Light The Fire

(An english ghazal)












The heroes lie on funeral pyres, awaiting a ritual severance by fire,

But none remain to scatter their ashes, no one to light the farewell fire.


The stench of decaying flesh stills the sandalwood notes,

Over this lonely battlefield the heavens weep tears of fire.


Crying is all that is left to do when virtue has departed,

And evil rears its head from the phoenix’s fire.


Evil wreaks not its havoc in a blazing spectacle,

It lives in the silence of cowards; in the absence of fire.


It lurks in the dark caverns of ignorant minds,

Thwarting illumination, chasing away lightning and fire.


Out of the scorched earth grow a new breed of men,

An unholy offspring sired in the womb of hell fire.


He kills in God’s name and his sins he washes away

By an ablution in the flames of sacrificial fire.


Cattle, forever in quest of pastures greener,

Deserter of comrades at the first sound of gun fire.


Apathy his only inheritance, his gift, his curse,

Not for this ignoble creature did Prometheus steal fire.


In this bleak land hope is a wretched refugee,

Wandering in hunger, in search of a stove fire.


A few good men splutter like dying embers.

Weep for the brave, for them in store is a trial by fire.


And yet the dead shriek to you from their graves,

‘Lost as the cause may be, light the fire!’


The Poet Without A Muse

The poet without a muse sits in pause mode,

Like a bud about to bloom, but cruelly sapped of all life force,

Waiting impatiently for that last surge, to flower and flaunt its florid hues,

Or else to rot into revolting compost, unseen.


The poet without a muse, lounges with a brain simmering

In impotent rage, turning into mushy rice pudding.

Grain, milk and sugar break down with dramatic sobs, hug each other

And dissolve into sticky tears, sweet, but rice pudding is inconsequential.

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Man and Superman


I walk with my head in the exalted realm,

Yet my feet must suffer the filth of the earth,

What cruel trick of nature kindled my mind with cognition’s gleam,

And fettered it with feeble flesh that must huddle around a hearth!


No sinews of steel, am no roaring beast,

Only a spirit in throes of feral rage.

Man is condemned to partake of weakness’ feast,

Trapped in the knowledge of the inevitable, its invisible cage.

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The Curse of Contentment

Most of us have much to be thankful for. We have been taught to count our blessings, to delight in the ‘little things’ in life. And probably that state of contentment is the best way to go on with our daily routine without being maddened by a constant pursuit of something which is elusive. But is the emphasis on learning to be content with our lot holding humanity back? To accept the bondage of circumstances is alien to human nature. If we had been content with merely escaping being eaten by lions, we never would have left our caves to create marvels of science, art, music and poetry which are the children of hungry minds and not hungry stomachs. But we are being conditioned to lose our restlessness. Maybe it is a product of history, culture and spirituality and undoubtedly it has its uses. Society as a unit cannot be in a state of constant flux. But what about the individual? Is it desirable for the individual to be quietly resigned to the world as it is without giving any thought to the world as it ought to be?  Or at a simpler level, must not the individual question his own life at the very least?

The question of what is ‘the good life’ has been asked almost in all cultures and through the ages it has been answered in different ways by different societies. While there cannot be an answer that is universally acceptable, the foundation upon which the human enterprise of seeking out the good life must stand upon would be common. To be able to debate upon the purpose of existence one must be in a position to have the leisure and means to exercise reason to determine one’s own raison d’etre. This opportunity to exercise reason is the common foundation upon which humankind must build its citadels of thought. It is a simple assertion that as long as a person is preoccupied with ensuring her and her dependants’ survival, there is no scope for humankind to reach its fullest potential. Higher needs can be pursued only when basic needs have been met. So does it follow that our social contract has failed us? It is true that modern governments have more or less shielded us from the Hobbesian description of human life as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. But for all our collective achievements we are not really that far away from a state of nature because we have failed to ensure the opportunity for every individual to achieve the highest potential that she is capable of.  As the Supreme Court of India observed – ‘Life’ in Article 21 of the Constitution is not merely the right to exist. It does not connote mere animal existence. It has a much wider meaning… and includes all those aspects of life which go to make a man’s life meaningful, complete and worth living. But when we look around we see our fellow men and women struggling to swim against a daily tide that threatens to drown them in drudgery. We see struggles just to exist. Some of us have had the chance to give expression to creative urges, the chance to savour the privileges of being human, but collectively as a society how can we claim to have elevated ourselves above the beasts that we proudly tamed? Yet we are told that contentment is a virtue.

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Perhaps not to be is to be without you….

I could name a thousand things I love about Kolkata. But if I had to pick one place as my favourite it would be the South Park Street Cemetery. The reason is the tombstone in the picture. Derozio, William Jones and Rose Aylmer are buried there too. But the glory of the poets and the poet’s muse pale before the touching tribute of the grieving husband. If tears froze into words etched in stone probably something like this would be created. Every time I read it, I cannot but help sigh over the haunting sadness that surrounds this story of this young woman who lived, loved and died in a strange land at twenty three. Maybe Edgar Allan Poe was right. The death of a beautiful woman, is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world. But a thousand florid Annabel Lee and its seraphs could not match this simple poem in its poignant beauty. Find below the text of the epitaph.

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Quasi Una Fantasia

(I wrote this while listening to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, hence the title. My first attempt at the villanelle form of poetry.)


When sleeping eyes open but are not awake, and rove as if in a living dream,

Wakefulness I drown in reverie’s waters, let me float on this lost stream,

It almost is true, this world I see, almost a fantasy.


Beauty like a cliff’s edge, to stand and peer or to plunge into its teasing, tempting abyss?

In an endless pursuit of fleeting moments, in a vain grab at a passing moonbeam,

When sleeping eyes open but are not awake, and rove as if in a living dream.

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A Thought Coloured Red

Seed of a disease, the fever of my mind walked in disguise as the banal,

A thought not like poetry, a thought like the yielding rain fattened ground.

The ignored soil silently sighed; everyone came to see only the roses’ merry carnival,

Imprints of feet remained but no odes, no paeans in volumes leather bound.


Plain, this ordinary thought, never to smirk in beauty’s smugness, plain, this hobnailed donkey,

Unsung and despised, the stoic beast trudged in tired servitude.

Not Stubbs nor Husain captured the brute, for Caesar rode only horses,

Meekly it walked in the shadows of mountains, never to claim its beatitude.


Black this thought, perched beside a murder of red carrion crows,

Its whispers just as ominous as their beady eyes, fanned by wings of fury,

Obscured by the peacock’s parade the neglected raven gathers its forces in burgeoning rows,

Unrest slices through the nation’s stomach in a corridor of blood, change must here arrive in a hurry.


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