Jai Hind


Manoj Kumar’s defiant face
his forehead dripping with blood and sweat
rises as a phoenix
as patriotic songs play  over the radio.
Compelled by ingrained instincts
to share a few pictures of Indian pride
we march with our jawans  in spirit
from behind the laptop…
Exchanging virtual hugs, images
searching for that most apt quote
that would fetch the most number of likes
establish our patriotism once and for all
We all love our motherland
but we give only what we don’t want
yet march and demand all that
the poor Indian has never dreamed
Free are our thoughts but our actions are bound
Our freedom ends where our fears begin.
   ©Reena Prasad
15th August 2012
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Independance day sambar


 I am making the simple sambar

 simple to those who know how to

like the tamil cook from the vegetarian hotel

near my home

who can make sambar in his sleep

 The vegetables are a strange assortment

 You must put in ones that won’t

mind the presence of the others

 or at least will tolerate it

 The dal goes in at the bottom

 like the feeling of Indianess

 among Indians.

 The yams, the religiously itchy, tough ones

 must be tossed in first

 then the softer, easy -to- mash ones

 like carrots, beans ,eggplants

 potatoes and onions

 like unity, integrity, faith

brotherhood and beliefs

 all must be cut into similar shapes, sizes

 so that none can bully the others

 and all get cooked evenly

 like in our nice schools

 flavoured by salt and turmeric

that like patriotism must seep

 and mollify the jarring, individual tones

 finally the softest ones, okra and tomatoes

go in at the top

 if you want them to

 or die waiting in the refrigerator basket

 pretty much like decency and self-respect.

 The tamarind paste, undoubtedly a hallmark feature

 like the tanginess of bonglish, manglish, and

others we relish

The asafetida, the curry leaves, the sambar powder

 must be added as and when you please

 like our impeccable manners

when asked to stand in queues and wait.

 Then you must boil the holy hell out of

all these wholesome greens

 The humble sambar is now ready

 Come, dunk in your dosas and idlis

 and learn how to eat this country.

©Reena Prasad

15th August 2012

 

To a lone Kalavoor duck


Lone duck in the pond
playing amidst the rippling shadows
White sandy soil and gravel have poured in
causing the last of the mushi and the varaal
to jump out and be eaten
along with two, unclean tumbler- fulls of
of milky- white frothing toddy.

There is a wind in the coconut palms
Whispering to some wandering spirits
Little else moves
Sitting on the moss green stones that pass off as steps
Sending thought rays into the dense foliage
underneath your green waters
as if a kindred spirit would surface
but there is only a neerkoli
peering innocently through the fern borders
Sans any intention
of depriving me of the dinner
which the old woman would soon make.

Limping over the dry, crackling palm fronds
Her sharp eyes never missing any fallen ones
-A coconut this time
To scrape and grind with some tongue -searing,
tiny kanthari chilies and a few slivers of a green mango
that fell in the night gale rattling the red clay roof tiles
to eat off those stainless steel- rimmed plates
which her daughter had brought back
from her days at a steel plant.

Scooping up the earthly comfort of kanji with a jackfruit leaf
curved and pinned into a conical scoop
Fastened with a piece of eerkili,
the slurps continue till bellies proclaim peace
then she spreads a straw mat
turning over her wrinkled thoughts
to the natural stillness of the afternoon
only interrupted by
occasional involuntary sighing invocations
of the goddess’s names in tune
with the groaning of her joints.

While she who sleeps fitfully in the nearby temple Srikovil
after the morning stream of
complaining, confessing, entreating, bribing
occasionally angry or thankful ones have retreated
and the doors closed till the evening batch begins their racket,
has her divine snores interjected by the raucous singing
emanating from the toddy shack
that passed off as the village reading room.
Sleep conquers the Devis
while I loiter around your waters again.

What do you think of such afternoons
Companion of my absent thoughts?
Your water lilies have stagnated within me
I carry the cool waters upon my head
to cascade upon me when the desert sears.

Our silence broken
by the metallic jangle of the Kaadi bucket
overturned by the bored cow again
The tapioca leaves wave their seven fingers
Their long , bare knotted stems sway
Beyond the unseen fence far away
A bicycle bell tinkles as rubber tyres shudder
over the graveled path…..
Earth starts to tear around the sun
And the panorama subtly changes.

I wonder if I am good company
or too loud by my very active absence
perhaps you prefer watching
a younger, long- legged girl in a short frock
discover the fleshy base notes of youthful guiles
and write raw poems upon the absent green surface
under you as you peck and preen
in anatine leisure land
catching your worms like the rest of us do
in our little time by some ponds.

©Reena Prasad

NOTES

For a better idea, read on..

Kalavoor… place in Kerala(Alapuzha)
Mushi and Varaal…types of fish

Neerkoli….water snake
Kanthari… type of bird’s eye chilly, small but explosive
Kanji….rice gruel
srikovil…sanctum sanctorum …
devi….goddess
Kaadi..cow feed
Eerkili… stiff mid ribs of coconut leaves

Waiting for Kalki


Waiting for Kalki

Reclining against the cold Himalayas, she waits
Her sobs reverberating above the muezzin calls and hymns
Aarti blazes at dusk meet haloed altar candles
yet fail to illuminate her weeping pipe dreams.
Her aura reduced to a flickering flame
Oh where are you Kalki? Still playing the waiting game?

Her attire in tatters, insidious assaults from her sons
she grips the frayed edges with her tempestuous smile
Blood oozing from her graying temples
as bigoted saws cleave her bosom into gushing rivulets.
“How do I stop those grabbing, lustful fingers?
I am her daughter but now pitted against my own brothers.”

She opens her peace-scented bowers to misguided souls
trying to soothe their hatred with forgiving tears
Ignoring her wounds, her love -drenched prayers,
They see only the gold glittering in her womb.
“Some brave sons she needs, a few virginal daughters too
I cannot light any more funeral pyres of her infants, all alone.”

A mother, our own, ravished shamefully by our gods
Her wise lap, a barren graveyard lashed by divisive tongues
Pull out poison -tipped arrows, tug at hateful weeds
Every iota and inch of her is almost a grisly battlefield.
Her bloody rivulets run down my bleeding fingers too
How do I feed babies with such sinfully soiled hands?

Lend me helping hands to sweep our colossal courtyard clean
to re-write our history on a dirt-repelling lotus leaf
of lives lost in vain, waiting for a Kalki to shoulder the blame.
-Reena Prasad

Ganga


Ganga stood
beautifully poised
on the brink of heaven
And then she began
Her free fall
upon Earth
Accelerating towards the ground
Her lithe, streamlined form
Swaying silkily down
Determined to make earth bear
the brunt
of her hurt arrogance.

Destructive force
of her descent
absorbed calmly by The Destroyer
without a lapse in  concentration
She meandered, stunned  by her inability
to sweep away the great God
Losing her way instead
among his tangled locks,
till he showed her the path
gently bringing her down to earth
dissolving her ego by his move
Her sweet purity reinstated with a mission
to mitigate a universal thirst
till the end of Kalyug.

Earth rejoiced
in the arrival of the mountain daughter
Turning green and blue
Swirling around, teeming with joy
sprouting life wherever
the divine waters touched.

North and then east
in several streams, she flowed
Turning into Bhageerathi
till the ocean beckoned.
Will she too follow Saraswati
blackened by man’s sins?
Dry and condemned
a lost spiritual flow.

Meditate not on her banks,’ O’ god men
Touch her not with your sinful feet
But immerse your soul into her purity
Let go, let go of all the Maaya
in the lethargic smoke that spouts from you
wipe those wick-oil smeared shutters
And see through an inner frame
Snip away those matted bird nests
Wash away those flaky ash smears
Sporting those half dead snakes
cannot make you Shiva.

Cleanse those guilty cavities
let your sins be your Guru
Maybe you still can feel
the rush, the roar and the force
as she lands on those coiled dreadlocks
entwined with serpent slaves of a mastered ego
and see
a crescent on his forehead
a glittering trophy of his timelessness.

As you drown in the inner knowledge
of your worthless existence,
pray it opens unto you
His third eye of knowledge
To dispel the black, ignorant miasma
To reduce to holy ash
the falseness of life on earth.

Washing the ashes of more than the purported
sixty thousand sons,
She still sways,
The spiritual Ganga  running in our veins
Suffering the same fate
as the tearful, throttled one
Carrying  moral corpses
Stagnant and poisoned
for a lost mind
can no longer mimic
a lotus leaf.

For Ganga leans
Tired, ravished
Waiting for the Bull,
standing on one leg
To stand on all fours
again

©Reena Prasad

Shakti


Shakti

A doldrum drumming of ‘Dhaak’,never.
A rhythm punctuated with cymbal crashes
Artistic divinity conjured up
in swirling ‘aarti’ smoke screen etchings
Fiery red paths blaze into blackish-grey forests
above ‘kumkum’ embellished sixth ‘chakra’ gates
widened into spiritual highways.
A pure face in sarcoline clay
her piercing gaze enters
into culture-clamoring chambers of common cores
rivaling the silver ‘trishul’ tip.
The ‘Sudarshan’, the thunderbolt
All shooting comets of fear
into habitually sinning whorls.

 

Women celebrate the home-coming
of the cosmic energy aggregate of celestial powers.
Her multi-tasking hands work harder than ever
to decimate the rapidly proliferating opportunistic demons.
A dying ‘Mahishasura’ at her feet
mauled by her snarling ‘Manashtâla’
The ultimate fate of a sinner,
a compelling portent to potential ones
Tongues waggle in vernacular rhythms
A thrilling conch call aborts the agnostic season
piously throwing a protective ‘Chaitanya’
to disrupt the soul-gnawing negative energy fields.

 

‘Gupchup’sellers with crispy, puffed morsels
Dispense their sweat flavoured wares
to ravenous, suddenly casteless people
united in their desire to drown
the creaking protests of ungreased joints
pushing the allotted cart of life
in the tangy spiciness of the
black, salted tamarind waters.
A celebration uniting the poorest rickshaw puller
with starched cotton sari elegance
and street artists in their erudite makeovers.
A compulsive, cultural desire sweetening
the ‘Akaal Bhodon Puja’ days
on either side of the Indian rupee.

 

The pitch tunes into unmanifest frequencies,
the crowd surges in feverish rhythm,
Kids make a beeline for the’prasad’
‘Anjali’ flowers shower on countless heads
‘Chaitighodas’ thump away in Ambagan
Stupor inducing sweet white smoke
emanating from burning coconut shells in earthen pots
as the youth sway away to the  comforting’Dhaak
A mythological canvas of resplendent ‘pandals’
Gleaming silver framing the fierce deities,
reaffirming the supremacy of woman power
in a land desperately struggling  to defend
the dignity of its dutiful daughters.

-Reena

Synastry


Synastry

 

Job assured, monthly cash flow secure

Time on hands, music no longer enchants

Bored, tired , hungry perpetually

He reads more wedding invitations

than paperback crime thrillers.

All symptoms match his coming of age

He hovers on matrimony’ s edge

Unsure, insecure yet raring to go.

 

 

Her  frizzy fringes tamed now to grow long

Her mother on prowl for suitable prey

Father scanning  three online newspapers

to avoid paying the broker’s fees.

She avoids gatherings for they bring queries

about her still- solitary status

Hormones rampant, full moon waning

She nods when she sees his snap.

 

 

Naughts and crosses ,the diabolical diagram enigma

interspersed with numerically-coded  planetary quirks

The net-savvy  druid announces a match

between his zodiac art and her natal horoscope

Mother announces  the news of a perfect catch

He conjures up images of the honeymoon trip

She splurges on the innards of her bridal trousseau.

 

Thus they dream on in separate heavens

while their stars plan for the future wars

They sacrifice the happiness of carefree youth

for numerical computations of “rajju” and “yujja”

Happiness abounds ,homesteads sport fresh paint

Auspicious rituals shorten the suddenly  long days

She sparkles  shyly in her bridal flowers

He  smiles nervously, they tune in together

 

Strangers thrown together like cowrie shells

declared soul-mates by crisscrossing  planets

for spending not one but seven births together

Fate, karma, destiny or  just crafty synastry?

 

-Reena