Nirupama Datta

Nirupama Dutt was born in 1955 in Chandigarh and started writing poetry in English when in college. Her verses in English were published in magazines like Youth Times and Junior Statesman in the Seventies. A journalism graduate and masters in English Literature from Panjab University, she joined the Indian Express in 1977 and has had a long and distinguished career as a journalist with leading newspapers and magazines. She switched to writing poetry in Punjabi influenced by Hindi and Punjabi poets whom she came into contact as a pioneering literary journalist. Poetry is a way of life for Nirupama and some of it gets translated into words. Her poems are lived and experienced. Her first anthology of poetry in Punjabi Ik Nadi Sanwali Jehi (A stream somewhat dark) won a Punjabi Akademi award. Her second anthology of poetry Kithe Gayian Berhian? (Where have the boats gone?) is to be published shortly. Her poems have been translated into English and published in several anthologies. She has edited several volumes of poetry and short fiction in English. She is now working on a book on Punjab. She lives in Chandigarh. She has also published a volume of poems in English translation called The Black Woman and Other Poems and has been featured in the Poetry International Web.


I seek forgiveness of
all those women
from whom
I stole a moment or two
of their share
of the sun shine
This petty theft
of mine
troubled them much
made them stay awake
many a night

We women
are so afraid
of the pitch dark
that we reach out
to one another’s
share of the sunshine
and bring back
a shining ray
or two and
trim the edges
of the dark
veil of the night
But we always leave
the Sun intact

I forgive all those women
who stole a moment
or two of my
Share of the sunshine

It feels good

It feels good
to get a message
from a long- lost friend
To see pink clouds
lining the days fatigue

It feels good
to go and once more
meet a
long- forgotten city
To hear someone
call me by
just half my name

It feels good
to float boats
in midday dreams
To watch the
scorching city streets
turn into streams

It feels good
to bathe in every
shower of the rains.

A Night to remember

Ever so many nights
but there is always
one night that
is remembered the most
Fingers move slowly
over the face
of that night long ago
treasuring every moment
of the recall
The neon light
Shining through the
window's green curtain
Footsteps in the street
Whistle of the train
on the over-bridge
The first hours of
the night so wayward
The later hours so taut...
Was I listening to a dialogue
from a play called Tughlaq?

Nights awake

On nights awake
dreams glisten
springs bubble
melody lingers
the heart sighs
the lips dance

On nights awake
memory murmurs
the parted return
tears laugh
the hearts throb
distance shrinks
destiny changes

Growing up

She is no longer
a little girl
My daughter
is growing up
She no longer
likes to make sentences
as her mother would
She wants to do things
as she would
When her grammar
teacher asks her
to make a sentence
with the word 'need'
My darling writes_
‘No one needs anyone
in this world'_

I look at the sentence
and think my daughter
has grown up
beyond her years

The Black Woman

The dreams of a black woman
are very fair
and her truth pitch dark
She is born with a pain
to which no colour
can be assigned
It borrows the colour of water
To fill her eyes
to swim in the red wounds
of her dark body
She suppresses on her lips
the silent screams of
every dark person and turns
darker still
The dreams of a black woman
fly away like white birds
to pick bits of moonlight
and scatter them in her lap
A black woman longs for
a fair child...

Not for you

No poem of mine
is dedicated
to you

Long ago a poem
had come walking
all the way to you
hoping to break
the silence of
our relationship
You kept fondling
its trembling letters
and kept listening
to its sizzling sounds
more silent than before
After much thought
you pointed out
a grammatical error
Since then you rest
on my bookshelf
as a grammar primer
and fearing the imprisonment
of grammar
no poem of mine
walks towards you

Tale of two cities

I have learnt well to hide
the wounds of one city
from the wounds
of anther
To change myself
just a bit
on changing a city
Laugh loudly one place
Smile softly on a
at the other
In just five hours
crossover from the
sigh of Shiv Kumar Batalvi*
to the notes of Bhimsen Joshi*
I have learnt drifting
from city to city
to forget my lost village

*Shiv Kumar Batalvi was a lyrical poet of Punjabi known for literally singing out a sigh and Bhimsen Joshi is a magical vocalist of Hindustani classical music.


Those whom we want to love
But never get to love
We love always

Passing century

In the last few years of the century
the poem will find itself
beneath the moon of the second night
beyond the grove of the trees
sitting on a bench in the
dark corner of the park
in your fond embrace
and thus forgive the passing century
many of its sins

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