Mehdipatnam Musings

On hot summer evenings like these,

I often find myself talking aloud

though there's no one around me.

The sound of my voice surprises me,

falling in the vacant stillness

like splintered glass.

Is someone listening to all that I say?

Can I tame this emptiness around

with sound?


Each morning I arise,

bleary eyed and restless,

wondering how to face another day.

In the bathroom, I see a line of ants,

diligently crawling to some crevice,

storing food, working incessantly.

Sometimes, they come my way and bite.

I flush them away angrily:  death

by water.  Then there are roaches

hiding in the dark drains, nosy,

creepy, rustling behind the garbage can.

I seize a broom and beat them about,

clumsily.  Thud, thud, thud.  It's

Difficult to make a clean killing.


I manage to water the plants,

brush my teeth, open the gate

at the jingle of the milkman,

shave, shit, shower, dress,

boil the milk, toast some bread,

have breakfast--the usual routine--

by then I am tired again.


The days lengthen.

Summer plays havoc

with my books.  There's a thick layer

of dust on top of the shelves

which defies cleaning.

The heat is unbearable and

I am utterly beaten

by the complimentary power cut.

I sleep in the nude,

with the balcony door open,

just out of sight of neighbours.

But sometimes I am afraid:

how embarrassing it would be

to expose one's naked, ugly,

 ungainly and hairy body,

splayed awkwardly, defenceless,

for all to see.


The house oppresses me with its many walls.

Outside, the streets are dirty and disgusting.

The same surge of humanity everywhere,

the uncleared rubbish and the beggars.

At night a tramp sleeps at the doorstep

of the neighbourhood shop.  He is all alone

in the crowd. He never begs during the day

but lies in a daze next to the garbage heap,

dirty and dishevelled.  Dogs roam about,

rifling through rubbish, barking smartly

at strangers in the dark.  In daylight,

they are a humble lot, cautiously avoiding

the cruel kick or wanton stone

that can so easily strike.

I can identify the curs easily;

their imploring, intelligent eyes

haunt me.


The bandiwalla selling bananas is almost

supercilious, despite his soiled clothes.

He makes a sale with cool smugness.

Sometimes he wishes me, sometimes looks

the other way.  At night

he sleeps on the street,

amidst huge heaps

of smelly fruit.


At midnight this world is deserted

except for a few men clustered about

the lone tea shop.

There are a couple of whores too,

in easy concourse, exchanging palaver

with customers.  One is diseased and

I see her lying drunk on the street

at mid-noon.  She always says,

"Aie dunt wury!"


Once there was a young mad woman

not too bad to look at.

She had no blouse and went about, breasts exposed,

oblivious of the stir she caused.

They would chase her away by throwing

water at her.  Finally, someone

gave her a shirt to cover herself.

I never saw her again.


The two neighbourhood movie-halls

are always full.

Streams of pent-up emotions

find daily catharsis here

in confused images

of gyrating fleshy bodies

and gratuitous violence.


During Ganesh-puja

there's a week of decibel-rape:

discordant bhajans sung to filmi tunes

blare out on low-fi systems

all through the day,

punctuated, of course,

by the muezzin's five calls

to the faithful.

Come Diwali and the skies light up:

all that black money goes up in smoke.


On the way home from the bus stop,

each evening I change a magazine

at the lending library:

reading trash everyday keeps the blues away.

Sometimes I borrow video movies;

bad prints of sleazy films

penetrate my disturbed dreams.


There are some pleasant moments too:

listening to old songs on akashvani at night

and thinking of absent beloveds.

Or sleeping on the terrace

under the stark, star-shot sky,

and waking up refreshed

at the crack of dawn

with dew on the pillow.


Back to Selected Poems from The Used Book

  Copyright © 2005 - Makarand Paranjape