a twenty-one year old activist-writer, poet and translator based
in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. She was awarded the first prize in the
national level 'Indian
Horizons Poetry Contest' conducted in
celebration of the International Women's Day by the Indian
Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), Government of India for
her poem Mascara. Her poem My Lover Speaks of Rape recently won
the first prize in Disha 2004, an all-India poetry contest
organized by the International Organization for the Prevention
of Crime and Victim Care. Her poetry has been published in the
South African magazine Sweet, the Quarterly Literary Review of
Singapore, Muse India, Sulekha.com, Fresh Lime Soda and India
Nest. She can be contacted at
You are possessed.
Witch doctors believe in phantoms,
that cause your illness. But, driving out devils
can be challenging. Spirits are given away -
We are made to sit opposite you,
Force-fed a ‘meal’ - bland food mixed
with your hair, nails, spit and pus.
Illegally (despite the government ban),
We take your hoard of evil spirits
Barter-system: for having ate your food.
And because ghosts and ghouls
obey your rules, they leave you to come to us.
Is this ‘transference’? An unofficial appeasement.
We become inhabited by the dead,
who ruins our doomed lives. Demons in our
bodies are brutal tenants and frequently,
They suck with their vampire tongues
to drink our anemic blood —
leave their puncture marks, which
can be faintly seen on our black skins;
skins that bear greater scars,
reminders of larger, human cruelty...
Anyway, there isn’t
a lot of life in our bodies.
We are souls. Wandering souls. Still, once
Ghost-tasted, we rot away.
We rot away.
Remember, rotting is a long procedure...
Day by day, we grow coffin cold and slowly
Life creeps out, a lazy earthworm.
At last, we die.
WHY DO THE HEROES DIE?
Unlike in fairy tales, young heroes die.
All the dazzling princes, strong men of might,
Robinhoods and Messiahs that never lie
Are done to death, Evil winning the fight.
Heroes are bled; not just deprived of life
God turns in his throne, the dead in cold graves
And perhaps death ends the lifetimes of strife.
Is slaughter the prize for not being slaves?
Brave men encounter blows, fight their case,
Leave forsaking the world they came to mend.
‘Youth may arise and fill this vacant space’
One faint hope; heroes reach the destined end.
Heroes get their Halos. Applause. Praise.
All glories shine brighter with sacrifice.
In an arid land of arid human minds
Caste, yet again authored a tragedy.
He, disease wrecked, downtrodden,
long-ago skinner of animals, sets out.
Ten days of Typhoid, and a partial recovery.
Enough reason to thank some God.
He drags himself clumsily
to a nearby temple. Sadly,
of an Upper-caste God.
Away from the temple,
he bends in supplication.
Says his last prayer.
To a God who (anyway)
didn’t help him recover.
Innocent Acts of Undulating
Faith spurned Anger. Retaliation.
An irked Rajput surged forth
and smote the untouchable with a iron rod.
He, warrior caste lion couldn’t tolerate
Encroachment. At the temple. By a Dalit.
Deathly howls of a feeble-voiced
rent the air, fervently seeking holy intervention.
God, Lifeless as ever—watched grimly with closed eyes.
In resigned submission, the sick man’s Life was given away.
Caste—crueler than disease, emotionless, dry, took its toll
Confirming traditional truths: Dalits die, due to devotion.
Unanswered questions remain;
Agony is not always a forgotten memory.
Life teaches: there are different Gods at different temples.
One solitary thought haunts recollection day and night.
Where did this poor man’s sixty-five year old soul go?
To Heaven - to join noble martyrs who died for a cause?
Or to Hell—where the Gods reside, making Caste Laws.