sunil sharma

 
Madhouse

In a madhouse, the only sane are the insane
These guys know/see things the normal are denied

!f there were no insane folks, how would the world
measure its own diminishing sanity?

This institutionalized soul was meditative:
Why the mad politicians/terror-mongers outside?

 

Frame

The house
Washed in golden light
By an autumnal sun.
The house
Held in veined hands
Vibrates,
Ready to tumble out of
The still photograph
Frayed on edges—
Once bright.
Sepia memories
Forever imprisoned
In that snapshot
Pre-digital age
Indian town that boasted
A good tree cover that time.
Now,
Echoes from a past
Forever lost except
For the grieving heart
Searching for signs of a
Scattered family in a dusty album
Sitting in an old folks’ house.

 

Cages

Deprived of sky
And ground
Suspended in air
A woman sits in
Tiny balcony
Meant as flower-bed
In a high-rise, tenth floor
Vertical Mumbai,
Reading a morninger
In late afternoon.
Human face to a bee- hive
Of concrete cages
Exorbitantly-priced.

A bird flutters in a cage
Below,
Searching for a full sky.

 

An Indian Lear

Some characters never die but roam
The earth in varied time zones, locales and settings.
From an Elizabethan stage
To the world — as the stage.
The imagined becomes real
And found in most unlikely places.
The bearded old man stood at the crossroads
A babbling idiot mouthing this, with great flourish:
…here I stand, your slave,
A poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man

On other occasions, seen gesturing and delivering
In baritone, almost possessed:
…all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity of the world!
Crack nature’s moulds, and germens spill at once,
That make ungrateful man!

Few people bothered.
The bald bespectacled man wearing a black
Robe stitched by safety pins, wearing pictures
Of gods, reading English papers on the steps
Of a closed shop in the suburban Mumbai
During business hours
Moving around the bazaar
Talking to the skies or the earth…his sole audience.
One stormy afternoon
He declaimed, looking at the dark sky of July,
Challenging the gods in a piercing voice:
Rumble thy bellyful! Spit, fire! spout, rain!
Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters:
I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness;
I never gave you kingdom, called you children,
You owe me no subscription: then let fall
Your horrible pleasure
Agitated, the bearded and bald man roamed,
Tears streaming,
Calling out names of daughters
That got drowned in the storm.

 

Subtle changes

Beautiful!

Tender!

The dew drops sliding off the blades of grass.
Morning, the Delhi sun, hiding behind a mass of grey clouds
Bloated, its escaping baby-beams lighting up a December sky
in vertical streaks of orange-gold.
The windows catch the playful colours on the misted panes.
The catheter-attached body opens up red eyes, blinks.
The sun rays, he says, are there to kiss me
And smiles at the changing scene.
Darkness, dawn, day, dusk and night.
Dew drops crystalline
Vapors solid sticking to grass that bends.
Dew drops melting under the tender light.
Sun dispelling the overnight gloom
The claustrophobia of the cold night.
How tender life—full of change!
Noticed this daily wealth
Only when—strapped to a monitor and a mask.

 

Pharaohs, Protests and Public

Hark!
New Egypt has woken up—finally.
The old pharaohs look down upon the Tahrir Square,
While the modern pharaoh runs away
From public fury.
For 18 days,
Starting January 25, 2011,
Cairo erupted in protests and rage,
Millions staged a dramatic scene of
Solid solidarity and unity,
Spontaneous
People power at its best.
Children of the eternal Nile
Solidified and channelized into
One
Unstoppable force.
Wael Ghomin and the young lady all marched in step,
Breaking down barriers of state.
Tech, social media and verbal messages
Delivered Egypt from
The tyranny of another
Suited, West-mimicking dictator.
The ways of history are subtle and often ignored
By the ruling elites,
So did scowling Hosni.
A slap by a petty female municipal satrap Hamdi
To hapless fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi,
Self-immolation by the humiliated 26-year-old
On December 17, 2010
Made frustrated Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia,
Flare up and led to the ouster of
Dictator Ben Ali.
Its echoes are now reverberating
Across the Arab and other worlds
Suffering severe food inflation and corruption endemic,
Waking up slumbering citizens
In Algeria and Yemen.
For whom the bells toll now.
Nobody knows.
One thing is sure—
Protests,
Verbal and physical
Can dislodge arrogant dictators and rude warlords
In bloodless coupes and uprisings,
From gritty Cairo to Beirut.
And the fires might spread out
And destabilize other corrupt regimes.
So, Beware!
Warns the faded sphinx
Of the hot desert,
Do not take the humble and the meek
For granted,
Because the insulted and the humiliated,
Once aroused from sleep,
Can re-inherit
And
Re-claim

The old banana republics
Into people-led regimes!

 

A City Collage
 
A bored
Miss Lonely-hearts
In a frilly gown,
  Leans out of
  An unlit window
And looks down,
From her top floor flat—
(While the rest of her silent family watches soap on the digital slim TV)
—At the midnight meager world
 Spread out below.
The young Miss looks but not sees,
The army of the strays barking at
A drunk staggering to a bleak home
And
A homeless bearded old man
Lying curled up on a piece of
A torn old newspaper on the little pavement.
She only sees her prince
In the moon floating in the vastness of a star-studded sky,
Her prince has not turned up so far,
Despite many frantic ads in papers
(As they expect a fancy car that her middle-class parents can not afford).
But every night,
  She awaits the secret footfalls
In the staircase of her tiny waiting heart,
She expects a Mills and Boon resolution to a
  Third-world problem
Of the cursed spinsters living alone,
As they cannot afford a fancy car to these greedy men.
 
There are other sad narratives as well,
Of looking for hope in deprivation and want,
Packed together in the floors rising
  Between the top floor of the high-rise
And the impoverished street below.
 
The Varmas no longer talk,
Mrs. Varma says she sleeps
On her side of the little marital bed of 30 years
And finds portly Mr. Varma
(He suffers from central obesity common to Indians and a low metabolism)
An obnoxious guy who farts in public,
Gorges on fatty oily foods
And his bloated body emits raw garlic smell.
 
—This man talks of money only
And lacks in culture and art.
 
Mr. Varma says the fat wife of his has no aesthetic sense,
Watches Saas-Bahu serials and thinks of
Buying complete Saree stores.
  Their two hapless kids
Move around the flat
  With ear plugs,
While neighbours enjoy the daily fights of the ageing Varmas.
  It is more entertaining than any soap.
 
The sleep-deprived young Executive guards his two inch personal space in the overcrowded local in Mumbai divided on ethnic lines,
  While his freshly-scrubbed counterpart in a murdering Delhi Blue line,
Hangs for the same terrestrial right,
The local warriors ready to erupt into deadly fight
Over two inches of the mere traveling space.
 
The SMSes and the E-mails
Send the messages fast
But create an oceanic distance
Between the sender and the receiver
Who orally don’t like to talk.
 
My busy elder brother no longer visits us at home,
Although we live on the same street,
Citing pressures of work and regular late hours,
  But my paralytic dad still waits for him to call.
  However, remnants of my family
Hardly talk,
We just sit and watch
The TV over lunch and dinner
In a faded home.
 
My friend has stopped taking my calls,
He thinks I may ask for a loan.
It is not that, I am busy, protests he.
Everybody thinks I am nuts, and out of tune like Dylan,
I talk of Marx and Allende and Che,
When the rest sit and see XXX flicks on
Imported DVDs,
Drinking rum dark.
 
In this country of Baudelaire,
In the dark lanes and alleys,
Bare foot ill-clad kids rummage for stale meals,
Outside the outlets of the Mac, and the big gleaming malls,
Despite crude bombs and communal riots,
The meltdown in America,
The home-alone folks live and dream
With great tenacity,
In these breaking globalised urban realties,
Turning the glittering cities into ghettoes of mind,
And
Fast
Losing their glitz and glam for the one-eyed and one-dimensional denizens,
  Amen!

 

Kiss

A gossamer cloud
Spread out in the
Clear sky
On this crisp morning,
After the heavy rains,
Bends down and
Kisses tenderly
The muscular peak
Of a squat hill in a flooded
Field,
Like a white princess
Delicate and shy,
Lip-locking with
  A sturdy Moor
On the sly,
In an Elizabethan Court!

 

The void

After your
Quick
Departure,
The insides
Looked like the
Vast undulating
Public spaces
That glitter as diamonds,
During the Ram Lila,
Navratri, 
Diwali
And other common festivals
But—
Once the visiting gods
Leave for their heavenly abode,
After their annual earthly sojourn,
Uniting people in gestures of faith,
The same neon-lit places
Become barren,
Sad, and overwhelmingly
Desolate,
Perhaps ugly as well;
Each passing moment,
An aching void develops
Within, that cannot be
Filled by mere acts
Of remembrance;
Absences can be very
Demanding and draining,
Gaping spaces exist now,
Where a full heart once
Bloomed like a purple flower;
Yawning chasms
Within are not as
Visible and raw as the
Void created by 
The retreating gods
In an Asian mega-polis
Searching for enduring
Signs of comfort in
their money-driven
Solitary lives decked with
Plastic flowers and smiles,
And no Seville Row suit
Can ever cover the
Widening inner void.

 

The dog whisperer

Famished
Wandering on the indifferent streets,
The half-clad blackish man
Talks to his
Invisible friends,
The pack of half-starved dogs
Following the pathetic figure,
Like faithful pals.
The man
Stops midway,
Interrupts his dialogue
With airy nothings
Not seen by all,
And kindly,
This homeless wanderer
Whispers
Sweetly
Some kind words
To the poor
Shunned
Street dogs.

 

October heat

The ballooning clouds,
Pouring rain,
Darkness at noon,
Trees being flattened,
By a fiercely-blowing gale,
A brooding giant uprooting
Things on his way,
The classic October heat,
Flooded streets,
An abrupt power outage,
Mumbai suburbs,
And—
A black moving spot in the skies,
A valiant little bird,
Flying higher and
Competing oddly,
With the mighty elements,
And their fury
Unleashed on helpless earth;
A solo kinetic figure,
Defying alone,
The combined might of the
Winds and the rain.

 

Pain to music

A mild pain in the
Diaphragm,
Early morn,
Wakes him up—
—No, it was not angina pain,
The self-taught Mr. Executive knew
All the classic symptoms by reading
On the Internet—
And, unable to sleep,
Leaning out of the window,
In his black T, red-eyed,
Mr. Executive, first time,
Sees the crimson sky,
And mesmerized by the
 Heavenly beauty of the scene,
Sight of the circling happy birds,
Stands still, forgetting his constant pain,
And hears the solo song,
Being sung intermittently,
By an unseen bird,
Up in a tree green,
With a sugary tone,
The series of the short
Floating notes,
Heralding a glorious dawn.
 
 
 
An Asian Metro Portrait

The veined woman gaunt
  Sits under the leaking roof
Of mackintosh and plastic,
On a dirty brownish-gray common piece
Of paver-locked pavement,
Her only home on the—
Partially dislodged and broken pavement
That gets
  Pounded daily by
Hungry feet of the marching men
—Women, these days, act like alpha men,
So, in the offices, these dolls are counted by their ogling bald bosses
And male co- train travellers,
  As the new competitive men—
In the thick downpour
That temporarily screens her visible stark poverty
From the passing train of automatic commuters,
Holding their umbrellas high,
The dripping hands collectively
Rising up
And then down,
In this grim synchronized soap opera,
Unfolding
In heavy Mumbai rains.
The gray skeletal woman
In her 40s,
Looks like in her early 80s,
Sits alone,
In the leaking fragment of a home,
Amid few bare utensils and clothes,
Two calendars flutter
Of the smiling comforting gods,
Abandoned and alone,
This woman of the pavement
Stares into the space,
Frozen but not paralyzed,
She
Stares hopefully
With her blank eyes,
Like a classic B-W portrait of
Sebastiao Salgado,
Confirming tenacity and hope,
In most hopeless settings,
Of demeaning life
On the streets,
Of
Crushing misery,
Grinding poverty and soul-killing existence.

 

 


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