When Rajeevan was invited to read his poetry, he smiled into his beard and I thought, I saw a twinkle in his eye. After the prelude when he began, I comprehended why. Rajeev’s opening lines were: Yende Mulagal Evide?[where are my breasts?] And then in a deliberate voice, just so that no one thought they heard him wrong, he reiterated it. A ripple ran through the audience. Children tittered; women gasped; men stiffened, and I [and a few other kindred spirits] settled back to enjoy the ride through the alleys of Rajeevan’s imagination.
Thachom Poyil Rajeevan writes fiction, poetry and essays in English and Malayalam. His first novel in English, Undying Echoes of Silence will soon be published by Amaryllis.
A Yaksha in America
Yaksha: I am a Yaksha and this lake belongs to me. What is water? Tell me the answer and only after that you can drink the water.
Yudhisthira: Sky is the water.
– The Mahabharata
You may be asleep now.
Not only you,
Our fathers, mothers, children
Brothers, neighbours, enemies
Our dogs, cats, cows
And the dead we imagine
On the stones in the southern yard
All may be asleep.
Our continent our country our language
Our shrines, graveyards
Our bazaars, bathing ghats
Our martyrs’ tombs, our parliament
Our ministers, priests, poets,
Our revolutionaries, prophets
All may be in darkness.
You may have forgotten
All that you forget before you go to bed.
There might be leftovers on the table,
Water dripping from the toilet tap,
The fan in the sitting room rotating simply,
A midnight movie playing on the T V for nobody,
The front window open,
By which, your unconsciousness may be saying,
A light or a shadow is passing.
Now, you may be turning to the other side
Chiding me for coming late as usual;
Though asleep, you are careful to keep your gown tidy.
I’m now on the other side of the earth though
I can touch you now
I can close the book that remains open on your bosom
Switch off the song that glides over you.
Continents, mountains, the great oceans,
Strange customs and the unknown languages
Were between us
Only when we were lying close
Touching each other.
At Madison Square
I met a baby squirrel yesterday.
It hasn’t heard about our Vedas or the Epics,
It hasn’t read the Kamasutra, Arthasastra or the Natyasastra
It doesn’t know Vivekananda, Gandhi, or Jawaharlal Nehru
But, it knows you
It can understand our language.
Not only it,
The snow in Chicago
The rain in Iowa
The cold wind in Virginia
The trees on the Mississippi
All speak our language.
Now, sleep may have crossed the border of our country
It may be moving the route through which
Alexander, the lame Timur, Vasco de Gama and Viceroys came;
The Arabian deserts may be half asleep now
Europe may be readying for sleep.
A few moments from now on
When you get rid of morning hangovers
I too will have slept;
But this pain,
From which province of my body or mind it originates,
I don’t know,
Will remain awake even then.
The Sea Bridge
The night before he was shot dead,
While asleep Gandhi saw Kasturba.
They were in a third-class compartment
On a Porbandar-bound train,
Going back home
After winding up the last Satyagraha.
Both fell asleep:
Gandhi thinking of the Ramarajya
And Kasturba figuring out the domestic chores
On reaching home.
In the meantime
They didn’t know that days had passed,
The train stopped at several stations,
Patel, Nehru, Azad, Kripalani,
Aabha, Manu, Sarojini Naidu,
One by one had got off
And that they were left alone
In the compartment, coach
And the entire train.
The train, turning a bend
Hesitantly chugged on to a bridge.
Shaken, both opened their eyes and wondered
If it was the Ganges, the Yamuna,
The Vaigai, the Mahanadi or the Narmada below.
Putting aside the Charka
That was spinning even in thoughts,
Gandhi held Kasturba closer.
She felt those hands would catch fire if churned.
“How long since we sat like this!”
“True! But a whole nation
Has been watching us, wasn’t it?”
“I wish we had met only while asleep.
Then you are not the Mahatma.
Nor I the Mahatma’s wife,”
Kasturba’s eyes were wet.
“True! Freedom is when
We picture what we desire while asleep,”
“Then, what about the Freedom
Looking out to the shore
That was receding into the distance
Faster than the train running silently
Along the bridge which didn’t have pillars
Over a vast sea which seemed like a river till then,
Gandhi kissed the crown of Kasturba’s head.
This is not a green leaf;
This is your tongue
You forgot in my mouth
When we kissed in the field
This is not a ripe areacunut;
This is your heart
You misplaced in my body
When we embraced in the valley.
The is not chunna;
This is your breath
You abandoned in my blood
When we killed each other in the sea.
This is not tobacco;
This is your hair
Flung when we danced
In the crematorium.
I’m sleeping in you
Like in a coffin
Listening to the festive drums of
The immaculate nature,
Shooting my red
Editor’s note: Eating betel leaf smeared with lime with slivers of arecanut and some times tobacco is called as muruckan in Malayalam