Of Mother-tongues and Lands
Are you Al-Hind or Aryavart;
Jambudvip, India or Bhartavarsh?
Or all these together - and more -
Shaped by all the words
You have ever borne?
Or is it the other way
Around - do your names say
What you were, or will be?
Do you reflect what they
Describe - or is it only me?
Dos it matter if I
Forsake the sounds of my
Own mother's tongue?
Or the names you were known by
When you were young?
For is it not true
Beyond the names she answers to,
Our mother is marked
By her thoughts, sparked
For us - and for others too?
Can you then recognise
Your own self in the guise
Of a language from another land?
In attributes that others devise
Can you my words understand?
And while what I say
May be more important than the way
I speak - does that mean
Love must first and always
Be heard to be seen?
Do you not think
It is you I diminish and shrink
Into an empty shell, when I
Strike down the link
You nurtured all of us by?
And if, as languages die
With them do vanish by
Ways of seeing the universe;
It is this too the deaths signify
Of your faiths diverse.
So whatever we may choose
To call you, may you be the muse
That inspires us to peace.
May we never lose
The beauty of your lands and seas.
Still in the summer
An unseen koel somewhere
Practises her songs.
She lies on her back
Birds circle in the sky
Waiting for the rain.
The Song of the Moderns
Oh, to be modern,
Now that everyone’s been there.
And shove away the odd-and
Old ways, a-la Le Corbusier.
To bow at the altar
Of Hoffman, Josef and Gropius, Walter.
And tread in the glimmering footprints,
Of the Kandiniskys and the Klimts.
To build our own Falling-waters
Regurgitate the modern masters
And be honest, frank and forthright,
Ah – but was Lloyd Wright?
To post hastily across latitudes
Every new fad in patent hues.
And mouth free-verse in jumbled jargon
Amidst a Mondrian-isquely landscaped garden.
To liberate space and air
With worlds of glass. Forget the glare.
And disdain alike with aplomb
The gaze of the sun and the Peeping-Tom.
To plant towers that touch the sky
In fields of mustard, wheat and rice.
And weed out the farmer and the flower-bed,
Grow gardens on roofs instead.
To guzzle steel and stone unabashedly
In designs that twist verily Gehry-ly.
And beer in hand, echo Mies van der Rohe
Declaring wisely, ‘Less is more’!
There once was
A garden within a wall,
Rising green and tall.
And a boy, quite small,
Paused by it, enthralled.
Dark as clouds in the monsoon sky,
In spring were covered by
Tiny flowers, whose scent rose high
Filling the air, far and nigh.
One summer day,
The boy passed by again,
When they were heavy and laden
With colours of saffron and golden,
And wished he could have them.
So, he climbed
Up and over the wall,
And careful not to let any fall,
Plucked seven mangoes in all
While he heard the squirrels call.
As he turned to go,
He saw a man standing,
Watchful and questioning,
For the garden belonged to him.
And he was afraid, for to steal is a sin.
But when the man saw
The boy had taken only
A few for his family,
He said he may take some fruit daily—
And plant the seeds as a fee.
Then the boy,
Happy as can be,
Reared the seeds tenderly.
And by the time they grew, and he,
So did the gardens, with many a tree.