Friday, 23 February 2018

I am a Poem-Writer.....

I am a poem-writer. Not a Poet. Poets are exalted creatures.
No, I am not a Poet;
Only a plebeian poem-writer.

I am a poem-writer, hooked on words:
Beguiled and bewitched.

I play with words:
-As a child with sea shells and beach sand.
-Like a child with wax crayons and an old exercise book.

I play with words-
Mould, shape and twist them.
Knit, wind and weave them.
And they play little games with me,
Little teasing games:
Gambol around me, here in the rare mountain air,
Surf down when it rains, on these sudden mountain streams.

Who knows who sees......
Who knows who feels........

......but I write. Still.
In spite of.

And writing, I dream. Day dream-
my words upon your breast : hard-bound, upturned
Of my words’ wake
Humming you to sleep.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

This City, Me and a Love Poem for You

There's a dark orange fog, of neon lights and SPM;
A miasma
Oozing, rising, asphyxiating....
From this 21st floor: vehicle lights are ants on fire,
crawling, stumbling....
Consumed in their frenzy to get home.

My Love for you has no pertinence here.

A beggar girl makes a beeline for me: दीदी दस रूपए, बस।
खाना खाना है।
Oh, I'm so sure she is lying.
Or is she?
Her Haryanvi insolence, her insistence, her hunger......

My Love for you has no relevance here.

The auto sways with berserk speed.
The autowallah has a plethoric face. Panstained teeth, a young paunch.
Kind of obscene.
He leers. I cringe.

My Love for you is of no consequence here.

The maid Haseena is only skin.
And some bones.
Soft-spoken, she
sweeps and wipes with a businesslike purpose.
And answers my smile with a smile that doesn't quite reach her eyes.

My Love for you makes no difference here.

Malls scrape the sky.
Lit with a million lights,
Mellow lights, that smooth out all flaws
In my face and my figure.
Paying a ransom I strut out;
Beautiful. For a split moment.

My Love for you finds no audience here.

This City.
This dust encrusted, smoke screened city.
This cruel, no-one-cares City.
This never-stopping, brakeless City.
This dead-skied, poem-less City.
This your City.

My Love for you
Writes no story here.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Cry With Me

"Oh I forgot the mushrooms!"

I stopped in my tracks. My friend laughed lightly. 

"Its OK!" She reassured. "It will be delicious even without the mushrooms."

We are to travel together, by bus from Dharamshala to Delhi and we are planning what eats we should carry with us. Travelling with friends can be such fun that even the thought of it is enjoyable and we cannot contain our glee.

I'll cook Maggi and carry it."  I announce and mentally plan: Maggi with olive oil to ease the guilt and lots of capsica, cheese and of course mushrooms. But I forgot the mushroom. 
"Koi nahin!" the friend again assured me.

As I cook the Maggi here in my kitchen under the mountains, I cannot gather the same joy I had felt while planning for it. Not today. Not now. This morning as I had sauntered into my office, mind full of the prospect of cheese laden Maggi on a long comfy busride with a friend, I had no inkling what this day had in store.

"Did you hear the news?" my colleague enquired.

I looked at him askance.

"There's been a terrorist attack at Sunjuwan. Soldiers and their families have been fatally wounded!!!"


I did not know how to react.Just six months back,  I had been there. Taking a lecture on some health issue for the wives of officers and soldiers. 

There were people I  knew, friends and acquaintances who lived near by. 

I did not  say much. But it was a shock. And then the whole day was spent in the tedious job of trying to find out who was hurt and where. News kept pouring in, trickling in, a soldier dead, another hit on the chest, a soldier's mother injured by a  bullet, a little boy, a soldier's son battling for life with a bullet wound to his head, another young woman, a daughter hit by bullets..... ....

We are a dispassionate lot, we doctors. We are so used to dealing with the darker side of life that there is nothing that shocks us, hurts us or shatters us...So I worked, diligently, completely detached and then returned home in that same absolutely normal frame of mind.

But here over that pan of yellow Maggi, I began to think and to crumble....

Ayesha died alongwith with her father, a junior commissioned officer. * 

A few days back,  a JCO had come to meet me. 
"Madam, he had said, "My daughter is studyng for her NEET entrance examinations. Could you guide her? She is a good girl. She is working very hard."

 I had of course been more than willing to help.

I do not know how old Ayesha was.  

Was she like this young woman, studying for her NEET PG? Did she wake up today morning with visions of mathematic sums and complex chemical formulas of organic chemistry dancing in her head? Did she make tea for herself and her Dad, warm tea on this cold February morning? Did her mother tell her, "Eat something with your tea, Ayesha. You know how tea on an empty stomach makes you retch?"
My mother would always tell me this when I was studying for my entrance examinations.

Am I sounding a little garbled? Quite possible.

Well, this post is not going to be about nuanced language, about literature, about an attempt at literary art......Today I will write without frill, without acrobatics withour jugglery. I will write without any effort at being contrived. For I need to vent, to reach out to you, to tell you what I feel....An in doing that, if I am garbled, then let it so be.

Nayana was hit with bullets. Her father too was shot. 
She lived. 
He died. 
Bled to death.
Her age I know. 22 years.

You know Jaya, she of the 'An Evening Walk in the Hills' fame? Jaya is thirty. To me she is a kid. What then is a twenty two year old like? 

How was I at twenty two? In college, struggling with Medicine, Surgery and Obstetrics. Cramming all night.  Staying awake on Maggi and beaten coffee. Tottering over Pune in my waif like two wheeler Sunny. Crushing gleefully on seniors, college-mates and teachers. Exploring feelings, tastes and dangers. Losing my Dad was not a possibility in my twenty two year old mind. To lie bleeding and watch him bleed, dying slowly was not a consideration even in my most horrendous nightmare.

What would I have done in had I been Nayana's mother? Coco Chanel, how old is your daughter?

And that little boy, only fourteen struggling in the ICU of the military hospital at Jammu, what of him? 

I do not know whether little Sunil can think right at this moment, whether his injuries permit him to be coherent. If he is thinking, is he wondering, "Who are these people, Papa, who put a bullet through my head? I have not been that naughty Papa.  It's true that I sneaked a smoke behind your back and spent the whole day chomping on Lays chips, but how grave are my these crimes? Are they why they wanted to kill me ? Or is it because I am your son and you wear the combat uniform? Papa?"

Who are these people who kill without qualm, who kill for ideals  I cannot understand, who kill without discriminating, who can die just to be able to kill? 

Just now, I cannot figure out the answer. I am too exhausted. My eyes hurt and there is a stale taste in my mouth. These things that divide us, why do they divide us, divide us so sharply that they pollute, convolute and distort humans into ugly things without soul and without feeling, take away our humanity make us monsters who defy description? I do not have an answer.  And I cannot do anything about it. Nothing.

Young people die everyday. They die of disease, of accidents, of murder and sometimes they die wilfully. They get hurt too, in so many different ways. What happened in Sunjuwan today maybe just another unfortunate thing for you. But it has made me incredibly sad today. I don't feel any other emotion within me, no anger, no thirst for vengeance, nothing; just an endless gut wrenching sadness and a sense of futility. 

My Delhi bound bus has just left Dharamshala. It weaves slowly down the winding mountain road as people around me talk, laugh, surf...The bus is warm, the city lights twinkle, the Maggi with cheese and capsicum secure in the overhead shelf and all is well. But I have no sense of assurance, no craving for it just now. My friend is gazing out of the window, letting me type. I've excused myself for a bit, telling her " I'll just finish the post and then we can gossip." But my mind's not on it.

I gaze out of the oversized Volvo window, my eyes filmed over and think, "I've cultivated this bad habit of entreating my blog readers to leave a comment each time I publish a post. But this time, for this post, I'll not ask you for a comment. This time, I'll beg you to think about Nayana. And Ayesha. And Sunil. 

This time I"ll only ask : Cry with me.......

PS* Errata. No young woman was killed. That was misinformation caused by the initial chaos. The brave young woman was hit on her leg and survived. God bless her.

The little boy, though is still fighting his terrible wounds till today. Pray for him. 

Friday, 2 February 2018

Combat Medical Humour

A senior army general was inspecting a military hospital. The General was a seasoned infantry man, a die-hard soldier. He knew everything there was to know about guns and battle but nothing at all about doctors and hospitals. But he respected doctors, especially the military doctors who worked in difficult combat situations and were responsible for saving the lives of countless war-wounded and ill soldiers. He sincerely wanted to do something beneficial for the hospital, something that would improve their working conditions and the quality of care meted out to patients. That day, as he moved from one bed to another, the senior doctor who accompanied him kept him briefed of the malady afflicting the patients and the treatment being carried out. Luckily, this doctor had an engaging style of conversation and because he explained difficult medical issues simply, the General was not at all bored.  Instead, he found himself quite enjoying the briefing and was soon telling himself that Medicine was a pretty logical thing and not at all the difficult subject he had thought it to be. As they moved from patient to patient, the General actually found himself engaged in an animated discussion of medicine. Towards the end of the tour, the doctor showed the General a few Electrocardiograms (ECG). The General was pretty intrigued by the weird squiggle like graphs, some large, some small, that looked for all the world like ancient Sumerian writings. He enquired of the doctor, "Doc , why are the ECGs of some of your patients large and for the others, they are small?"
The elderly doctor explained patiently, "Oh, that is due to voltage differences......"
The General was elated that he had finally found that something where he could be of assistance to hospital.
He gestured to his Aide de Camp, "Please ensure that brand new voltage stabilisers are placed at each patient's bed by today evening. We cannot have such petty things as voltages playing havoc with crucial things like the size of ECGs...!"

( For my non doctor readers)
Electrocardiography (ECG) is the process of recording the electrical activity of the heart over a period of time using electrodes placed on the skin. These electrodes detect the tiny electrical changes that arise from the heart muscle's electrophysiologic pattern of depolarizing and repolarizing during each heartbeat. The overall magnitude of the heart's electrical potential (voltage) is then measured from twelve different angles ("leads") and is recorded over a period of time. The difference in amplitude ( voltage) occurs due to the normal differences between individuals and also due to the particular disease they are suffering from.

For Jaya: An Evening Walk in the Hills

We both walk
       On curved roads
              Draped across mountains:
                    Vast mountains; tawny, in the late noon sun.

Our foot-steps
     Crunch, then echo,
          Breaking the silence-
               The warm, russet silence; in our wake.

On, up-hill
        In huffs and puffs,
               We race with the road
                    The undulant road, till that lonely gray bridge.

On the way,
      Slate-roofed huts,
             Cow smells, cow bells-
                   Tinkling bells: and bright-eyed shepherd girls.

A dog barks-
     Engaging wag.
          Dog-smells on me?
               Friendly smells; so it trots with us downhill.

At the bridge
          The stream’s all dry-
               Naked rocks pray:
                    Pray for rain; and the raiment of green moss.

We look up:
     A shrine. So high!
          Red roof shining...
               Beckoning. Lets climb there. One day................

A lone cart.
     Its name? “Best View”!
          Soft momos, steaming-
               Steam merging, with the valley mist below.

There is talk,
     From heart. To heart;
          And songs too - old, loved.....
              “Where is Love?”  “Oh, when?” I can only soothe.

The sun sets:
     Pink, red, some haze.....
          Sprayed across the West.
                 Keeping West beside us, we stroll back home.

Night descends-
     Curtains of cold.
          A road-side fire-
               Tongues of orange flame and warm orange heat.

     We stop and turn-
           On a whim. An urge.
               The silver urge, of a vast silver moon.

Then, we gaze
     All bathed silver,
         At that perfect moon-
                Our moment, Perfect; freezing in Time!

Alu and the Crown God

I had rolled barely a hundred metres down the road when I spotted her gambolling in the adjoining park. "Heyy Alu," I called ou...