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Month: April 2022

Ghazal Against Bulldozers

Who authorises homes and rites in this city?
Each one who lives here has a right to this city!

Equality under the law is just fiction–
bulldozers show their masters’ might in this city.

Landlords and agents act like sponges and thugs–
private property? A blight on this city.

The cops say, ‘with you, for you, always’– but we know:
they’ll come for us, morning or night, in this city.

Who reads alone in Tihar Jail? Umar Khalid!
Behind the smoke, the moon is bright in this city. 

You ask me what it cost to give up my name– 
Nothing, and now I’m free to write in this city. 

No Escape

Last night, I tried to turn 
off words and worries,
to let the city rush over me,

like a postmodern raag,
written for engine, horn, 
shout and bark– 

after the elections in UP,
I stopped reading the news,
but the pigeons outside 

my window keep cooing:
Madhya Pradesh, 

and the raucous crows  
won’t stop their calls:
Bulldozers, bulldozers– 

they’ll be here soon!
Bulldozers, bulldozers,
what will you do?
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A War Poem

Once while going by sleeper
from Delhi to Bengaluru

I dreamt I was trapped 
in a broken mine shaft,

and waking, I cried 
out in terror.

Now I dream of distant fires
and wonder how far they will spread– 

there’s no way to know,
but this much is plain:

there’s no glory in war, 
just sorrow and pain,

there’s no glory in war,
my dear friends.
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How Is It We Keep Forgetting?

While reading Ilya Kaminsky, 
   I Think of Umar Khalid

Just outside Qutub Minar
there’s a line of buses and cars

filled with all kinds of folks,
looking for all kinds of things– 

some have come to lose themselves;
some, just want to get home;

walking back to the metro,
we pass flocks of uneasy dogs.

Later, I’m reading Ilya Kaminsky,
under a spinning fan–

we may not live in a mythical town,
but they’ve jailed the best among us.
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