Friday, October 31, 2008

Fancy a Hindi poem?

I have been trying to write poems in Hindi for a proposed collection. I need to have at least one hundred poems. By now, I have managed about thirty. I like some of them. I have destroyed some of them after finding them ridiculous. May be a few others also meet the same fate.

All these poems are about love and longing, and are dedicated to my muse, the ultimate seductress, Maya. I intend to call the collection: Laut aao, Maya (Come back, Maya).

Actually, there is one small poem, which ends like this:

Tum bhi to kabhi
dil pe
chot khao, Maya
Laut aao, Maya

Most of the poems have been written in trains and in Delhi’s auto rickshaws. And in pubs across India with names like Flames, Bistro, 4S, Beach Bar, Arabian Nights, Gomti. I cannot write, or for that matter, do anything else during air travel – I suffer from a terrible flight phobia. My legs turn numb and cold sweat oozes out of my palms. Put me in a conflict zone, and I am the most courageous person you’d have ever seen. But an aircraft – that scares me.

But this poetry collection is not what is keeping me busy. I am giving finishing touches to a book on insurgency, which I am writing along with my dear friend, Neelesh. Once that is done, I would like to go back to my novel, The Last Man from Kashmir. It is half done. Recently, I showed some parts of it to another friend, who also happens to be a writer. He liked it very much.

But the question, my dear readers, is: will you like it?

Thank you for stopping by. And ah, one more news. Recently, one of my Hindi stories got published in a magazine called Lamhi. It is edited by Mr. Vijai Rai, the grandson of legendary Hindi writer, Munshi Premchand.(Lamhi is a village near Varanasi where the great writer was born). In Delhi, it is available at the bookshop of the Sri Ram Centre.

PS: Do you want me to post one of my Hindi poems here? I don’t know whether Mac supports Hindi font. But if I get more than ten readers to say, YES, they want to read it, I will post the poem.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Alien cities

After the old waiter, wearing a haggard bow tie, kept my luggage on the table, I tipped him and locked the room behind him. It was an old hotel, and there were rumours that it would soon be dismantled to give way to a shopping mall. The paint had been peeling off the walls, and the damp bed covers reeked of lovemaking. The fan moved about its wobbly wings and the television set’s volume control lay broken. The window, overlooking a residential apartment, would not close properly and the curtains were torn off at several places.

I put my hand inside the crevice of the old sofa and discovered a bunch of cinema tickets of a film twenty years old. For some time, I could hear noise in the corridor and then it died down. There was silence.

In alien cities, in hotel rooms like these, the feeling of loneliness is most intense.

I had come prepared for this. So, as I lowered my back partially over the sofa, I took out a cigarette and, as the ice bucket arrived, I poured myself Vodka in a shallow glass made for consuming tea. Then I senselessly watched television for some time, letting the extra volume drown me into it. Then I flung its remote somewhere.

The curtains swirled under the fan. Two poems lay unfinished in a small diary, stuffed in my jeans pocket. Words had been failing me. Newspapers, which lay on my bed, made no sense. I didn’t have the patience to read the book on the table, leaning against a thermos. I ended up drinking too much, letting the alcohol drift me towards sleep.

In the morning, I woke up with a headache. The ashtray was full – the cigarette ash had filled the gaps last night. The remote lay sulking in one corner. A new set of newspapers had been slid through. The jeans lay in a heap on the chair, with the unfinished poems still unfinished. I closed my eyes.

In alien cities, in hotel rooms like these, the feeling of loneliness is most intense.

Lucknow Railway Station

Copyright: rahul pandita@2008

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Those days

The power went off early in the evening as I tried to put myself to sleep for a while. Droplets of sweat traversed like Morph Codes across my body, and I lay awake over the check bedsheet, hoping that a thunderstorm would saunter over.

Last night I felt so dead and rotten inside that I suspected maggots might come crawling out of my nostrils. With trembling hands then I took out that old cassette from its jacket scratched so badly as if mauled by a leopard, and put it inside the tape recorder.

It was noisy in the beginning, and from that cacophony emerged my own voice, trotting over the chocolate-coloured magnetic tape. In the autumn of 1995, I was reciting lines from A Moveable Feast:

For luck you carried a horse chestnut and a rabbit’s foot in your right pocket. The fur had been worn off the rabit’s foot long ago and the bones and the sinews were polished by wear. The claws scratched in the lining of your pocket and you knew your luck was still there.

I am nineteen, and, as boys of my age buy greeting cards to woo girls, I am hoping that one day I could visit Hemingway’s grave in Ketchum, Idaho. Every day, I go to the Central Library, behind Chandigarh’s main market square, and get new books issued: Tolstoy. Chekhov. Turgenev. Flaubert. Marquez. Homer. Naipaul. Fitzgerald. Dickens. Neruda. Then, along a shop which has a round-the-year sale, I sit on a bench, holding a Nescafe coffee, and dream of having a café-au-lait with Hemingway.

I watch people pass by: chubby housewives buying cutlery, boys checking out new music albums, old men buying cheap literature on religion, prospectives brides getting their photographs clicked, and hungry workers eating from grimy plates. Then I leave and back at the hostel, I start reading.

By the time it is midnight, I am hungry. So, Gaurav Sharma and I go to Ranjan, who has a parantha stall next to General Hospital. We eat egg paranthas and two glasses each of strong tea. He lights up a cigarette and I also take a few puffs. We chat for a while and go back. He returns to his Statistics and Shiv Kumar Batalvi. I stay for a while, listening to Jagjit Singh pouring out Batalvi’s pain, and then I am reading again till the first light breaks.

That has been my life for many years. And now, thirteen years later, I long for those days. I long for companionship. I long for love.

And I long to leave a flask at Hemingway’s grave, as is the custom.

(Pic courtesy: Erik Hanberg)

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Burn the dreams

Can we burn the dreams again?
So that poems are born
They need canvasses of bodies
To illuminate words and
Whatever meanings they hold
In their varicose veins.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Travels through Kashmir

Copyright: Rahul Pandita, 2008

Two songs, too many memories

When I was, I think, seven years old, a couple of songs, which I heard and saw on a black and white Weston T.V. set, tore apart my heart. Twenty-five years later they still make me drunk. My childhood sweetheart, actress Sandhya features in both these songs. You can see them here and here.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Secret Desire

I have always wondered about ambition. What is mine? Well, becoming a writer. Is it? I don't know. But here, let me share with you a secret desire of mine. I want to become this.