Poetry

from 100 Great Indian Poems

 

100 Great Indian Poems is a collection spanning three millennia and twenty-eight of India's languages, and includes poems that will be unknown to the most avid readers, as well as work by writers familiar to the world.

Edited by Abhay K. and available from 10 February 2018, 100 Great Indian Poems is published by Bloomsbury India and available on Amazon.

 

 

 

A Poem Never Says Anything

Uttaran Chaudhuri

translated from Bengali by the poet

A poem never says anything.

It just opens a door, quietly.

 

Sleepless and bent

just like my aged father

waiting for me in a lonely winter night.

 

 

 

 

How to Go to the Tao Temple

K. Satchidanandan

translated from Malayalam by the poet

 

Don’t lock the door.

Go lightly like the leaf in the breeze

along the dawn’s valley.

If you are too fair,

cover yourself with ash.

If too clever, go half-asleep.

That which is fast

will tire fast:

be slow, slow as stillness.

 

Be formless like water.

Lie low, don’t even try to go up.

Don’t go round the deity:

nothingness has no directions,

no front, no back.

Don’t call it by name,

its name has no name.

No offerings: empty pots

are easier to carry than full ones.

No prayers too: desires

have no place here.

 

Speak silently, if speak you must:

like the rock speaking to the trees

and leaves to flowers.

Silence is the sweetest of voices

and Nothingness has

the fairest of colours.

Let none see you coming

and none, going.

Cross the threshold shrunken

like one crossing a river in winter.

You have only a moment here

like the melting snow.

 

No pride: you are not even formed.

No anger: not even dust

is at your command.

No sorrow: it doesn’t alter anything.

Renounce greatness:

there is no other way to be great.

Don’t ever use your hands:

They are contemplating

not love, but violence.

Let the fish lie in its water

and the fruit, on its bough.

The soft one shall survive the hard,

like the tongue that survives teeth.

Only the one who does nothing

can do everything.

 

Go, the unmade idol

awaits you.

 

 

 

Kabariwala

Kavita A. Jindal

 

Upper Ridge Road, Delhi, 1975

 

At the door of our second-floor flat he sits on his haunches,

takes out his scales, weighs the bundles of newspapers,

talks more than usual as he places the kilo and half-kilo weights;

he makes my mother suspicious at his chirpiness.

 

She insists he weighs the papers again; they haggle

over the price he’ll pay for seven kilos, how many paise

for each brown glass bottle, how much for each tin can;

and it’s only when he hands over some rupees that he says

 

Next month my cousin or my uncle will come to collect

instead of me; I’m going away.

Going where, we ask; going foreign, he says.

I’m going where there is free love

 

Where you can be with whomever you want whenever

you want; probably England, that’s where I’m going.

Will you be a kabariwala there, I ask.

Don’t think so, he replies, packing away his scales.

 

Onto his young shoulders he hefts the sacks of papers, bottles

and cast-off pans, informing me that in foreign

they don’t re-process old things.

He goes down the stairs whistling.

 

Kabariwala: A scrap dealer or a rag picker

 

 

Love Song

Nirala

translated from Hindi by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

 

I’m a Brahmin’s son

but have fallen

for this girl.

 

A potter’s daughter

we’ve hired to fetch water,

she comes every morning at the crack of dawn.

She’s the one I’m after.

 

Black as a koel,

no curves to her figure,

of marriageable age

but not yet married.

That’s what did it,

and a sigh escaped me.

 

Her loud knock on the door

wakes up the house.

No one else knows what’s going on.

She takes the water-pot,

the big one, and steps out again,

my eyes following her.

I haven’t lost heart.

 

February 22, 1939

 

Published with kind permission of Abhay K. and Bloomsbury India.

 

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