Home 2020 Musings from Thekambattu

Musings from Thekambattu

by V Sunder
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Illustration by Nilapratim Sengupta

We (Sunder and Sonati) have spent much of the last twenty years in growing trees and our children, here in Thekambattu. No time for anything much else than housework, land work, the kids and visitors. Now, with the boys grown up, and the trees to some extent, there was time for poetry.

The poetry started as a response to the events in Kashmir. (How does one respond? has been a recurring theme in our lives). The Kashmir poems more or less wrote themselves, and this continued with the corona poems and generally all the poems all of which have been written in the last year since August 5th. I (Sunder) write the poems and Sonati edits them to tone down the rants or to suggest a more elegant point of view.

Hope that these poems make you pause, think, enjoy the poetry and get you to write some poems of your own. The world needs more poets.


Photo by Simon Daoudi on Unsplash

With knee on neck
And I can’t brea..
He breathed his last
And he can’t see
What happened next
What happened next
Was that here and there
And everywhere
People realised that
They could not brea..
Until now they
Could not see
That it was because of
Neck and Knee
All over the world
They came in hordes
Black Lives matter
They all roared
Or Brown
Or Pink
Or whatever else
It hardly mattered
What they said
Because the knees were shaking
The shackles were breaking
The necks were straining
The necks were gaining
The knees were deigning
To listen for once
To those whom
They never heard
To those to whom
They had always said
It’s your damn neck
Pressing too hard
Pressing too damn hard on my knee
To those whom they never saw
Even when knee
Was pressed down hard
On neck

I can’t brea..
Was a visceral cry
It let so many others
Breathe at last
And amidst all the
Bangs and clatter
Amidst all the
Twitter chatter
One thing stood out
Each life matters
Each life matters
To he who lives it
Each death matters
To he who dies it
Each life should matter
To you and to me
Each death should matter
To humanity

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

On our first day at
A new school
I met
Berzee, Munaf, Nandan
Venkatesh, Chitcharan, Jude
During recess

What’s your name?
We circled warily around
Each other
Finding out
Where someone lived
Did he come by the school bus?
Did he have a car?
Who would take the
BEST bus home with me?
Who had an older brother in school?
Who should I partner with
To play carrom?
What tiffin had they each brought?

Today I look back
And wonder
At those questions
And wonder of wonders
At those innocent times
When after
What’s your name?
There was not
The merest thought of
The menacing follow-up question

Photo by Surbhi B on Unsplash

There used to be
A newspaper vendor
Sitting on the pavement
On Colaba Causeway
From whom I used to buy
The Evening News of India
For my father
Making sure to finish
Busybee’s Round and About
While walking home

He disappeared for weeks, once
And on his return I quizzed him
Kahaan gaye the aap?
He said, muluk me gaya tha, baba
Where was that?
Uttar Pradesh ki Meerut ke paas
Ek chota sa gaon

Aur gaon ka naam?

That was possibly
My first encounter with migrants
But when I started asking
I found that
The Kolhapuri chappal-maker
Near Regal cinema
Was actually from Kolhapur
The shoe-shine boys at Churchgate station
Where Fr Netto used to send us
If our faces weren’t reflected in our shoes
Were from Dhule, Amalner, Erandol. Pachore

The taxi drivers with names like Talwandi and Gill
Were from villages of those names in Punjab

The Irani pao-seller was
Of course from Iran
But more recently
Had come from Valsad
Where was that?
Gujarat ma, dikra

Vegetable and Fruit sellers were from
Unheard-of villages in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh
A veritable geography lesson on the streets

The smuggled TDK and Sony cassette sellers
On the pavements of Flora Fountain
Were all from Kerala
They were the hardest bargainers of them all
But peppering their Tamil-Malayalam with
Mone this and Mone that
Would make me feel
That what I had bought
Was a steal

The Matunga-wala
Who cycled from Matunga
With particularly Tamil goodies
Arisi appalam and kaara boondi
Was of course Tamil

It seemed to me then that
Everyone in Bombay
(With the possible exception
Of Bal Thackeray)
Was a migrant

Including me

Photo by Art Lasovsky on Unsplash

A poet’s vocation
Is dangerous
You stand to lose
Your liberty
Perhaps your life
Worst of all
Your friends

It seems to me that
I just need to
Shake my head
To lose a friend

Should I then
Keep nodding to
Keep them?

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