Monday, December 8, 2014

The city of hills and the sea - VIII

एक तू, बदलाव की बेचैनी ही है जिसकी पहचान,
और एक तू, जो अब पहचान बदलने को है बेताब;
शहर, बॉम्बे और पूना...!

One, whose identity is to change desperately,
The other, who is desperate to change her identity;
Ah! The cities of Bombay and Pune…!


To read the previous posts in this series, you may visit following links:

Image source:

Sunday, September 21, 2014

थोड़ा मुझ-सा (A little like me)

Many a times, I have been asked by my 'heterosexual' friends if the conversations around LGBT rights and sexuality liberation is overdone these days. To reflect upon their question, I observe conversations around love, relationships, sexuality and feelings that people in public places have. People do talk about marriage and children at work place. Ah! Let me correct, the heterosexual people do talk about such things. Others either elope from these conversations or pretend and lie in them.

This poem was penned in response to these and similar questions and reactions I am often faced with. In my exploration, I wonder, "Why is your marriage a matter of love, while mine a matter of activism? Why your wearing a bindi and sindoor (vermillion) is just fine, while my pink shirt is either 'too gay' or 'showing off my sexuality'? Why can it not be... just a pink shirt? Only if you could notice... I look handsome, very handsome, in a pink shirt.

Sometimes, in our politics of majority, we forget to realize what does it mean to be the 'other'. Even though we may have our own experiences of being 'othered' in different identities, we rarely use those experiences to raise our conscience towards a happy, diverse and inclusive world.

This poem is a reminder, to self and others, of what happens when someone is 'othered' and the process of 'othering' is not brought into the conscience of the majority. Here it goes -

फिर आज, थोड़ा तुझ जैसा जी लेता हूँ।
घर से निकलने से पहले ,
आईने में एक नज़र मार लेता हूँ।
कहीं मुस्कराहट मेरे होंठो की
कुछ ज्यादा तो नहीं?

वो गुलाबी शर्ट,
बड़ी शिद्दत से खरीदी थी मैंने,
आज भी अलमारी में बंद, नयी-सी पड़ी है।
हर सुबह उसे देखता हूँ,
"आज नहीं, कभी और"
कह, वापस रख देता हूँ।

ऑफिस में मेरी मोहब्बत का ज़िक्र
आज़ फिर नहीं होगा,
तू फिर आज़ अपनी शादी की तैयारियाँ सुना
पूछ लेना मुझसे,
" जनाब, तुम कब शादी करोगे?"
तुझे इल्म होता
कि नहीं दी है तेरे कानून ने
मुझे इश्क़ की इज़ाज़त अब तक।

खैर तेरी बारात में
मैं झूम के नाचूँगा।
क्योंकि खुद की तो बस
इश्क़ के जनाज़े की आदत है ना?

कल रात ही एक बर्बाद मोहब्बत
की मैयत से लौटा हूँ।
पर तू डर मत।
मैं इन कम्बख्त आँशुओं को
कभी गिरने न दूंगा।
थोड़े कम मर्दाना लगते हैं न?

दिन पर दिन पर दिन पर दिन 
कुछ तुझ सा.… कुछ तुझसा भी.…
और कुछ तुझसा…
मैं रंगता, मैं बनता, मैं फिरता…
तू है कौन? क्या है तुझसा?
क्या तू खुद तुझसा? या कुछ भी तुझसा?
बस है तो मुझे तुझसे बनाने की
एक भयंकर साजिश,
जहाँ सड़ रहे हैं हम,
हर पल मर रहे हैं, हम।

बस एक गुजारिश सुन,
मेरी मौत आने के पहले,
जब चंद साँसे बाकी हो,
तू कफ़न ओढ़ा देना मुझको,
बस वहीँ जी लूँगा,
चुप-चाप, ख़मोश।
थोड़ा मुझ-सा भी, मैं। 

Fir aaj, thoda tujh sa jee leta hoon.
Ghar se nikalane ke pahle,
Aaine me ek nazar maar leta hoon.
Kahi muskurahat mere hontho ki
Kuchh jyada to nahi?

Wo gulabi shirt,
jo badi shiddat se kharidi thi maine,
aaj bhi almari me band, nayi-si padi hai.
Har subah use dekhta to hoon,
 “aaj nahi, kabhi aur”
Kehkar waapas rakh deta hoon.

Office me meri mohabbat ka zikr
Aaj fir nahi hoga,
Tu fir aaj apni shadi ki taiyariya suna
pooch lena mujhse,
“ janaab, tum kab shadi karoge?”
Tujhe ilm hota
Ki nahi di hai tere kanoon ne
Mujhe ishq ki izazat ab tak!

Khair, teri baarat me
main jhoom ke naachunga.
Kyonki khud ki to bas
Ishq ke janaze ki aadat hai na.

Kal raat hi ek baarbad mohabbat
Ki maiyat se lauta hoon.
Par tu darr mat.
Main in kambakht aanshuon ko
Kabhi girne nahi doonga.
Thode kam mardaana lagte hain naa?

Din par din par din par din
Kuchh tujh sa… kuchh tujhsa bhi…
Aur kuchh tujhsa..
Main rangta, main banta, main firta…
Tu hai kaun? Kya hai tujhsa?
Kya tu khud tujhsa? Ya kuchh bhi tujhsa?
Bas hai to mujhe tujhsa banana ki
Ek bhayankar saajish,
Jaha sad rahe hain hum,
har pal mar rahe hain, hum.

Bas ek guzarish sun,
Meri muat aane ke pahle,
Jab chand saanse baaki ho,
Tu kafan odha dena mujhe,
Bas wahi jee loonga,
Chup-chaap, khamosh.
Thoda mujh-sa bhi. Main.

This poem was first performed at The Big Mic’s Poetry night in August, 2014. Later, it was revised for “Expressions – The Spoken Word Poetry Slam” and performed for my students at Service Learning Program (SLP) - The Akanksha Foundation on 21st Sept, 2014.

Note - The views expressed in this piece are based on my experiences and are purely personal. These may not represent any particular group/community of people.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


After a day-long discussion on race, we were asked to find a partner and write a dialogue-poem that would describe our feelings through the day at Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED).

Under the influence of Jazz and our laidback-ness, Bornunderstanding Allah, my friend from SEED, and I came up with our super short, quick, humorous-but-intense piece, “Colors”. Now, if you can’t locate either the humor or the intensity or both, you are missing the point. And you are not to be blamed. After all, race has not remained obvious and many people do miss the point, more often than not, in conversations around it. So here it goes!

Twenty Six years,
I have been a person of color.

Twenty Six hours,
I have been a person of color.

My car is white,
My T-shirt is red.
The thought of color and identity
Never came to my head.

Pink is my T-shirt,
Blue is my jeans.
Red is for some anger,
White for some peace.

Black is my color,
When I’m stripped naked.

Brown is my color,
When I’m stripped naked.

If we have all the colors,
What do you have?

Inspired by the poem coloured.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Castro

As the SEED seminar ends, I have an evening in San Francisco. What best can be done in this limited time? Friends and colleagues have many suggestions to offer. After all, San Francisco is a vibrant city.
Of many things I have heard about this city, the film ‘Milk’ have informed me this is where Harvey Milk’s campaign had started and took its form. I ask a couple of people and look up online about it. I am referred to the Castro Street. When I read about it, I’m more or less told this to be a ‘gay neighbourhood’ of the city. I wonder what it means. Like, homosexual men and women walking on the street, hitting on other men and women, respectively, all the time?

Well, anyways. I decide The Castro is the place for me this evening. As my shuttle stops at the entrance of the street, I am welcomed by a huge rainbow flying high in the sky, with a street sign that reads, “Castro”. I smile.

The Castro Street and Market Street are places that look like pride-365-days. A local person here tells me, “Probably, this is one place that exudes utmost freedom, both political and personal.” He adds jokingly, “You will see people protesting against one issue or the other all the time.” Like any other neighbourhood, this place has schools where children learn and play, a church for people of faith, shops with usual and some not-so-usual stuff to sell, restaurants that serve amazing food, theatre that would screen any movie and homes where people live like they do in any other neighbourhood. Further as I roam around the streets, I see many heterosexual couples too. I question, “What are they doing here if this is a ‘gay neighbourhood’?”

My thought is further intensified by a news paper post in the museum, “Don’t call us queer city”. Exactly my point! Do we start calling all neighbourhoods in the world where heterosexual couples live and express themselves freely as ‘straight neighbourhood’? I’m still debating with myself if such categorization helps promote the cause of equality or simply regenerates the stereotypes. However when neighbourhoods are defined and categorized as such, they lose their purpose of being ‘just a neighbourhood’ and are put under pressure to be seen from a certain lens.

In addition to everything else, The Castro offers a sense of freedom, which most other places lack. Not for any one in particular but to all – gay, straight, lesbian, transgender, queer – whatsoever you would want to identify yourself as. No, it is not some place where gay people have sex all the time. Or may be some do. But they also play, go to school, eat, laugh, dance, pray, protest and do such other things. What’s important is, whatever they - gay or straight - do, they choose without much contemplation of what others may think or do. And if their personal choices are affected by political influences, they don’t hesitate from voicing against it. Well, of course, our personal IS political and vice-versa.
If anything The Castro is, it is indeed, a neighbourhood where pride for ALL is valued and advocated for. Here, I smell freedom!

Friday, April 4, 2014

You and I

First, I loot your land,
Then, your voice.
I take away your sense of self.
I do charity.

First, I let you loot my land,
Then, my voice.
I give away my sense of self.
I receive charity.

Image source:

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Desh Kya Hai?

देश क्या है?
कागज़ के टुकड़ो पर खिंची हुयी लकीरें ,
या उनकी चौकसी करते कुछ नौज़वान ?
तेरे -मेरे अधिकारों और जिम्मेदारियों की एक क़िताब ,
या उन अधिकारों और ज़िम्मेदारियों का आधार ?
क्या है ये चंद गिने-चुने लोगों की मिल्कियत,
या गणतंत्र के हर गण की है एक आवाज़?
देश क्या है? देश है क्या?

सिनेमाघरों में जन-गण-मन सुन,
खड़े हो जाना है ये देश?
या हर इक जन गण मन को
समझ पाना है ये देश?
तेरे-मेरे होने की वजह है ये देश?
या तेरे-मेरे होने की वजह से है ये देश?
देश है क्या? देश क्या है?

मेरे बिस्तर को सड़क पर उछाल
तमाशा करते लोग?
या मेरी मोहब्बत को अपराध
करार देता ये कानून?
मेरे होने को झुठलाता हुआ
मेरा परिवार, ये समाज़?
या आज तेरे-मेरे बीच
मेरे होने की हुंकार लगाता... मैं?
देश है क्या? देश क्या है?

// Roman script, Hindi

Desh Kya hai?
Kaagaj ke tukado par khinchi huyi lakirein,
Ya unki chaukasi karte kuchh naujawaan?
Tere-mere adhikaro aur zimmedariyon ki ek kitaab,
Ya un adhikaro aur zimmedariyon ka aadhar?
Kya hai ye kuchh gine-chune logo ki ek milkiyat,
Ya gantantra ke har gan kihai ek aawaaz?
Desh kya hai? Desh hai kya?

Cinema-gharo me jan-gan-man sun
Khade ho jaana hai ye desh?
Ya har ek jan gan man ko
samajh paana hai ye desh?
Tere mere hone ki wajah hai ye desh?
Ya tere mere hone ki wajah se hai ye desh?
Desh hai kya? Desh kya hai?

Mere bistar ko sadak par uchhaal
Tamasha karte huye log?
Ya meri mohabbat ko aparadh
karaar deta ye kanoon?
Mere hone ko jhoothalata huya
Mera pariwaar, ye samaj?
Ya aaj tere-mere beech
Mere hone ki hunkaar lagata… main?
Desh hai kya? Desh kya hai?

// English translation

What is country?
a few lines drawn on a sheet of paper,
or those soldiers gaurding those lines?
a book of rights and responsibilities for you and I,
or a foundation for those rights and responsibilities?
Is it a fiefdom of some selected people,
Or is it a voice for each in the republic?
What is country?

Does country mean to stand up every time
we listen to the Jan-gan-man (national anthem) in movie theatres?
or is to understand each citizen
in this country?
Is it a reason for you and I to be?
Or does it exist because you and I do?
What is country?

Is it the folks who are have made
my privacy a farce?
or is it the constitution
which has criminalised my love?
is it the society and the family
which is anxious to un-accept who I am?
Or… is it me.. the one to establish
to be whoever I am in this word?
What is country?

 P.S.: A part of this poem was written to introduce The Republic Day Poetry Project for my students. While engaging with this theme, we realized how the idea of republic needs to be explored and understood better to fully realize our individual and collective potential. Often, I have found myself struggling to understand my political, social and personal spaces of freedom and this poem is a response to that struggle.