class test was too important to be missed.
Exhausted and burned out, I returned back to my room.
Pondering whether I still have enough energy to cook some food.
Also wondering whether it would be good to have some snacks at the nearby tea stall.

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The winding trail that makes a road
Follows me with its ghostly tremor
Of wintry dryness
Of fallen papery leaves
As the naked trees lift their arms
Up to the sky
A rapture of Indian classical dancers
Embracing their bare beauty

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Mapoksida II

Even this birth reveals my weakness
Rainfalls reminiscent of monsoons of my previous birth
The wet earth lingers to seize my footprints
Footprints intend to take my stead
Even in this new birth, I am still myself
Recollecting river’s flow

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3 am

we like waking up at strange places
that smell of burnt rice and yongchaak

we don’t find stars in our skies
and crawl our ways in loose stockings
in supermarkets where men-women-men hold hands
to pretend they’re not lonely
as if trying to learn to walk away from
the shadows of long days that we’d tucked into our sleeves

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Home is No Place

O land, my land!
Our first home, my first breath
Our first step, my first love
Our beginning…
This day I am merely a seasonal visitor,
Though change in each air
Brings feelings of you in my skeletal bosom,
Today the winter fades
And I chronically sneeze into the next season,

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the autumn breeze
came crawling into the valley,
writhing in music
that is haunting to some ears,
passed through every pore of the shekpin
stored in corners from past festivities,
darting from alley to alley
mangol to mangol
often bowing in front of the holy basil
often ignoring the pleas of the living
and non-living spirits.
but it said, light one more for mera
because the stars have vanished
above my brothers’ roofs,
choked by smoke from the new cities
and old mistakes made in rage.
it said, light one more for mera,
for when the fervent footsteps of chali
will rise with the hunter’s moon,
their tremors will reach the hills
taut at mid-day, blue at dusk,
promising the birth
of another star.

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F**k NO! I don’t belong

The blurred image on my phone (of my name on the NRC website)
Confirms I belong
To a state I have mostly only disliked
For its filth, cunning and cruelty
It has told me in ways
The slant of my eyes and the size of my body
And the way I roll my R, are all wrong
So are the smells that I carry in my bag back from home

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A derelict train of pain and memory offloads us at January.
Something freezes birdsong at dawn and
We see only ashen arms of woodless trees. And
Even if you hum at it, January is not going to leave.

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At the rear end of February
Yellow-coloured leaves at the passing of their stalk
Endure by clinging on to branches,
New leaves stick out their necks,
From branch to branch;
Eyes of shoots, eager to appear
Look on timidly.

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When Afzal refused to talk about violence
There was a hushed murmur of confusion,
A re-checking of notes.
Who is to play the other now?
An idea was expected to appear
Instead, here was a man, human.

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