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

Parnab Mukherjee

Instructions on Walking Safely

 

 

Walk

Move

Glide

Slide

Rest

 

Walk

Shift

Vacate

Unpaid

Tired

Rest

 

Wake up

Walk

Walk on

Empty belly

Hunger style keto diet

Last plastic packet of puffed rice

dry rotis

and a little moonshine

 

Walk

Rest

 

Walk

Jump

Pirouette

Pounding

melting tar

Blaring horns

A little disinfectant

sprayed on you

 

Walk

Drink water

Ration your sips

Woman, man, child

Migrant

Our collective migraine

Walk on

Rest

 

Walk

walk faster

Run

Pace

Find

Seek, hide

Disappear, reappear

Cry

Seek help

Walk

Rest

 

Walk

Fatigue

Rest

Sleep

Run over

Shreds

 

Walk

Walk

Shreds can walk too

Collateral damage shreds

Not to worry

You are miniscule

Walk, rest

Get run over again

 

Mask, masque,

Roti, neem brush, Rs 200

Walk

Jalna

Jhajha

Jaffna

Raxaul

Ramallah

Bhuswal

Bijapur

Lesbos

Rest

Drown

Run over

 

Walk for one last time

Die in increments

You far from fulfilling your EMI

 

After all the words of prophets are written on railway tracks,

weary bodies and our collective shamelessness

 

On your bodies we will place a printed cloth

We, the left overs, shall say

April is the cruellest month, breeding

lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

memory and desire and dread and a few million

misplaced walking here and there,

collective mobility of a misplaced migraine...

migrants...

 

 

 

 

Chinar Zero: of Unclaimed Shirts: A Recipe Poem

 

This shirt is stained by the roganjosh

This face is stained by the roganjosh

These pants are stained by the roganjosh

The river Lidder belches out a roganjosh smell

These hands, buttocks, legs, face, breasts and tears are stained by the roganjosh

cook the mutton in slow fire

see it is sufficiently red

and then allow it to simmer

a little yogurt, a dash of white cardamom

on my plate

the mutton says:

what are you eating

the recipe or the valley

it is evening in Gurez

the mountains are stained by the roganjosh

 

the chinar looks like waza kokur

the chinar looks like tabak maaz

the chinar looks aab gosh

the chinar looks like waza palak

and the goshtaba and the rishta (both the dish and the bond)  is the memory of the meal Faisal would have eaten that night in Chattergam

till...we served out the recipe of death

Hatai Mouji

Hato Khudaya

and then one streak of red line...

the lahabi kebab is simmering inside the pot

aroma

stench

smell

a little dash of death

the wazwan is ready to be served

 

Now, even out your meal

To make this brew, all you need is a few ingredients such as kahwa leaves, saffron preference to be given to the Pampore varety, cinnamon, cloves, dried rose petals, cardamom, and almonds.

Now that you have it…

Boil the water with spices and saffron and then switch off the heat. Let the water rest for five seconds and then add the special tea leaves.

Drink you kahwa

Normalise your taste buds

 

To sweeten add some honey

Now things are normal again

No claustrophobia, all well.

 

 

 

 

 

Ways of Looking at the Meera Mukherjee’s Sculpture Called The Baul

 

Your Baul

Shimmering lines

Diffused sentences

All submerged

**

Sunrise is like a reverse egg poached

**

If the craft is all that matters

I’d rather evolve

and make life

into a collage of more random renderings

 

**

To put thinking caps on

is to suspend surreal logic

the space in between the strings of your ektara

 

**

I can see

choreographed chaos

the hollow of the gabgubi makes sense now

Look at the whirl

Look at the swirl

**

Lost in chaos

found in a revolution called Lalon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ramkinkar’s Gandhi Statue: One Evening

 

 

 

So,

 

 

the stick hits the ground

and the body becomes arched

 

 

the eyes of the skull

looks

 

 

at the divided legacy

ours

 

 

and

theirs

 

 

 

The stick got bent further

 

 

The body arches a little more

and each skull (there’s more than one; there are a few)

 

 

yells

a silent yell

 

 

 

Screams die out

 

 

 

Long shadow

 

 

across the Kala Bhavan path

Shantiniketan evening

 

Sold out lodges

 

 

 

Tomorrow

more tourists will come with more flowers

 

 

 

When the flowers wither

 

 

their lost petals will touch the eye of the skull

and the

 

 

eye shall

glisten

 

 

in violent darkness

 

that night they will remove the tent

because non-violent protest on the road

is an uncivil act in a civil society

 

 

Amina Kar’s Invisible Imaginary Journal Entries

 

Journal entry on a random pre-marriage day:

 

One moves

from one end point to another

ceaselessly

charting newer horizons

amidst newer despairs

 

Entry on the marriage-night:

 

I would only….

only if I know….

your hands are still warm

 

Journal entry on a random day when both the husband and wife fought:

 

I am not confused enough to say I love you

but love as I know

may have changed its definition

 

haiku

raindrop

sneeze

cough

pause

punctuation

silences

aphorism

dementia

 

Journal entry after leaving the husband’s house and the first day of living alone:

 

Blissfully aware

that self contradiction

is

why I live

is

why I should live

 

Entry- while painting for that one last time:

 

Touching wasn’t the problem

Never was

getting to love you a little better was

 

Before the touch

and knowing

is my super-consciousness

is my neo-plasticity

 

Journal entry almost like an illegible scrawl moments before death: 

 

Whose hair do you collect

Whose tears do you hold

Whose water do you drink

Whose blood is it anyway

The tree

doesn’t shed leaves

anymore

it sheds

concrete

toffee wrappers

that encase

concrete

monstrosities

and plastic deaths.

Demented words in botched up sentences

 

Nasreen Mohammedi: Are You Feeling Cold Nasreen

 

I would like to bend, bend further

till the ground becomes me

and I become the ground

 

Yes,

I still look for necessary solutions

to unnecessary problems

I still do

 

Yes,

gliding on a different kind of landscape

I soar

And then glide gradually

back to ground again

 

Yes,

I see

just the horizon

sun moon

you and me

 

Yes,

I was busy looking

at the creases on your face

as you wondered

what the fuss was all about

 

Are you feeling cold Nasreen

 

Yes,

of course, the interplay,

shadow with light

black and white patchwork

across smudged horizons

dark films

dark bromide sheets 

defining a new kind of kinetics 

figures

whirling towards

disjunct spaces

little

loopy

trance

 

My eye-balls remain stationary

as Nasreen takes me

on my own

whirl

mismatch

mishmash

scrambled up

loop

 

I am my own Salim Sinai 

A child of confusion

Stuck between a modern kind of ancientness

and an ancient kind of modernity

 

Falling asleep

with blinkers on

Balancing

Falling over

Filling up lonely pages

 

Between the print and the preview

lie the pangs of conception

 

Graphs spiral upwards and down

looking for a predicted destiny

that will always differ

 

Are you feeling cold, Nasreen?

 

I am smug in the Delhi winter underneath a sheet

reading your loneliness

lost in phrases

 

Sometimes in antonyms

and in synonyms also

your words dance

and blank space whirls

 

juxtaposition

justaposition

just a position

just a position

juxtaposition

 

Intersect

Intersection

 

Are you feeling cold, Nasreen?

 

When I lost my way

You held my hand

You still held it when I found it

You said you will still hold it

if I were to lose

find – lose – find

lose it again

 

Across

sepia sunsets

and the arched parabola

my body turns into

a perfect circle

searching for

a finer perfection

like a Tai Chi artist

freezing

mid-movement

because he has encountered something akin to a man-made Mokhsa

 

Are you feeling Cold Nasreen?

 

Look at the bird permanently perched on the wire

The bird perched on the wire struggles to balance

Yet, the bird never wanted to fly

 

Just

This

Just

That

just

all this

just

all that

and

more

 

 

Are you feeling cold Nasreen?

Are you still feeling cold?

Prescribed/Proscribed: A Duo-logue

 

 

A white cloth. Two characters inside. Both emerges. With a strip of cloth covering their eyes. A red and a green strip.

 

Voice over: Under my battlements. Come, you spirits

That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,

And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full

Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood….Lady Macbeth..Act 1,  Scene 5

 

 

The duo-logue begins:

 

 

Don't tell me not to be dark

Don't

 

I come from the  land of burning skin

where the earth is parched

and vandalised day segue into errant night

Between ghettos, gates, clock tower and maidans

 

 

Don't tell me not to be dark

because the water I wash my face with every morning

is laced by your arsenic solutions

 

Don't tell me not to be dark

Because my tongue is on fire 

The last time it tasted food

was the waste lying on the road

after a local higher caste marriage ceremony

 

Don’t tell me not to be dark because

I told Chuni Kotal not to be educated

but work towards being a dark mistress

for a local politician

She did not listen

She had to commit suicide

 

Don't tell me not to be dark

because your civilised civil society is filled

with lords of lip service

self-serving bastards of the worst hue

 

Don't tell me not to be dark

because I never could look into the eyes of my own child

they reflected hunger

that endemic, intrinsic, innate twinge in the stomach

 

Don’t tell me not to be dark because

I have only known edges, fringes

Where puke and collective farts abound as a mark of choreographed solidarity

 

These are places where I have lived all my life

These are places where I shall die

And then rot like a non-entity

like some arsehole who was born

to fill up the annual census

 

Don't tell me not to be dark

because I have never seen success

not even failure

 

Because my kind has always been told

You are special

Special enough to be studied by anthropologists for their subaltern projects

Special enough for support groups to get grants

Special enough for us becoming global desktop calendar marker material

Special enough for us to become subjects for endless documentaries

Special enough for us to be a sexy screensaver

 

Don't tell me not to be dark because I have lived

In the dark dim cells of the local police station

Dying endless custody deaths

 

Don't tell me not to be dark because

I know how the police beats me up

 

Don't tell me not to be dark because

 

I am Rabari

I am Shabar

I am Karbi

I am Dimasa

I speak Nagamese

I speak Dakhni

I speak Kokborok

I speak Santhali

I am Pardhi, Chhara, Banjara

I am Pangal

 

I am North Cachar Hills

I am Jaffna

I am Nandigram

I am grappling with seeds of distrust been put in my loins

I am “the other” in the large global majority phenomena of

Manufacturing otherhood faster

Than brotherhood, sisterhood or even a socialist version of a Robin Hood

 

 

Don't tell me not to be dark

 

and show me prime time television advertising spots that reiterates

Fair cleanliness

Fairness cream

Fair justice

Fair numbers

Fair contract

Fair property

Fair opportunity

Fair permits

Fair chance

Fair Internet

All these words

Suck

 

I want to be dark

Dark as hell

Dark as darkness

 

I want to puke

into substances that make me milky white (or any kind of puritan)

because dark to me is the only continent

where I belong

 

For heaven's sake

 

You

be fair

You

be

lovely

You

become

the

no marks

person

 

I

shall remain

with the scars

of my pock-marked

refugee

face

 

Don't tell me not to be dark

Don't tell me that fornication needs two white bodies or for that matter two white minds or for that matter two white fingers

Just don't tell me that

Don't tell me not to be dark

because I

give a damn

to what you say

 

Don't tell me not to be dark

because

your collective speech bubbles

pollutes my nostril

 

don't tell me not to be dark

because

whiteness to me

is a colour of negotiated distrust

 

Don't tell me to be dark

because you know

fuck all about what darkness

is

was

and

will be

 

 

 

Let me get the pleasure in this biting cold

 to shiver, shudder, suffer

Yet

Watch

the globalisation of solidarity; as if empathy can be outsourced

 

Or maybe even that is a put-on

 

I

know the texture of curated silences

Believe me

You are all

That type

Those types

Those

Typically shitty

Typically puritan

Typically propah

 

Don’t tell me not to litter

Don’t tell not to bark

After all what would you know about a stray dog’s life

By now you would have understood the Hamlet’s in Tower Hamlet

But you don’t; you won’t

 

C2: Therefore cling on to your eyes. You must be tired of seeing so much that you have stopped seeing.

 

The living dead.

 

Lear.

Leer.

Real.

 

King Lear.

King Real.

 

In

Dystopic

Utopian

Globalised

Hyper-local

Withered away paper

Homeless

Flood affected.

Strobe lights.

Installed art objects.

Vanishing forest covers.

Copyright.

Copyleft.

Creative Commons.

Third bell.

Clever Curator’s Note.

Pitch Perfect.

White Noise.

Disjointed.

Unsexed.

 

Our times. King Lear in a mirror. King Real times. Time is out of joint. So here we are in the no man’s land between freedom, fear, security,  uneasiness, boredom, flux, flow, adrenaline, undead juxtaposed with our the lives inside and outside the superimposed grid.

 

Deadlocked. Unlock. Deadlocked. Unlock. Deadlocked. Unlock.

 

C1: What is nation? A community-a huddle, a cluster, a giant unpeeled orange, a combination of stray lego pieces that makes an artificial wooden whole, or just a majority versus minority or a minority versus majority

 

C2: Or a collection of the aspirations trying to fit into a large cardboard box called life

 

C1: I would not be defined by my faith or redeemed by it. I would explore within my faith my idea of a private salvation or a quiet moment of liberation

 

C1: But no quite moments of my so-called legality

 

C2: Fortify the fort…allow the inhabitants to know that  once already in means an opportunity to exist

 

C1: Ensure those who disrupt should face due procedures but don’t manufacture seeds of unbelonging

 

C1: Remember Gandhari could sense the wind from her covered eyes

 

C2: sense the wind

 

C1: I am neither a digit nor a lack of it

 

C2: I am neither a floating wave of current nor an  undercurrent

 

C1: I am neither chronology or anthology

 

Chorus of 2: We are life’s aspiration of wanting to exist ; we not the world but a self-contained universe of being singular and plural at the same time. Walking on the pathway refusing to becoming the path

 

BOTH THE PERFORMERS WALK OUT OF THE SPACE AS THEY SLOWLY OPENS THE SHROUD FROM THEIR EYES AND TAKES THE PATHWAY INSIDE THE AUDIENCE.  

ONE OF THEM CHANTS/SINGS THE ENTIRE SHOLKA: Asato ma sadgamaya

Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya

Mrtyorma amrtam gamaya

-Taken from Brhadaranyaka Upanishad — I.III.28.

About the poet

An independent curator, spoken word performer, independent media analyst, and a performance consultant by profession, Mr Parnab Mukherjee is one of the leading knowledge consultants and alternative theatre nomads of the Indian sub-continent. He is an acclaimed practitioner of Third Theatre, Shakespeare-in-education and specialises in theatre-of-the-campus and student-led installation projects. He has devised, conceived, designed and directed/collaborated both experimental performances and workshops for a number of institutions, activist groups, support groups, schools, colleges, youth groups and social movements across the country. As a theatre soloist, he has extensively travelled with his repertoire and has performed in a range of cities including Bali, Surabaya, Tehran, Mashad, Chittagong, Biratnagar, Cardiff, Colombo, Negombo, Batticaloa, Dhaka, Copenhagen, London, Liverpool, Dili (East Timor), Ottowa, Manchester, Singapore, Bangkok, Patumthani, Montreal, New York and Vijlandi (Estonia).

     Currently, roving editor with two initiatives, he has earlier worked for a sports fortnightly, a chess tournament bulletin, The Asian Age, Kindle India and Sambad Pratidin. As a journalist and human rights activist, he has extensively worked on the dynamics of human rights and economic systems of the country. He has developed theatre advocacy tools for international agencies including UNoDC and UN Women and has run a large number of voice-work and performance-training and performance text writing residencies.

     He has written five books on theatre. and contributed to a range of publications including Dancing Earth–An Anthology of Poetry from North East India published by Penguin India, Tehelka, The Spectator-London, Montreal Serai, Imphal Free Press, Chandrabhaga-Cuttack and Hard News.

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Published by The Alternative.