Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry

Hemant Divate

A Depressingly Monotonous Landscape

for Hiranya

How did the landscape in my mind
flow into my daughter's mind? 

Right here in front of me is an expanse of
buildings, shopping malls, highways, factories and traffic
and if I tell her to sketch a landscape
she draws sunsets
a flowing river, trees, fields, shrines,
draws birds which look like scrawled numbers
in my tiny, overcast skies.

Never seen
from the seamless forest of this city
the sunset beyond the house in my mind
the river, trees, paths, temples, birds, footways
Yet how did these
stream into her mind?


By the time she understands 
this picture of my childhood
which has flowed away
and the answer
to Why she draws exactly like this?
will all the paintings by everyone in this world
have melted away? Or will they remain
trapped in their silence?


Like me, she gets nightmares
of headless people carrying
the corpses of orphaned villages
into the cemeteries of cities
or ferrying frightful landscapes of cities
only to superimpose them on the erased villages.
The same, the very same landscape
encloses within itself
all the headless people
All, all cities have the same name
the same streets, same buildings, same shopping malls
all are transfixed in the same predefined places
like a regiment standing ready to march.

She moves along paths with 
the same name, same colours
same smells, same forms
same faces as though clones of themselves
and at the same deceptive crossroads
she reaches the same statue.

No matter where she flees 
the same statue confronts her again and again
and she arrives at the same landscapes
of the same cities
with no signs or landmarks to guide her.

In the same places
she sees the same people
speaking the same language
and with same shapes
same gestures
standing in queues of the same length
in the very same manner
going to the same stations
driving the same vehicles
at the same speed
in the same direction
at the same time
passing by the same trees
of the same height
of the same kind
separated in the same way 
by the same dividers
on the same road.

The same people
are tattered
the same way
by the same bombs
and lie scattered the same way
petrified the same way
broken the same way.

In the same monotonous manner
on any channel on any TV
flash the same misery-multiplying pictures 
totally monotonous
depressingly monotonous
totally depressing
She dips, dips and collapses
sees my same terrified, depressed face

at the last moment, when she lets go of 
her tight grip on my hand in the crowd
and just like me
she too flows away into
the gigantic, self-destructive flood
of headless people.

I dream the very dream she is dreaming
at the same moment 
I too see her petrified, depressed face
see the terror
and shudder
I forget to carry village to city and city to village
and reach here
reach where?

Something about This Shore for the Poet of the Shore Beyond

for Dilip Chitre

From the plateau of a raucous language
you kept pushing
the god of your gaunt letters

You didn't tire
In your innermost mind 
you heaved 

How sad 
are the colours of vegetables
when their greenness is uprooted.
Colour doesn't remain colour
Only the tearful sobs of blue and dusky
proteins and carbohydrates are left. 

You could pull so many tricks
From a Bombay duck's heart
you could make a tune
You could sound a whistle 
from okra stew
From the pressure cooker's kicked-out steam 
you would conjure up opium balls
From yourself you would make abeer-gulal appear.

You loved the yellow in green
the white in black
the sky blue in coppery
the crimson in blue
the carmine in purple 
Hypnotic and free of colour, you'd meet 
and lie deeply spread
like the Buddha
beyond the leisure of visits.

Holding language rhythmically you zipped away
Like the devotee Prahlad you nursed language
In the tongue of the deaf and the dumb 
you wrote your Dravidian purana 
wrote the song of the summit.
In the minute crevice of language
you thrust your chubby finger.

You are neither my granddad nor my great-granddad
neither father nor brother nor uncle nor some other kin
Measuring the shore-to-shore expanse up to this moment
why do you recline in my mind?

Are the Dyaneshwar and Tukaram resting on your shoulders mine?
Is the primal jagar bubbling briskly on your forehead mine?
Mine is the darkness percolating through 
the clouds of your flimsy vest
The flatulent doubt dangling from your
croaking, bloated stomach is known to me
I know the black brightness under 
your unfathomable eyes 
I am familiar with the sluggish
Bade Ghulam Ali Khan
who lived frolicking beneath your moustache.

Out of what bond did you share with me
the DNA struggling for a language?
Out of what relationship did you share
your secret encyclopaedia? 

From beyond the shore of madness
why do you call only me by waving your hands?
Having reached the dead end why do you love me?
I'll get crushed under your loving shadow
I'll get trampled under your cries that come from beyond madness.

I don't want the feel of your cries
I don't want the endless tangles of your language
I don't want the secret god of your language
I don't want anything, anything from you 
I'll see the end of my language in my language
I'll live or die
in the language even beyond my madness.

You took the liberty of 
fondling the breasts of language
At times you touched her?straightaway violated her
Scandalized I watched your futt video
but didn't get engrossed
I too have experienced the genital beauty of language
and the forest spread over miles and miles
I am angry?angry with you?angry
You shared everything with me 
but vanished silently
You went away quietly after reading your own poem
but didn't wait to listen to mine!

From the recently published book of poems A Depressingly Monotonous Landscape translated from the Marathi by Sarabjeet Garcha.