Poetry | For the Dark Times | Sutputra Radheye

Nepali Boy

The end
           I kill you
Today is your last day
(Nepali Boy)
-         Taken from  a wall in Delhi

Kill me
          hang me
                 in your universities
                     and mohallas
                      like garlands
of mustaches
Bury in your soil
             my face
                   my skin
                        my accent
                       my dress
              my voice
my identity
           and the map
                      you’ve drawn
                                     as India, ever since.

I am an Indian

I am an Indian
I’ve always been since the time when Radcliffe drew his line
I’ve swam across the Brahmaputra
I’ve danced in the rain of Sohra
I’ve woken to the sunrise of Arunachal
I’ve heard the singing of the Hornbill
I’ve played Yubi Lakpi when I was a kid
I’ve held the bamboo staves in Cheraw
I’ve prayed in the temple of Unakoti
And in the Rumtek monastery

I’ve fought the white colonizers
I’ve celebrated the tri-colour

My body is as Indian as yours.


There will be fire
and blood-sheet
when you'll walk
across the street
to meet me, Priyotoma.

When you come
leave your identity behind
throw your gods away
and be naked
like a soul in time stream
dear Priyotoma.

I shall wait, in nudity,
wearing no chord
that obstructs
my heart to embrace you
in the colour of your tongue
my honey- my Priyotoma.

Jaapi and roshogollas-
let them fight
like scavengers
and we shall love
like cuckoos         
in kamdeva's gate,
my lips singing
in your language
and yours
in mine,
a language
of waves
beloved Priyotoma.


a bangal
      in the protest
      and a miyah
                died in the queue
  of NRC
       alongside an axomiya
                          whose papers were eaten
   by the Brahmaputra.



Poetry | Manic is My Favourite Colour | Indira Prasad

Manic is my favourite colour

Ten beats a second, super fuelled
With the fire from a hundred cigars
Transcendent, invincible
There’s a sludge-quake in my small intestine,                             
Can you feel it?

Pin prick
Insulin spikes
Not so hungry anymore
The demons have eaten my liver
Manic is my favourite colour
Crawling about like a sick dog
Under the Fluoxetine rainbow,
I am a god.


The Devil's House

He’s awake
Standing by the window
Smoking cigarettes, turning dials, making strange sounds
He is a black hole
With ropes for hair
And a hook crook nose
He gives me something evil to smoke
And I want to go home
But I have no home
There are demons outside, making a racket 
Synthetic machines and brass instruments

My head is reeling
The devil lies beside me
Listening to Jazz, discordant, awful, piercing
He smells like rot, like dirt
His acrid breath brushes my cheek
Warm death on a sunny day
A million miles from home
There is no comfort in his body
His mouth makes a strange O
My mouth gasps for air and water
My body is desperate for England.

Change in the weather

I can see my breath
Small frozen drops hanging in the air
The weather is in my bones
I can’t feel my feet
My hands ache
My mouth won’t open
Slow death in January
There are never enough quilts
Who has opened the window?
Do you want me to die? 
I thought I would love the heat
But my insides have turned to resin 
All the water’s escaped my swollen body
Ran off down my back, across my neck
Hangovers are hell, here in the inferno
Sleepless nights cook my brain inside my skull
And the people; I am bewildered
Truth is; I don’t want to go home
There is no such thing as home.


Maybe I am loved 

Malign in the moonlight,
I think I can see the moon
In the coal pit of his eye
Eye-line a downward dagger
A glance shared with half the world.
But I’m riding in his car,
So maybe I am loved.

Static barbs fly
And I taste the vitriol rolling off his tongue.
Razor blade violin shriek.
Words which turn asbestos to ash
He doesn’t like folks like me                                                                     
But he buys me all of my drinks
So maybe I am loved.

It’s not his fault, it’s mine.
For not understanding I am blessed.
And he will screw his way through 200 years of colonialism
I couldn’t understand
Why he would never take me home
But he took me to a backstreet hotel
So maybe I am loved.

*artwork by the poet 


Poetry | For the Dark Times | Hamraaz

Security Personnel man the streets of Srinagar, Kashmir during the Lockdown,  via Dawn 

Changing the rules without consent: the true aim of development?
Political gain or property grab, in the name of development?

Lock up the kids before they hurl stones in protest or anger.
Preventive detention: just a move in this game of development?

Jail the leaders, shutter the press: speech and sight are dangerous—
lead pellets rip through retinas and fan flames of ‘development’.

Markets are closed and, friends, I’ve heard, freedom is now an outlawed word;
do dreams deferred wilt or explode in the shame of development?

Healing old wounds takes time and care; tear gas obscures the things we share—
brothers and sisters, please beware of false claims of development.

You say, Hamraaz, you’re so naive; it’s more complex than you perceive!
But we won’t right wrongs by hanging them in warped frames of development.

On the Day of the Verdict
-November 9, 2019

My barber closes the door and says,
He has everything in his hands now:  

the parliament, army, and courts; 
his wish is our command, now.

In the Beginning 

I kept hearing people say 
the same words over and over

wherever I went— 
sometimes in greeting

or farewell,
sometimes in prayer— 

the neighbor downstairs,
the electrician in the market,

the man who cleans 
the toilet in the park.

The more it happened,
the more anxious I felt.

When I mentioned it to the chemist,
he lowered his voice and said,

Yes, it’s no longer just
a greeting or a prayer,

it’s become a celebration— 
and a challenge. 

Hard Fruit

This morning, when I told you 
that I’d dreamt 

the theocracy had been declared—  
and the internet was down

and it was no longer safe 
to say ‘freedom’

in a song or slogan,
or even on the phone— 

you just nodded 
and said  you’d woken, 

sweating and shaking, 
after dreaming of breaking 

all your front teeth on a hard,
red apple from Kashmir.

It’s Important to Note She’s a Muslim, Hamraaz

The police are investigating 
an AMU professor 

for a Facebook post 
about separation, sadness, 

a failed moonshot,
and a cold northern region

which I shall refrain 
from naming.

Late in the night, 
smoke presses down 

on the city, 
and the Chowkidar’s

tap and whistle 
disrupts my dreams again.


Three Poems | Robin S Ngangom

Street Life

I’ve had decadence forced on me.
I let the rain waste my day, and arriving
at streets that do not even know my name
I take off just like that, waving to silhouettes,
buying drinks for anyone, even primates
for whom I have no great regard, hating the houses
which warn of dogs instead of welcoming me.

I allow the rain to flay desire’s skin
after falling in lust with an assortment of women,
pursued by an obstinate heat, and an old nose for adultery.
I covet the well-groomed bodies of vehicles
which thread through the eyes of the street,
before darting in and out of shops interspersed like snares,
choosing clothes and shoes which the manly discarded, and
even perfumes to throw off my real self.
Reaching barbers’s hideouts
I spend hours there in a trade union
with men who deal in a hairy business,
watching fingers that pick noses and
teeth in disgusting turn.
I let them fondle my head for a long time.

Until I reached the blind alley of night, and
I slowly uncovered myself
observing shops murdered before they were born,

listening to the dead orchestra of the street.

Genesis’s End

Khyrim woman, by the presage of this dark wind
wracking the breast of the hill,
the leaves kindling, it is autumn again and
the passes of summer
no longer carry our missives.

Your dying laughter withers the rock’s lip,
pines possessed by your eyes,
after you changed into an unearthly desire,
and the moons inhabit only the observatory of stone
though I plaited dreams in your once-woman hair.
Wedged between the stones of origin
your mute cry wanders the slopes
while we search for days on end,
in rains of memory, holding a solitary flower,
scanning monoliths standing in the mist.

Moons ago, lured from your cautious cave
you permitted the sun and rain
to undo your blind coiffure,
and allowed your opaline heart
to be doused by waters of home and hearth.
You also hummed ballads of freedom
and wrote on suntanned granite
the genealogy of your people
and your man-wounded heart.

Stone you were
stone you were sung to be and
I kissed you to begin my dying.



Before they used terror when things were beginning
to go out of control and people showed aberrant
behaviour, revolutionaries had asked poets in their
lower ranks to compose patriotic songs for a country
which cannot be found on any map. They would coerce
nocturnal drivers of interstate buses to play tapes of
one-act plays which are designed to make unsuspecting
passengers weep with patriotic shame. I know this for
real, I grew up with revolutionaries. They had even
asked me to translate a press release over the phone.

Before he became the sharpshooter of a revolutionary
band my childhood friend smelled of straw and cattle,
and then one day he bridled a horse and rode it hard
through a busy marketplace scattering customers and
traders alike like straw in a gale. I was told that he
buried a pistol at my cousin’s backyard just before he
went under the ground. Only after he came over ground
with the venerable title ‘teacher’, because Chinese
masters trained him, did I meet him on the street and
he smelled of designer clothes. He now keeps himself
occupied with work contracted out by the public works
department and once asked me if I were married. He
has two wives, one of them an actor.

Before the crackling fire of revolution which warms the
hearts of boys we sat in a circle and talked endlessly about
oppressors and life in the jungle. Friends brought stories
of the ordained, who survived on roots and eggshells. We
looked at Che’s hammock with longing and even mixed
his cocktail but had no idea of when to dig a tank pit.
When little books with a star and red skins appeared it
was too late for me. I had fallen in love, and although it
broke my heart, my father sent me to another land with
gentle hills, so that I can read other books which will
make me stand on my bourgeois feet.


When they are not around they become butts of fun.
The roving story then was of a wastrel who went home
after midnight because he had wasted all his time with
his layabout friends around a fire one winter night. He
had to cross a walled house guarded by fierce dogs to
reach his home. When the owner of the house who was
woken up by the dogs asked ‘Who goes there?’ the
wastrel found his wits and replied, ‘In the service of the
motherland’ in a solemn voice as one would expect a
revolutionary to reply.

When they became arbiters when someone’s duck was
stolen or two women were fighting over one man I
stopped being furious with them.

You should write when you can still laugh at yourself
and the world, before you give yourself up to
revolution’s despair.


Poetry| Motorcycle Sutras | Tanika Attrewa

Motorcycle Sutras

The chrome sees wind
          mist its voice
three times, with flaws
          the color of air.

[Chrome does not really see wind. Wind lends its lightness to chrome. Its voice is mist-like, but chrome itself cannot have a voice and one cannot see voice. Voice can be the color of air, but like wind, we do not know what air is. Air must be flawed because it makes chrome into something else.]

Chipped paint at the edge,
an invisible trace 
          in itself
like spots of blood 
          after a fight.

[Since the trace is invisible – we can assume that people are painted. Or, maybe it is the painted people from whom the color chips. If it is invisible, then it is only a figment. One can mistrust the “f” in figment and replace is with a “p.” Then meaning that is violent becomes peaceful.]


in grease, grease
on chain      chain
in cog             make it go.

[Dust makes it go.]


In sleep, like a pillow
between legs – 
a shiver of sex,
feathers flake in air.

[This is a dream. It is possible to sleep with a pillow between legs. The pillow is not a pillow. The sutra does not mean that. This annotation tells you what it means. The sutras and the annotations are not written by the same person. Sex like feathers flies.]


A reflection of him
self on the biology of 
an engine, a heart
bolted to the crank.

[If the heart is a piston, he is a machine stuck in the chest. He does not know reflection. It could have been the monk’s face before he went on a long ride. Buddhists who do certain things are called monks. There are others who do certain things but are called different things. The reference to monks is a generalization. If you notice, this does not indicate their individual levels of enlightenment.]


          The pliant rubber 
makes way for pebbles
          that stick like grit, 
between tread and teeth. 

[Travel is messy.]


A throttle tugs at wire and valve
like marionettes in a village play.

[The word “play” is used only as a symptom of ignorance. Puppets imply control, which is also a symptom of ignorance. Throttle also means to choke. Valves prevent backflow.]

(image courtesy: Wikimedia commons)