Monday, December 26, 2011

Reaching Out

Once I tried not to reach
my father's world of letters,
his poetry, his politics,
specked with his chain of
coughs and sputum, constantly sprayed on his life

I disproved his
universes, believed
thoughts can be born
free, without precedents
blood ties or  even without taking root in the past.

Now, in my parenting
singularity, I see him
herd my children like
a limping shepherd
before he switches off in the evening

I see him mess up the
dining table with his letters,
notes and broken poems
written about his  broken self,
salvaging every letter like a strand of sanity .

His childhood is new to me
his strong stubbornness difficult
to tame, his worlds opaque
like the glasses of his irises
voices hardly reach the shell  of deaf enlightenment

His evenings, doused with the
darkness of impending  nights, spirits and
disillusions, do not embarrass me
anymore, I see my sagging skin
resemble him more now,  at last when, I reach out to him.

Our Guilt Trips and Their Exodus

Published in Postcolonial Text, Vol 5, No 4 (2009)
Babitha Marina Justin

They have come from the hills,
flooding the plains; cooks,
waiters, coolies, masons.
Called ‘Neps’1 en masse,
this generic term deceives
their skin, tanned by sun,
and molten tar, they foster the
arteries of our growth.

By the rivers of Tsangpo,
Padma and Brahmaputra
Tears deluge to more tears
They search for Zion
in these callous plains
We search for our ‘civilized’
traces, call them ‘primitive’ ;
their women are lissome, men
do not ‘threaten’, we praise their
candour, honesty and dimensions!

By the rivers of Tsangpo,
Padma and Brahmaputra
Tears deluge to more tears
They search for Zion
in these callous plains

As the thought pendulum swings,
we fear their kukris at night. We
wonder if they bear portable home maps
behind their smiles to check and crosscheck,
if their folks still live safe and
huddled in memory's tattered rubble.

By the rivers of Tsangpo,
Padma and Brahmaputra
Tears deluge to more tears
They search for Zion
in these callous plains

They are angels again at sunrise,
when they leave for summer,
we believe they have a mule’s spine
to load and unload the nightmarish
burden a nation that clings to our skin.

By the rivers of Tsangpo,
Padma and Brahmaputra
Tears deluge to more tears
They search for Zion
in these callous plains

They have spread like slick over the sea,
their memories stay and never leave without
a trace. Have we not had enough transferring
our guilt in lieu of patronage
we dole out in coffee spoons?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Disorder

Every Christmas
I bury pasts
in my memory grave,
bleached white by the
hygiene of forgetting .

It's either a memory
or a relative,
of late due to an excess
of both, I have even started
burying decorations,
plastic Christmas trees,
stars and torn baloons of
yester year.

Something handy has to be
there to be rituallydug
and disposed of, along with the
abstractions of
memories and bleached bones.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Toughest Part of Life

The toughest part of life
is to wade the gravity
of your silence and row
ahead to a dark unknown,

Then to read your lips with
my blind hands just to know
that you are silent ,
the toughest part is to know
that love is just the fear of loss
a crack of hope in despair's horizon

My longing and loneliness
which would fall apart
if I don't preserve
its last broken shard

Monday, November 21, 2011

Historical women

I have nothing against
historical women
They have fought a cause
-honoured their fathers, husbands, lovers
-immolated in Jouhar or Sati
-transvestites who have
killed and died for a man or nation
-whose honour stood before their lives
their names are writ in golden letters
to be recanted with patriotic gravity

Impaled in immortality
they never age
nor do their stories go stale

I have nothing against
women with histories too
-their histories follow them,
-nameless, faceless, recycled bodies
-their tainted honour feeds their flesh
-they are burned at stake
tortured, raped, thumbscrewed,
-their bodies bear the brunt of
his-stories writ on them,

when they die they die
nameless, maimed , wrinkled
and ugly, impaled by mortality,
across time, space and histories...


36th year of escape from death
I drew my curtains together
watched the pencil scribble
the shadowed white sheets of life.

Shutting out the bird song
hidden in mango trees, squirrels
were to sharp and relentless to
be barred by the tinted glass.

At 36, one neither feels too young
or too old, only your achievements
publications , or promotions
calligraphed in growth graphs matter.

With an impressive resume
I qualify the milestones of
middleclass success; married@26,
two kids@30, a plush home-town
job@32, love redefined@33.

Couched in the euphoria
the bubble of gossip bursts, 
A woman who dreamt big
was content by filling the
missing blanks of life@36!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Land of Poets

I can only view
the land of poets
from a distance,
I see them partake
in a union of words,
some piping them out
or swallowing them
cautiously, like the way
one separates flesh
in your mouth, then
spit out the pip, delicately
rolling your tongue,
I see them as angelic
of a demonized world,
I can only look
at them from a lay
distance, when I 
swoop down to earth
and open out to-words,
my sky, I still stand on
the outskirts of reason,
masoning out a horizon
out of my own hands;
I can stand at a
distance and shout to them
my misgivings, tell them
I juggle with words like
them, conjure a world
of words which is far
from the real world,
while I look at their
communion, in which
all halos clash, collide,
fusillade and proclaim
“Let there be light”
there’s no room for darkness
uncertainties and ironies,
You belong to the land of light
I raise my arm to plead to the skies.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Childhood Hailstorm

The first hailstorm hit my home when I was five. The clouds darkened like elephants, herding the holidaying children inside the veranda's  moulded mud-pillars. Asudden rain showered down with a clap of thunder and muffled thuds on our thatched roof. Suddenly, hail flew down and too much of Bible, I thought it's  the manna from the sky. We didn't know if we should take cover in the veranda or snatch those melting icicles from the ground. My grand mother kept an eye, so that children wouldn't run out and partake in the manna raining from the sky. I thought it was a spectacle, but my brother told me its natural, from his encyclopedic knowledge. As usual, I believed him with the mistrust of the younger, wilder, more imaginative ones. By the time air thinned down from rain and announced normalcy, we gathered our wits to go out and gather the hail, they had already melted. Some friends were still huddled in the corners of  the veranda, like frightened owls, eyes almost popping out of fear. They said this was the prelude to the next bad thing, next would be much worse. After melting manna, it would be locusts and frogs. A precocious voice told me that, the first childhood hailstorm could be experienced in many different ways: for some it would be scary, for me it was exciting, for my brother it was a normal cycle in which nature worked in the tropics. Only my grandmother, in her most diligent ways, kept the most cautious eye on us.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Loving you...

Loving you
is like walking
on a sheet of ice,
if I assert
you will crack,
if I fumble
I will slip;
If I wear my shoes
you will be hurt,
If I am barefoot
I will be walking
on cold crystal needles.

If I speeden up
then you may melt,
If I slacken
I will freeze
and fall behind.
It's a game of
fighting and relenting,
competing and giving up,
loving and hating...
Loving you is more an
than just a feeling alone.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Subtractions in Life

I do not know
how subtractions were
made without  my effort.
First it were the deaths
which severed petals
from my life
Grand fathers, grand mothers
neighbors, friends, uncles,
admired ones who never
ever returned.
Then childhood slithered
down the memory lane,
bringing in  the white
shrouds of an  adult
trauma for a  while...

There was nothing beyond
those white sheets where
I sought the company of
I  wrote the first draft of hate ,
vouching against the Bible,
words were vipers
they were profane
they were anger
they were sin
devoid of sanctity
the white robes offered
in their santum sanctorium.

My words have not lost
their sting, despite
their domesticity,
they could double up
as warriors or scorpions,
My words are not lost
in your thoughts
in your cassock
your political khadi,
your fasts and abstinence,
they are absent-present for
a while,
never annihilated.

The facade of propriety
that you uphold
sanctions your existence
to be proper,
but my words are venom
there are my women
my manna, their insurgent
hopes explode with them
at times, as a petal spreads
its silence on the ground.

When love and politics left,
only words stayed back
to paint an illusory  green on
my wilting leaves.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


a winding railroad
still connects
your longings
to my heart

and far.
now in your
I wish you
think of me,
my thoughts
are entangled
on you,


dreams, to be waken
only by the now and here
of existence

I have broken
the branches
of norms to
be one with you.

I will whisper
this into your
ears that desires
can be quenched,
our adolescence reclaimed
happiness conquered

only if you
bring your ear
close to
my heart.
A publication is born
out of constant denials.
Unless, your fame sits
like a perfect cap on your
head, over premature greys,
your letters have meaning,
the void toiled hard
to comprehend..
under your peer-reviewers
eyes, you be incised
and shred for your syntax
grammar, diffused vision,
lack of this and that.
Shusruthas disect your
insighful innards,
they may not survive at all.

They want you to
be  a snail, slow
and steady with a
slilent trail lurking behind,
their thud  should squelch it
between the shoes.
In silent fury
can we see feel our
own death as writers,
cryptic critics
poets and storytellers?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Miracles and Deaths

We survived
the miracle of
love that led us
to Death,
the moment of flight
ballasted by
inertia was
another miracle
we survived,
we also saw
the youth hurtling
past death
as we cruised
his mangled form.
Together we saw, loved
and hated miracles.
in this unholy matrimony of
witnessing miracles and
we saw nothing
but ourselves staring
at our vaccuum,
shrouded by
our flesh and skin.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

How Far?

 (For Bindu Krishnan)

How far will distances take
us to their labyrinths,
we travel together or apart?
How far will our words
weave us diaphanous
rays to veil our dreams?
How far will our letters
be our instinct and
harshness our reality?
How far will we see our dreams
sink in the quagmire
of anonymity?
How far will our talents be
suppressed by fame?
How far our fame be elusive?
How far our books be
confined to shelves and stalls?
How far does far mean?
How far illusion ends
and realness begins?
How far will your tears
salt the recipe you brew
in domesticity?
How far  will your magic
carpet take you through
reality cruises
over a vaccuum called life?

How far will farness
fathom the roots,
when you leave  for the land
that you call your home?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I worry about your sleep
your waking hours
your hair-line receding,
the power of your glasses,
a snowy white creeping up
the jet-black hair.

I worry about your job,
your tensions, your failures,
the allurements that you
encounter day by day,
Your eyes  losing their
sheen , crow-feet take
root everyday.

I worry about your health
your heart beats, your mind,
I worry more when I see your
sculpted body luring all eyes,
I worry about your emotions
the told and untold words,
your truths and faults,
your philosophy and religion

I worry about  your movements
and lack of movements,
about tomorrow, then your
old age, sickness and death,
I worry about your anger,
your worries and troubles,
I worry about your memories
you sad childhood excursions,
I worry about your desires,
your coldness, your passion,
I worry if I can fulfill your dreams

At last when I sit back
and worry about your worries,
the time to love you, I know,
Is lost  most in worrying

Thursday, June 16, 2011


This is the darkest night
the longest eclipse of
my life
let me witness this darkness
let me drink in the bitterness
the Halāhala  of  shadowless
let me be choked by
its tentacles
where all colours meet only
to fade into darkness,
let me be lonlier
than I always was,
let me feel its cold
balsam balm
on my forehead,
then rest on night's lap,
in abadon
a Pieta played out
again in time.

Streetlights cannot
this night
white flowers
lose themselves
in its grasp,.

I have only this
sky, my companion
a shade less darker
than me,
I have only these
nocturnal songs
impermeable to strange ears
these ebony flowers
their dense dank petals
slowly embracing me.

This is my darkest
and longest night
my day eclipsed forver,
I dip the tip of my finger
into its kohl
and wear its collirium
in my eyes...
I take shelter in its arms,
its blackness and void,
like a bride wedded to death,
orphaned no more.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


The night you gave me should not be eternal,
the tremblings of the leaves mirrors my own,
in the darkness where fear twists, twirls and copulates,
loneliness is not just hidden in the milky dark
it pounces on  the day as well.

I tremble, for I have no youth to give,
no truths which you expect me to lie,
no cadences that will not resonate you,
no shadows which haven't followed you.

Haven't you known that I have become
a part of that you which you dismiss as
your capricious love, haven't our skins
sheathed each other till we were peeled
off by duties, our vocations and the
people who masquerade as our blood.

For me you are the erring night, that
scares, trembles and rages itself in a
the harsh catclysms of self denial.
For me you are the night that forms
part of me with an inseparableness
and your brows cloud over with hate.

For me you are my existance, my indulgence
my abstinance, my denial, my ecsatsy...
as your frown grows heavier and heavier,
all my moods I offer to you

Thursday, April 14, 2011

If my heart has its music

If my heart has its music
I would finish putting
them to words only
when it stops

If life goes on even now
Its just the shadows
That etch out the silent
Tale of the distress
Of living

If there’s a wind
The clutter of leaves
And the rain lashing against
The windows remind you
That you breathe to
forget the storm.

It is also true that
normality is lost
when you leave me
to my music, metaphors
and daily routines,
Without you
They are devoid of meaning

When we pick these
unnoticed threads
and walk the streets
We halt to look back
At the footsteps,
we may be in time
just to understand
there’re irretrievable
and futile
to a large extent.

If my heart has a song
I would sing it
Only just before it stops
Just to wonder
Why I hadn’t sung
for so long

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Speechless, wordless

When should death come?
In winter , summer or monsoon?
should it be caught in  a web
of chill and intricately
smother you in its grasp?
or should it sweat the
life out of you?
so that you thirst and
thirst and die,
with no hope?
Monsoons lash down
the coast in seasons
taking away the dirt, bran
and the flotsam life
that lingers in the margins,
should rains drown you
in its abundance, or
sweep you away
in flash floods?

I know one thing that
thinking so much on death
is a futile act,
for me death came with no drama
no momentum
as I saw myself lost
in vacuum,
suddenly I forgot
my verses
my children
my dreams.
a white sheet of paper
death dared carry me away

Thursday, March 24, 2011


I never knew that death would come so fast
Words tangled in ideas, ideas in thoughts
thoughts in the wink of an eye:
the blindness that surrounds it

End of poetry means the beginning
of a journey to a weary horizon,
the never ending road stretches ahead
refusing to be the path that leads:
It just leads to the dark unknown

It is a souless state for me
never has a hornbill craved
so much to quench its thirst
for words. Thoughts jostle in the
dark, the guinea pigs in the
dungeon of inexpressive fallacies.

I have removed my accessories
vulnerable I stand without
my tongue, my language 
kundalas stripped and muted,
silent, lone and worn, ready for
the wordless flight
to the dark, to the unknown...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


When my muse was
slowly drying up,
I found an undying
repertoire of hope
in a jasmine bud

I plucked it from
my balcony and
traced out its petals
on the white sheets
of my memory.
I had forgotten
its shape, but
for its smell I would
have forgotten
its existence.

This jasmine connects
me to my many pasts
as I smelled it in the
kurta pockets of
my grand father,
who walked time
with fame and
not a single penny
for his medicinal cures.

Then on my mother's
hair while she was leaving
for work to a far off place,
My craving for jasmine
was my longing for warmth,
jasmines clinging to
her hair, which almost
always smelt of flowers.

When my jasmine shrub
budded for the first time
on terrace, I was in love
with you when the heady
smell linked you to me.
You were never there
but your memories stayed
as the fragrance of
youth stayed on

I searched you in foot steps,
in the never ending streets,
in strangers eyes, till I met
you again as another stranger.
and this strange epiphanic fate
linked us again together
with an olfactory memory.

I found you like an arrow
searching for its quiver
humbled by pain I saw
God in love,
love in jasmines
jasmines in your eyes
your eyes in my sins
my sins sheathed
in your blemishes,
your blemishes
ensconced in that
familiar smell of
jasmines once again

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fur Elise. Or Fur Therese?

Bagatelle Piano
A Minor -
a gentle ache

down the stairs,
to the hollows
of unfeeling,
there was love and
distress in the piece,

then raucous
memories jostling in,
fingers play on the
keys of my heart.

Its not just the case
of mistaken identity,
but the love you have hidden
for her, I thought was mine.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dont Push me from my Love's Orbit

You cannot push me
from my love's orbit,
though elliptical
I may never return.
I may go off tangent
to the unknown
never to cruise
back to your gravity,
I may survive or perish.
Love teaches you that
lesson through the
ecstasies of extremities,
I may be loved and
buried deep among the dead,
or my anonymity  may
stray like an asteroid
 to dash to smithereens
on some unknown planet

I can also fly like words
lost in the brilliance of
thoughts, my thoughts
may sluice those
lightyears that cannot be
journeyed even by
the most fertile verses

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Celestial ...

It was just not a
co-incidence at thirteen,
I started gazing at the
stars-  your eyes,
the jasmines in my balcony
were the stars in your eyes too

I looked at the deep skies
to answer my love,
the clouds spoke a language
akin to mine own
they shaped themselves to all
pleasing forms, to be whipped
away by the gentle wind

I was born in love at thirteen
in this town, reborn at thirty three
love began with cosmic vibrations,
when the sky
touched down on  my skin's
runway of sensations

I am reborn years later
in the misery of love
your asteroid doubts
pellet my faith, yet the Thomas
in you peers into my wounds

Born on a Wednesday
married on another
broke apart on yet another,
reunited in love on another,
Wednesdays of revelations,miseries
hailstorms, comet showers
and star dusts

Though I realize
that you cannot recognize
my born and reborn selves
I listen to the stars
in the skies, the jasmine flowers
and then your eyes

Monday, January 17, 2011

Peace Ho!

('Do they still talk about AK 47s and
grenades in this age of cyberbullying?',
Exclaims a student of mine)

Soon there will be a
meeting calling for peace,
both parties will shake hands
over tea and exchange notes,
how many killed,
how many raped and molested,
how many homeless,
cattleless and penniless,
how many limbs severed
how many homes torched
shall all be discussed by
the Joint Peace Committee,

With the glint of power
steeled in their dentures
they will also count on the
blessings of those unhurt,
they will also assess the
material losses,
then take count of
people missing, in both
the borders, how many Rabhas,
how many Garos, How many
Ibos how many Hausas?
how  many killed
how many detained,
the meeting will go for
hours, first over tea and biscuits
then overnight with more
intimate morsels.

Next day, they will say
'Let there will be peace'
and there will be peace.
Their glint intact
they wrap up their hoardings
till the next strife
darkens the skies
of my once peaceful homeland!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The hills turn red once again

For my foster homeland, the Garo hills in Meghalaya, yet again torn by an ethnic violence between the Garos and Rabhas.
For the homeless thousands who provided me a home and happiness when I was miles away from home
For the displaced, torn, raped and mutilated, you dont figure in our news anyway!! You are not sensational
For my friends in the Garo Hills, who live with the flicker of fear in their eyes fanned alive by continuing violence....

Its not just yesterday
But I dream of my blue hills
They are turning red
as the world turns
its eyes away.

With the machete and guns
They don’t ask
“Brother,  isn’t this red
The colour of my blood too?”
Or before tearing
Her honour away
Will he say
“Excuse me sister
This monster’s hate is
Nothing but lust
coiled in my loins when
We were neighbours”
When the child cries
Swaddled the cradle,
The  chop in the backyard
Is not his father’s axe
splitting firewood for
A  peaceful day,
Its not his mother's mortar
and pestle that grind
in the backyard now,
Or the muffled moans
Aren't his parents’
Love translated to a song.
They stop his crying too.

Here, the hills change colour
As the day walks through a field,
Scattered by homeless beasts,
Of  pale green to emerald blues
To hazy yellows to
Blood red sun sets,
There’s no one to stop
The hate, guns and bloodied
Machetes flung all over the way,
Different hues of hate
Slowly spreads  its
silken petals over the hills.

You and I , do not
halt and say
“Brother, our blood is red too, it
Smells  of tears and rust , it clots,
Then dries up to a coffee
brown, before death decays all…”

Monday, January 03, 2011

Nestling in December

Du bist mein, ich bin dein.
Des sollst du gewiss sein.
Du bist beschlossen
in meinem Herzen;
Verloren ist das Schlüsselein.
                                            Du musst immer drinne sein.

December must be empty and cold,
the fag-end of seasons,
Trapped in your chest
I flap my wings to fly.
They resonate
your heart beats.

I can feel the sense of
flight from here
I feel the silk of horizons
with my eyes.
From here, I feel
free birds cruising the skies,
lonely and precarious,
settling scores with nature.
I like being caged in yourself
I tell myself

I see the birds soar
from limited  iron bars,
from here I can watch the
sparse December sky,
ashen and grey.
Homeless birds
flapping their wings
in an alien sky.
Their nascent confusion


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