Volume 4 Issue 2, June 2020
Special Issue for Indian Poetry

P. Raja

A Ray of Hope

 

Steps seventy-two

I climb everyday

As an early morning exercise

To reach my garden

That adorns my terrace.

 

I nurture only those plants

That could smile at me,

Wish me ‘good day’

And make me grin

From ear to ear.

 

I, for one, love to keep

My plants smiling

As long as they could.

 

My terrace during such hours

Turn restaurant

For the honey suckers.

 

These winged little ones

Pay me in kind

By buzzing music into my ears.

 

Wow! What a sight they make

When they smack their lips

Before they say bye-bye

To their loved ones

Once and for all.

 

By dusk I climb again

Those transporting steps

To call it an evening exercise.

 

Alas! No plant smiles at me.

No plant wishes me good eve.

I could sense the reason.

 

They bereave over their lost ones,

Carried away by the same wind

That wafted their fragrance –

An invitation to the little wings.

No wonder the plants lost their charm.

 

As I climb down the steps

Sharing the sorrow of my plants,

Something in me brightens up

My sorrow-laden face,

Perhaps reminding me

Of the early morning on its way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reactions

 

The young man

With pitch dark hair on his head

Looked at

My pepper and salt head,

Gave a mocking smile

Before he said:

“Oh! You are growing old.

Half of your hair is grey”.

I grinned.

 

The old man

With silvery grey hair

Looked at my head,

Gave a toothless smile

Before he said:

“Oh! You are still young.

Half of your hair is black.”

I smiled.

 

The bald man

With no trace of hair

On his shiny smooth pate

Looked at my head,

Heaved a deep sigh

Before he said:

“Black hair or grey hair.

One must have some hair

On his head.”

 I beamed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Two Pens

 

Something needs to be said

About the two pens I use.

One was gifted by my father,

A present to him from his boss.

The Other I bought

With my first salary

To be a memento.

They never see

The outside world, for

I carry a very cheap pen

In my shirt pocket

That I magnanimously lend

To the really needy in banks and post offices.

Sometimes I forget all about the pen

And return home only to find that

I forgot to collect it back.

I am sure it remains a souvenir

In some house not rich enough

To return mine.

I find delight in writing with my pens

I treasure most.

They are safe in my study

On my writing desk.

 

Today for the first time

In the forty years of my writing career

I register my complaints.

 

One is scratchy and

Another makes blots.

 

Are they tired?

No…can’t be. They love me

As I love them.

 

Then are they complaining?

I think so. I know

They have nobody’s shoulder to cry on.

 

Furious at my little grandson Ajay

They say, “Oh! That little brat

Who made your study his playground

Used us on the tiled floor,

Mistaking it for immaculate white paper.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Fearlessly Flying

 

The day I was born

A flight took off.

 

I do not know

At what speed

It is flying.

I only know

It is fast, very fast.

 

I do not know

Above what sea

Or land

Or mountain

Or forest

I am flying.

I only know

I am flying.

 

I do not know

Where I will land

Or when

Or how.

I only know

My flight wheels

Will have to hit

The ground one day.

 

I do not know

The name of the pilot,

Nor have I seen

The cockpit in my lifetime.

I only know

My life is entrusted with

The one in the cockpit.

 

I fly with

Several other passengers

Who too have doubt

Like the ones I have.

 

I do not know

How to clear their doubts,

For I am not sure of myself.

 

All that I could see is

Vacuum and vacuum.

At times wagons of clouds

Pass below reminding me of

The ephemeral nature of life.

 

I do not have the wheel

In my hands.

My legs do not feel the brakes.

All that I know:

 I am flying

Without knowing where.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frogs

(Inspired by my second grandson Rishi)

 

Frogs do not know

How to spell ONE;

In fact, they do not know

That they are called frogs.

And they do not eat us.

 

We know how to spell

All the words

Given and not given

In mammoth dictionaries.

We know our names.

Yet we eat frogs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mathematics of Married Life

 

1

1

1 + 1 = 1

 

1a

1b

 

1a + 1b = 1

1b + 1a = 1

 

1 + 1 = 1

1 – 1 = 1

 

1

 

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Money

 

When I was young

And needed you more,

You turned your back on me

And farted.

I had no way but

Live in your stench.

 

Now when I am old

And need you no more

You come to me

With your protruding breasts.

 

I pity you, my poor lady!

I have no strength

To suck those perennial breasts.

What shall I do with you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Heart

 

 

My eyes missed you, of course,

But my heart saw you.

It missed a beat.

 

My eyes quite often play blind,

In spite of my glasses.

 

I have rat-ears, they say.

But they too receive

No sound signals at times.

 

When my heart missed a beat,

My lips failed to articulate my heart.

Yet my heart was feeling warm inside

Because you are close to it.

 

Great are the treasures

Invisible to my poor eyes,

But my heart somehow discovers them.

The discovery attacks

The head and the senses.

 

The heart knows the art of

Winning other hearts only

To call them its own.

 

The heart has reasons, wide and varied,

That reason fails to understand.

My heart loves the heart that hurts me

But never hurts the heart that loves me.

 

 

 

 

About the poet

Dr. P. RAJA (1952) is a former Professor of English, Kanchi Mamunivar Centre for Postgraduate Studies, Pondicherry, India. He has published more than 5000 articles, short stories, poems, interviews, one act plays, reviews, skits and features in not less  than 350 newspapers and magazines, both in India and abroad. He has authored 32 books in English and 10 books in Tamil. He has so far published five collections of poems in English: From Zero to Infinity (1987), To a Lonely Grey Hair (1997), To Live in Love (2003), Five Headed Arrow (2013) and Dhoti and Other Poems (2014). 

      He has contributed special articles to Encyclopaedia of Post-colonial Literatures in English, Encyclopaedia of Tamil Literature in English and several edited volumes. He has creative, critical and journalistic writings to his credit. He is a well-known translator too.  He edited Transfire, a literary quarterly devoted to translations from various languages into English. He was also General Council Member of Central Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi (English Advisory Board, 2008–12).  

     The awards he received include: Literary Award (Pondicherry University, Pondicherry-1987), International Eminent Poet  award (Madras-1988), Michael Madhusudan Academy Award (Calcutta-1991), Gold Medal and Citation (American Biographical Institute,  USA-1996), Best Poem of the Year Award (Una Poesia Per La Vita, Italy – 2002), Academy of Indo-Asian Literature Award (Delhi, 2003); Nalli Thisai-Ettum Award for Translation (Chennai – 2007); Indian Literature Golden Jubilee Literary Translation Prize (Sahitya  Akademi, Delhi-2007), Excellence in Literature Award (Govt. of Puducherry -2009), Lifetime Achievement Award (International Poets Academy, Intercontinental, 2010), Best Writer Award (NLC , Neyveli-2010), and Rock Pebbles Award (Odisha, 2013).

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