Balachandran Chullikkad

His collection of poems published are "Pathinettu kavithakal", "Amaavaasi", "Ghazal", "Maanasaantharam", "Dracula" etc. A collection of his complete poems, Balachandran Chullikkadinte Kavithakal (The Poems of Balachandran Chullikkad) (2000) was published by DC Books, Kottayam, Kerala, India. They have also published the book of his memmoirs, Chidambarasmarana (2001). He married the Malayalam poetess Vijayalaksmi. He participated in many national literary seminars organized by Central Academy of Letters, India. He was one among the ten members of a cultural delegation of India to Sweden in 1997 invited by Nobel academy and Swedish writers union. He represented Indian poetry in the international bookfair in Gotenborg, Sweden in November 1997.In 2000 he took Buddhism as hi own religion. He is also an actor in Malayalam films and serials.

Where is John?

(Johan Abraham, the talented avant-garde film maker of India in 1970’s.
He died young in an accident in 1987.)

O, city of yellow evenings,
hold me, hold me in your electric embrace,
as the metallic boats of my angry manhood
sails towards your shores.
No flags they have, only sawdust
and blue vitriol fills their cells.
Don’t remind me of those midnight streets
where my prodigal adolescence
and the lilac songs of my water-guitar had
sucked the juice of your neon-spring
and danced in love.
Long and sad did I wander
along tumultuous seas;
now I come in search of a man
one christened John in the gospels.
Hunger less, shadow less.
One without an address.
The day dies.
The sad wakefulness of the city
Pours in to the sodium night.
A river of forms.
The solid stream of broken structures.
My brazen eyes seek
the mad metaphor of life
in this agitated traffic of births and deaths.

Chemical messages ascend
the soot-laden genetic stairs.
House number 20.
The same room.
A candle burns alone.
Mary- who once knocked
my planets off their course
with the rays of her eyeslies
on the insatiable bed of burning desire.
"Where is john?’ I ask, in a whisper.
"Am I John’s keeper? Go away!"
The familiar liquor shop.
I ask the scoundrel supplying
that holy water of Hell:
"Did John come here today?"
An acquaintance offers a glass, laughing:
"Where were you all these days, poet?
Here, drink the blood of that devil.
John was here.
In the middle of a Bohemian song,
I do not know when,
he flattered, stopped and left."
"Are we his keepers?”
Dazzled I sipped
a mouthful of arrack, dry.
Down the throat goes
mercury, burning and fuming.

Our old lodge
A friend lies asleep safe in a mosquito net.
I knock at the door:
"Did you see John?”
"Why did you come here, to ruin me again?
O, how I loath that dirty past!
My room is closed to geniuses.
No more can I bear their
serpentine presence.
Don't darken these stairs any more.
Know, I am not John's keeper."
I descend the stairs.
Flowers of lime burn in my spine.
Deserted midnight streets.
A chill wind blows.
Bells toll in far away churches
like fateful memories.
Suddenly a thunder at me:
"Where is john?"
Dust raises the scream of human blood.
I stumble. Words burst out
tearing my bowels:
"I do not know him O God!
O God, his keeper I am not."
Page 4
My soul shivers here,
In this cemetery where black soot
Drenches the forehead of the cross-shaped night.
My flesh grows numb.
Where, John, is the grail of your heart that
brims with sulphuric acid?
Where near this empty tomb is your naked flame
that has shuffled off the smoke-clock
in a burning brotherhood? Where?


(English translation: K.Satchidanandan)


(‘Ghazal' is one among the forms of Indian music. Its lyrics are
written in Urdu .Its content is nostalgia. Ghulam Ali, a Pakistani singer
is a living maestro of Ghazal. The poem mixes the experiences of Time,
music, love, culture, politics, history and of course, personal life.)

December 31st.
In the music hall of the night inn,
Gulam ali sings:
'I am the singer of the lost days.
Did the curtain of the window
of the far-off mansion wave a little
as I trudge along the road
dark like the river of lament?
Was it the gentle breeze or golden fingers?
Was it the light of the night lamp or your eye-beam
that fell on the forehead of my shadow?'
Like the hot serum
oozing from the wound on the dark tree of life
bereft of leaves or flowers,
as the music flows,
melting Urdu with the pangs of separation
in to the soft resonance of Ali’s voice
a long pent-up melody of grief
breaks open the tremulous window of the harmonium.
Inside, the heart reverberates with
The tabla* of season less years.
As Ghulam Ali sings
in tune with the tampura** of elements……
but who has hung this calendar on the wall behind!!

On the calendar,
the inscrutable crossword of everyday life,
the daily loan, the interest payable,
the doctor's fee, the rent,
all squares appropriately by them.
The unrelishable tragedy of debit and credit.
The counting is the rhythm
and the rhythm is time
and time is music-
So sings Ghulam Ali.
"Oh lovely lass, take off your veil,
squeezing all time in a flash
into one moment.
At the closed gate of your tower,
I, an exile, pour in vein
my life-breath in to the harmonium
every night lighted by the stellar glow of memory.'
Myriad migratory birds
multiplied their far-off wing beats on the tabla.
Grief’s voice pours forth from Ali’s interior depths,
an autumnal stream that reflected
the face of a primordial night.
Dawn and dusk become the notes
of the stupendous music of heavens.
The timber was set by the riverbank
aglow with green and gold
from the life of the folks of yore...
The rustic roads of music in fast tempo blaze.
Ali and I and the music hall burnPage
The fire does not burn the calendar though!!
On the calendar, the murderous site
where the savage beats his killer-drum,
in the forest night the fire-dance of aborigines,
the great march of the destitute relations
carrying the deodar cross,
the grimaces of dumb tribes,
who have lost the acid language of the soul.
Through the window of the calendar can be seen
the thousand-wheeled train hooting and shooting forth
with the danger light burning in the forehead eye
carrying the corpses filling the metal-womb chains
leaving behind rivers, tunnels, villages, cities,
earthy centuries, languages, cultures...
The dark continents of grief, Ghulam Ali,
are still beyond the reach of song.
As the three-fold time
and the hamlet of movables and immovables
drown in their silent growls,
whose parallel consciousness is this flame of a voice
That inflames the interior spirit?
'Closing the window, you have put out
the only gleam of heavenly moon light, and vanished;
clouds have swallowed the star on the move:
How far is it now to the dark dungeon of death?’
How much time is left now?
Has the year ended
Has the gate-keeper hung up
The New Year calendar
Once again on the wall behind?

That is tomorrow's vision of hell.
How frightening!
The blind prophet points his road and reads:
'This is the maid that has eaten the fruit of gallows.
This is the bronze bull of the depths of the sea.
This is the black octopus swimming in the sleep.
This is the man of wisdom
Meditates under the electric tree
Where pigeons are singed with fruit.
This is the serpent of Time
That swallows the earth rolling
Down in to the deep dark depths
Harassed by rotation
And repelled in the end by gravity-
Stop this vision of the world of Yama.***
The daily newspaper dripping with blood
That keeps coming everyday!
In far-off places,
heavy rains,
relentless heat,
the growing marches of refugees.
In far-off places blazing fires,
shocking ordeals, nuclear installations.
In far-off places, pride, conflict, battlements,
the aggressiveness of an unbridled zest for life-
Stop this vision of the human world!
When the daily newspaper is pasted on the wall
Like a charge sheet on the door of the mind,
The face of the human is seen
Lying on the ash-leaf
Above the atomic holocaust
In a nightmare vision!

Like a dream-light growing dim in the mind,
Ali is hurriedly closing the Gazal.
The downward movement
of the last of musical notes.
The sudden descent of memory
as the moment of death.
The journey of the source of sound
to the nether world.
The world merging into the basic pitch.
Everything gripped by silence.
Absolute emptiness-
Let me go.
The lights are all extinguished on the streets.

The bilious face turned in to turmeric mould
Weary with the weight of the fruit of good and evil
ripening in the darkness of the womb,
listening for the footsteps remembered in the heart,
translating the world into loneliness,
far away my wife may be waiting for me
with supper and leaf-plate
under the pale lamp of her eyes.
A room with out a picture of the Lord.
A pillow reeking with oil and the salt of tears.
The warmth of a body with the smell of onions.
The death-dominating throb of my elemental essence
with in the mundane sleep.
*&** Musical instruments of India.
*** 'Yama' is the god of death in Indian mythology.
(English translation: K.Ayyappa paniker)


It's at Manhattan, New York,
that I saw
the name board of a Cuban restaurant.
Seeing it, my blood growled once.
And the music there reminded me that
the equator is far far away.
Lying submerged in the ghostly violet light were
the primal forms.
Two naked dancers
entwined in a half dance.
I stuffed a dollar
in the ribbon of the thigh of one.
A wave of self-destructive tenderness
washed over me.
A seagull was roosting over my heart.
I asked a Negro boy:
"Which is the most potent drink of Cuba?"
Thousand years of exploitation.
Thousand years of fortitude.
Thousand years of struggle.
A thousand years of history.

The arid smell
of barks and green leaves,
of unsheathed words,
of algae and diesel,
of gunpowder and tobacco.
Tobacco of exploitation.
Tobacco of sufferance and fortitude.
Tobacco of struggles.
Tobacco of history.
The liquid
distilled out of primordial love
which would make
even corpses dance.
I remember nothing.
The century of liberation lies
lies buried under
the deep blanket of snow.
Yet in the deep,
words lie undecayed
harking for the call of the trumpet.
I remember nothing.
As I opened my eyes,
all I saw was
a tough Negro face
and a clear blue sky that framed it.
The face asked:
What is your name?
My name…………….

(English translation: T.K.Ramachandran)

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