Born amidst neither fame nor shame,
I came to the world like a dead telegram.
Locked in the jail
Accused of stealing electric wire,
The village thief’s faint sobs
Sparkle like my mother’s sindoor.
Slaughtering cigarettes remorselessly,
The sentry guards his conscience like a banished saint.
Born amidst neither promise nor sorrow,
I came to the world like untainted white charcoal.
On the mud thatched roof
Skirt rolled up to her thighs invitingly
The sparrow greedily chews her daily dose of worms.
Unmindful of scorns of passersby
Listening to FM radio lazily in the Saturday afternoon
The vegetable vendor searches angrily for Columbus
In the discarded newspapers.
Born amidst neither pleasure nor fear,
I came to the world like unwashed blue jeans.
At the serpentine box office queues of morning shows
Adult fantasies play hide-and seek like nursery kids.
The last drop of alcohol in the whisky bottle
Dances adulterously on my million tongues.
The fragrance of your armpit
Travels like gunpowder in the dark forest.
Born amidst neither illusion nor ambition,
I came to the world like the rusted rumors of a riot.
(From My Grandfather’s Imaginary Typewriter, 2014)
I wash, shampoo my hair daily
But Tagore’s barber Babur is not happy.
He massages my hair with premium brand
Aphrodisiac Tantric oil
Straightens my violent dreadlocks with
Tagore’s broken dressing comb
But he is not happy again.
In desperation, barber Babur
Coughs up God dammed tangled
Mother f-cking languages
Stuck in his throat
Spits his blood-mucus
To dye my hair.
Now, you know
Why sometimes I un-wash myself;
To make Babur happy!
(Coldnoon, Vol 7, December1, 2018)
Ashwani Kumar is an Indian English poet and his books include ‘My Grandfather’s Imaginary Typewriter’ and " Banaras and the Other'. His poems- translated in Indian languages and Hungarian- noted for ‘lyrical celebration’ of garbled voices of memory and subversive ‘whimsy’ quality, have appeared in Indian Literature, Little Magazine, Indian Quarterly, International Galleria, Post-Colonial Text, Muse, among others. At leisure, he writes articles and reviews for Financial Express, Business Standard, The Hindu, Indian Express, DNA, Open Democracy, Prabhat Khabar, Outlook (Hindi) and among others. He is currently a professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Mumbai).