For better or for verse

That if there is a meeting place as colorful as Delhi



Whether you take phrases from Kashmiri into Hindi and English or make them up on the spot, you Kashmiris have a seriously brilliant way with words.  Eitherways and when you’re around, I pounce on pen and paper with delight. 
 “Arrey, woh makhi ke par bhi nahin kaat sakta hai”, a Valley friend once told me, of an innocent man under discussion. “Gadhon ki tarah khate hain aur phir dakar bhi nahin lete,” another said, discussing corruption in the Valley while driving through rainbows flanking the road from Manasbal to Srinagar. “Kya sarkar papad hi belti rahegi”? asks an anguished J&K sarpanch, in the capital recently to press for greater empowerment and security.
So, alright you lyricists. Your columnist of the serious prose has some poetry to offer this week.
Two events inspired me. The first was Kejriwal’s allegations of Robert Vadra’s land deals and the First Son-in-Law’s snarky response about ‘mango men (aam admi) in a banana republic’. Here’s my take in nonsense verse:

I. Mango Man
Dussheri, or Chausa now,
Langra too is good somehow,
Some say Neelam wins the test,
But Vadra is the very best.
Lucknowi is not much liked,
Malgova is somewhat yikes,
Rumani, Pairi and the rest,
But Vadra really stays the best.
Gulabkhas does hold its own,
While Fazli is to the manner born,
That Kishenbhog is full of zest,
But Vadra still remains the best.
Dare I root for Zawahiri,
Or would that be like Harakiri?
Himsagar or Kejri,
Would they beat Vadra majorly?
Beneshan or Badami,
(Nothing, though, like Beymani),
I say Husnaara, Himsagar,
So what goes it of your father?
The Vadra of Haryana though,
Is stuff that gourmands do extol,
The soil it needs is DLF,
And a bit of Robert’s own sweet self
So grow a mango worth your lolly,
And beat upstarts like Banganpolly !
II. My Hometown New Delhi
 Max Mueller Bhavan (MMB) the German cultural institute in the heart of my hometown, is one of my two alma maters. The first of the following two poems on ‘The City as a Serai’ – on my hometown  - won the audience prize at a Poetry Slam organized by MMB last week.  I like both, but I prefer the second. And you?

The City as A Serai – 1
They come from high, they come from low,
they come from worlds apart;
They come with hope and ambition
and intent in their hearts.
They come to live amidst the Djinns,
that in our spaces float,
The Delhi of dreams and jobs and dust,
the lowly and the haute.
This city is a caravan stop,
a modern-day serai;
A place that welcomes wandering souls,
even those just passing by.
Paharganj lanes don’t sleep at night,
there are carpenters at work,
The spice-filled alleys of Chandni Chowk,
fragrant with cinnamon bark.
Sizzling snacks at street-side stalls,
the flies, the oil, the heat;
Some people swear that those are what
make food here hard to beat.
The wide green swathes of Lutyens’ plan,
the many jamun trees,
That line the roads at India Gate,
purpling the traveller’s feet.
The monsoon comes, the useful neem
does drop its yellow fruits,
That crush and lend a fragrance
to the wandering traveller’s boot.
It’s hard, it’s fast, its soul is past:
From eras so long gone;
The Red Fort stands a sentinel
to a thousand pageants born.
In the heart of this is a isle of bliss
set up by a foreign land;
Of eccentricities and brilliance
and a language very grand.
Named after a man who spoke our tongue
Much better than you or I;
They teach, they learn, they exhibit too
at the Yamuna flowing by.
From Berlin, Munich to New Delhi,
The bond is old and strong,
That land of strengths does go to lengths
To fortify India’s song.
Of how to clean and save its earth,
Of how we can ensure
That our city that’s a stopping point,
could offer so much more.

“The City as a Serai” -2
Oh, city of a million warts and just as many dreams,
Oh, mother-ship of mine and that of faces yet unseen.
From tiny villages in between green avenues wide and small,
To a national capital region, one of ancient fortress walls.
Whose stones are but the map-lines of our quirky destiny,
Of a speedy metro, dangerous roads, and daily mutinies.
Of a flowing river that we’ve made the fault-line of our deeds,
The final resting place of Gods when we have to them prayed. 
With incense and with obeisance. 
We let them in the river.
And there they float and swirl and sink
In a final, godly quiver.
The Yamuna flows so filthily, we are the hoi-polloi
Who, like our mighty Shiva do
both create and destroy.
We take pride in our anarchy, when we drive or even walk,
We spit, we push, but it’s our city, so who are you talk?
We welcome strangers to our midst, but rip them off somehow.
We jostle in queues, we flaunt the ‘pull’ we have just for the show,
We drop the names of those in power, of the political highbrow.
We revel in high decibels, no sense of propriety, we blare our neighborhoods down
with no care for society.
 To those who point things out we say,
we happen to be like this.
To you sheer torture it may be, but to the rest of us its bliss.
But I know where to find its soul, my big, big Delhi heart.
I feel and miss it most when I am continents apart.
It’s right there in its green, neem trees, its birds that come to nest,
When the summer’s gone and the winter’s here and our gardens give their best.
It’s in the stranger who once helped me out of a burning car,
Then carried my sleeping child upstairs and was back to douse the fire.
Its in the temples, churches and 
the synagogue and the mosques,
where faith burns bright in Delhi’s soul and puts hate in the docks.
It’s in the rainbow cultures that are out on proud  display,
When the long, hot days of summer are done and the good weather comes to stay.
It’s in the hands of rag-pickers, who go about their jobs,
unknowing that their service is both risky and is fraught
with a multitude of dangers
to their unprotected lot.
It’s in the call of the kabaadi man, the fruit guy and all vendors,
Whose ancient cries lend the Delhi air a certain, unique splendor.
 It’s in the enterprise of those who sell things by your cars,
The shades, the drinks, the cooling stuff
when you’re sweaty and parched.
And it’s in a certain institute which is my alma mater.
A Sanskrit speaking foreigner was like its founding father.
It’s in the eagerness of theirs to help improve our city,
It’s in their peaceful white-washed home,
an isle of serendipity.
The lessons we could learn from it are right inside that house,
Where people come and people go without a worry or doubt.
That if there is a meeting place as colorful as Delhi,
It’s got to be this institute, a Babylonian  melee.

The author is a senior freelance foreign correspondent

Lastupdate on : Fri, 2 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 2 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 3 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST

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