Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry

Keki N. Daruwalla

At War

we who are at war with ourselves, 
our dreams moving along the barbed 
contour of our angsts-the hit-or-miss
meteorites that turn space 
into a shooting gallery,
flamingoes that may never fly back
to the salt puddles of Kutch,
the chinese spiriting away the brahmaputra
in a gargantuan theft,
and india turning into a bombay local,
asphyxiating in the smell of two billion armpits
and two billion groins-
isn't all this enough 
to give us a collective cerebral bleed?
not forgetting our planet 
which has a hot plate under its arse-
and my dream which saw
an abu dhabi dhow squatting on an iceberg
sailing down to cochin-- 
haven't we enough on our plate
without having to think of war 
and blood-stained jehad?


the screech of unseen tires
           sets the scene
the camera darts across a blinding curve
            at blinding speed
trees, hedges, cane-fields in the rear,
           even low-flying birds
                become a blur

this is black-and-white, the stripes ignite the earth
	grit flies at the lens;
the camera is a prowling tiger on the track
	of a blue bull
the camera is on track, closing in
on the dust-spurts from the hooves
	of the floundering blue bull

the stills come on now
      are we filming memory (?)
the stills come on now, trapped in the car
	doors caving in
the struggle, infinitely slow with seat belts that girdle you
	and jammed doors that wall you in

then low mist, slow mist, vapour-on-glass
and dreams floating in, mist-cloaked
	like well disguised evasions

Defining a Sufi

It is difficult to define a Sufi
but I'll try. Always try.
Never say die!
(I am good at counseling myself, as you can see.
No one else would give a langur's ballocks
for my advisory dollops,
pardon the poor angrezi).

A Sufi is he who as he enters
a Bangladeshi fake tandoori eatery in Brixton
thinks he is in Moti Mahal or Khyber.
(He can't think of Bokhara as yet--
to think of Bokhara you have to be
spiritually very elevated.)

A Sufi is he
who as he downs one of our beers
with enough glycerine in it to embitter a jar of honey
thinks he is imbibing a Pint, mate,
at 'Fox-on-the Hill' in Camberwell.  

A Sufi is he
who when he converses with long-haired Muzaffar Ali
thinks he has just spoken to al-Halaj.

A Sufi is he
who, as he watches someone suddenly stand up
and shout 'Haq! Haq!' in the heart of Cairo
falls at his feet , crying 'Master! Show me the Way!'
and when the master asks
'Do you have a match and a cigarette to light it with?'
replies 'you mean, Master,
'a cigarette and a match to light it with'? 
and the master shakes his head and moves off
saying 'you'll never be a Sufi.'

A Sufi is he
who when he sees others
run away from a wolf
knows it is just an Alsatian
and moves forward to pat him.
(What happened to the Sufi later
 is another story.) 

A Sufi is he
who when his acolytes confuse
crucifixion with castration
admonishes gravely
'they are different.'

A Sufi is NOT he
who, when the hand of God
reaches out to bless him,
thinks it is Maradona's.

A Sufi never marches
with reality in line;
he is always a step ahead
or a step behind.