• India 2019: Three Poems

    Ra Sh

    September 7, 2018

    Is this the India we want?

    A country in which citizens are murdered or attacked for being rational; for being critical, for raising a voice of dissent; for just being themselves, Muslim or Dalit or women. Intimidation, threats. Hatred. Lynching. Sickening violence. Students and teachers given the choice between being leashed in thought and word, or being hounded as seditious. Institutions built over the years weakened. The economy and development turned into exercises that mock the needs and aspirations of most people. The secularism, the scientific temper and the rights promised in our Constitution subverted every day. Our democracy, our India, frayed.

    But this is our country. It belongs to us, and we belong to it. We have each other for support. We have our poems and songs and films and essays and fiction and art. Our diverse voices.

    What is the India we want?

    Listen to our fellow citizens speak of the country they don’t want and the India they want on the series India 2019 on the Indian Cultural Forum and Guftugu.

    The Bullet Train 
    (The first Aadhaar linked poem in the world) 

    Ra Sh (Aadhar No: 9876 5432 1001)

    The Shinkensan Model accelerates to
    217 miles an hour, cutting journey time
    to 3 hours from Ahmedabad to Mumbai.
    Mukesh sings “Meri gaadi hai japaani”
    in a soulful studio radio.
    Born post-war, Shinzo Abe smiles
    and waves and hugs like Hirohito.

    This Bullet Train is the Brahmaasthra of the epics.
    Or, the Narayanasthra or the Rama Bana.
    Sometimes, it is a Mohanasthra that drugs
    billions of people putting them in a daze.

    There is another Bullet Train.
    A 7.65 calibre Make in India model
    that passes through stations with
    strange names like Kalburgi South
    Pansare West and Dabholkar Central
    Its destination set in Bangalore
    where it rockets through a pulsating heart.

    This train now will pass through
    Under skin arteries and veins and nerves
    Tunneling through bone marrow and muscles
    Till it comes to rest on a magnificent spine bridge,
    perched like a toy train in a full moon night
    till the slightest breeze causes the compartments
    to topple into a depthless soul, one by one.


    The ANTHEM

    a black man sat in the Tagore theatre balcony
    and an old man with a flowing white beard sat next to him
    while the Anthem was being played.

    the rest stood up.

    these two remained seated.

    the black man asked the bearded gentleman,
    “who da fuck’re you, man?”

    the saintly man said,
    ” I’m Tagore…and who art thou?”

    the black man said,
    ” I’m Bob Marley and I stand up only for my rights.”

    (Written during IFFK 2016 when the Supreme Court ruled that the National Anthem is to be played in cinema halls and everyone must stand up while it was being played.) 


    Love in the Time of Demonetisation

    took me four queues to notice her.
    she took six.
    am wearing the same shirt with scarlet leaves.
    she, a kalamkari printed indigo saree.

    in the eighth queue we stood body-trapped, back to front, front to back.
    she smelled my sperm, i, her ovum.
    to the ninth queue we went together on her honda activa.
    she got a pinky. i got none.
    in the tenth, i got a pinky. she got none.

    in the eleventh atm booth, we decided to make out.
    she got in with me and i jammed the door.
    we began to kiss and she began to strip.
    the long queue anaconda shaped
    tried to swallow the glass door heaven.
    we did it slowly.
    the slow lazy fuck.
    the ones reserved for evenings of wine.
    me leaning on the screen.
    she leaning on me.
    her butts did the slow gyrating dance.
    pink flames played on her naked bum.

    we screamed and the machine broke.
    we fell through the chute to the innards
    of the reserve bank into a chamber
    where demonetised notes and freshly printed currency
    kept flowing in from chute after chute.

    we rolled on the notes and went on rolling
    notes plastered on our bodies till the gdp, stock exchange,
    the government, the army all crashed around us.

    when we dragged ourselves out from the debris,
    the parliament was a heap of rubble.
    we waited in red cross street for the battered jeep
    of Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger to pick us up.

    Ra Sh (Ravi Shanker N) is an Indian English poet from Palakkad, Kerala, whose collection 'Architecture of Flesh' was published by Poetrywala, Mumbai, in Dec 2015, with an Introduction by Meena Kandasamy. His translations of 100 Malayali poets is due for release this year under the title 'How to translate a worm?' by Dhauli Books.

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