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The Trial / Die Verhandlung

And so they came to my door. They didn't have to sneak up on me, they knew I had nowhere to escape. The engine rumbled arrogantly; quiet, well-repaired engines are for the powerless. And then it stopped, merging into the night's silence, as easily as it had shattered it. I could then hear them, the sweaty, nervous militia men cocking their rifles.

I parted the curtain, and there they were, barrels aimed at my windows. Fully surrounded, as only the might of state can ensure. No escape then, no terms of surrender. I could go out in the blaze of guns the bastards wanted, for their glory, their honour, their shiny medals. Or I could choose a few more days of breathing. Panting more likely; I have asthma and they know it. A kangaroo court, a monkey trial. Blasphemy, treason, undermining the revolution, poisoning the peasants. The impassioned defence, the booing rabble, the shooting squad.

It was so tempting then to consider cyanide. And yet no, perhaps the fascination of the immine…

Bhogi / போகி

போகி நாளில்
பழைய சட்டையில்
அரை எழுதியக்
கவிதைகளைக்
கண்டுப்பிடித்தேன்

on Bhogi day
while rummaging through
an old shirt
I discover
half-written poems

(Published in Ardea Issue 4)

The Burger

I jingled them in my hand. I had no fresh notes to crinkle. No soiled ones either. They were all that was - four nickel coins. I looked up at the counter, at my palm, at the counter again. It lay there upon the counter, encased in thin plastic. It too, was all there was. The choice was clear - either the acid in my stomach digested it, or the acid digested me.

The coins now jingled behind the counter. The plastic crinkled in my hand. I threw it away, and fingered the bun. Hard, stale crust, thankfully not mouldy yet. Cold, oil-oozing patty. Tomato slices, slightly rancid, their sourness accented by fermentation. Limp onion slices that failed to sting.

The onions failed to sting. My desperation did.

half-eaten sun;
the street urchin
sifts garbage

Published in Cattails

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Déjà vu m'arrive tant de fois, mais pas dans le sens psychological. La semaine dernière, nous sommes entrés dans Suzette, un nouveau restaurante breton dans Mumbai, offrant une gamme des crêpes. J'étais excité parce que je n'ai jamais vu une crêpe avant. J'ai demandé une "crêpe aux épinards, feta, basilic frais et tomates fraîches", en essayant mon français livresque au cours. Que j'ai reçu était une choc électrique.

J'ai vu des crêpes avant—elles sont appelées les "dosas" dans ma langue. Les bretons les préparent de sarrasin, nous Tamouls de lentilles. Je viens de payer 20 fois plus pour quelque chose que je mange chez moi trois fois par semaine! J'admets qu'ils n'ont pas du fromage feta et des épinards, mais je peux les mettre dans un dosa, n'est-ce pas? Les seuls choses français de cette affaire etaient les couteau-et-fourchette, le désespoir Houellebecqien, et peut-être le Chopin jouant en arrière. Et bien sûr —déjà vu.


l…

Saki

a few poems
in the saki's* diary
when reading
I remember my stories
he always listened to

chand ashaa'r-o-nazm
saaki ke roznaame mein
jo padhe maine
mere daastaan yaad aaye
jo woh sunte reh gaya

Raamesh Gowri Raghavan
India

*The Saki in an Indian & Middle-Eastern bar or alehouse is a person who acts as bartender, waiter and more. Saki also refers to a personal servant employed by merchants and aristocrats to serve wine. The British short story writer Hector Hugh Munro used 'Saki' as his pen name. The saki is a recurrent theme in Urdu poetry, with many poems addressed to him. I have therefore left Saki untranslated, 'bartender' seemed odd.




Published in Cattails

The Demons I Still Haven't Slayed

Diwali lights . . .
exposing the demons
I still haven't slayed   / Sameer


inner darkness hidden
we light the façade   / max


dusky hands count
cartons of fairness cream
in the factory   / raamesh


the touch of cool lips
on my fevered brow   / anitha


once again
that unfamiliar
perfume on his shirt   / jayashree


this summer night
my dog sniffs for the moon   / raamesh


the lean shadow
cast by
a paper wasp's hive   / samar


fighting for queenship
of hexagonal cells   / raamesh


frosty starlight
drapes the bare branches
of an unknown tree   / samar


through the grassland
this kangaroo skips a beat   / jayashree


we were together
the last time
the kurinji* bloomed   / anitha


alive again
I enjoy the hum of bees   / shrikaanth


*the Kurinji blooms in profusion every twelve years

A junicho composed by the members of IN haiku on facebook, started on 3rd November and finished on 26th May 2014.

IN haiku was formed on 23rd February at the Haiku Utsav 2013 by a group of like-minded people to promo…

The Golconda

beyond the fort’s wall . . .
rice harvesters' songs
of long ago   / angelee


coughing bouts punctuate
the watchman's stroll   / paresh


as the rain falls
the cobra’s coils tighten
around her eggs   / raamesh


flocks of sparrows
fly over a swamp   / sathi


ripe fruit falling
into the lake
break the summer moon   / shabbir


passing clouds
usher in the malhar   / surya


sitar notes
caress his beloved’s
flowing tresses   / gautam


the door shuts quickly
behind the smiling couple   / seshu


I sense
a shade of emerald
in a bush by the stream   / neelam


butterflies
in a burst of colours   / cheryl


over a meadow
birds in flight
split the sky   / surya


the orchid leans
into the new year   / kala


An autumn junicho composed on 20th of October, 2013 at The Golconda Stones Haiku Meet.

The participants were:

Angelee Deodhar, Chandigarh – vs 1
Paresh Tiwari , Hyderabad – vs 2
Raamesh Gowri Raghavan, Mumbai – vs 3
Amarjit Sathi Tiwana, Chandigarh – vs 4
Shabbir Sheikh, Patur, Maharashtra – vs 5
G. S.…

Haiku in India: A few glimpses from the past 12 months

This year has been an eventful one for India, with respect to haiku and related genres. A new journal, an actively subscribed kukai, a forthcoming conference and several individual activities have meant that India has been an exciting country to be in if you are a haijin.

Activities in the past year:
The year began with Dr. Angelee Deodhar, the doyenne of India haiku (who has been writing since 1989), giving a talk to the Poetry Society of Hyderabad, which was very well-received. On the following day, assisted by Paresh Tiwari, she conducted a day long haiku workshop in Hyderabad. The workshop was dedicated to Bill Higginson and she told the participants that they should use The Haiku Handbook as a Bible to learn haiku. As Ireland was the guest nation, Gabriel Rosenstock was there too.

Then in New Delhi on the 27th of January, Dr. Angelee Deodhar conducted a two and half hour bilingual workshop in a school meant for slum children. 45 children sat on a thin durree on the ground and list…

Immanence

What the six Brandenburg Concertos do to me is this.

They simply fill me with music, surround me, isolate me, gently tease me away from my cares into their Elysium; they permeate every nerve, till each has become, as Khusrau wrote, a taut string vibrating with the sound of the universe itself; they at once excite and becalm, distress and elate, arrest and move; they hurt me, they make me feel small before the universe and then they heal me and make me one with the universe.

Add to the experience my hormones coursing adrenaline and testosterone, and sleep deprivation and the flush of success and the inebriation of starvation mixed with coffee—something strange happens, I am at a sudden high of consciousness, at once depressed and euphoric, for a fleeting minute—nirvana.


dust patterns . . . the ghostly outline of my turntable
(Published in Haibun Today September 2014)

Of Rebellion and Revolution

Cattle are important. And because cattle are important, cowherds are important. There has to be someone to milk the cattle and clean the dung. It doesn't benefit a king to kill cowherds.

Which is why, when the rebellion comes, it comes from the cowherd. He may be dark-skinned and wear feathers in his hair and play bamboo flutes and spend the day far too alone to gossip and plot, but he observes. He watches the oxen drag the plough, the crack of the whip behind them. But he also looks at the same bulls in the spring, locking horns in fierce combat. He watches the cow obey the hurr-hurrs as she is led along the road, but he also sees how she becomes a tigress when her calf is in danger. The same bullocks that solemnly drag the overloaded cart, now maddened, gore the drover.

The cowherd observes, and he learns that the weak can become strong. He learns that sickles can become swords, that the humble wooden stick can break a spinal cord. He may be a king's human beast; but listen …

A Skylark Sings

above the moor
not attached to anything
a skylark sings   /basho


on a greening trail
the pale sun coats branches   / paresh


eyes unblinking
I wait for her window curtains
to open   /raamesh


now that he’s gone
she orders his favourite meal   /bhavani


from a cellar
the scent of hops spreads
to the warm patio   /angelee


the halo around
a vandalised Buddha   / geethanjali


the circus lion’s yawn
much bigger than
its roar . . .   / sanjuktaa


ready for the weary
a dry bed of leaves   / brijesh


on the road
parijat blossoms
mirror the night sky   / raamesh


chowkidar’s torch
flashes in the cemetery   / angelee


jostling at the mall
to grab
last season’s stilettos   / lakshmi


the horizon balances
a winter moon   / kala


*

A spring junicho by the members of IN haiku at Haiku Utsav 2013 composed at the Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, Pune, February 23rd, 2013

Joint sabaki – Rohini Gupta (Mumbai) and Kala Ramesh (Pune)

The participants:
Matsuo Basho. Tr. by Makoto Ueda
Paresh Tiwari, Hyderabad – v …

Maya's Laugh

The orchestra played Mahler's 4th Symphony. Timing is everything in Mahler, yet immeasurable, like the water in a leaking clepsydra. The audience sat entranced, glazed eyes peering. It was surreal, like a Homo habilis skull in the hands of Richard Leakey, glaring impassively from its eyeless sockets. Trying to tell, perhaps, of its timeless irrelevance. Irreverence even, as I come to think of it. A kind of gleeful mockery, saying that you too shall be mud in the course of time. Perhaps covered in an old cover of Rolling Stone and pissed on by passing hippopotami. You will disappear, like Basho's frog diving into its pool, and you might yet live forever, like Basho's frog diving into its pool.

morning fog...
the train whistles by
broken bottles

(Published in A Hundred Gourds 2:3 June 2013
and republished in contemporary haibun Volume 15)

hundred

What an interesting number—ninety-nine! One short of the most magical number ever, one more than the most nondescript of numbers. Ninety-nine, the number that judges everything, from the sincerity of a lover to the contamination in a bar of iron. Ninety-nine, a hungry number, besmirched by an accusation of incompleteness, yet perfect in form—its twin members so beautifully illustrating its two divisors. The first one less, the second one more than that other fabulous number, ten. Ten, which multiplied by itself yields that magic figure all men yearn for. Perfect and yet always incomplete. Ever hungry, ninety-nine.
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whitened sky...
in one drop
the rainbow

(Published in Frogpond 37.1 (2014)
Republished in South Asian Ensemble 2014)

Johannes Manjrekar - on haiku and photography

An interview by Raamesh Gowri Raghavan

http://glo-talk.blogspot.in/2014_09_01_archive.html

My interviewee is a person I share much with - a biology education, a stint at TIFR with K S Krishnan, a love of nature and now haikai literature. Though his association has been much older and much richer than mine, to emerge over time as one of India's leading haiku and haibun writers.

As he describes himself, "Johannes Manjrekar grew up mostly in Mysore, South India. Childhood love for mucking around with insects and birds eventually led to a PhD in molecular biology. Has been teaching at the Microbiology Department and Biotechnology Centre of Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda for many years. Speaks six Indian languages (counting English!) and one non-Indian. In addition to haikai style writing, very enthusiastic about photography."

Interspersed with the questions are Johannes' haiku and haibun (reproduced with his kind permission).



*

RGR: Firstly, Dr. Manjrekar, le…

Bazaar

The grubby boy washes out the steps of the half-closed eatery. A dog stands by; tail a-wag in expectation. In the next shop, a light peeps from beneath a nearly closed shutter. The butcher's shop is still open where a gaunt attendant scrubs a knife. Blood mixes with grime as it flows out to the gutter, only to be dammed by cabbage and mango leaves.
The marigold and jasmine seller cries out to the hurrying passers-by, “Three for the price of one.” So does the vegetable woman, her head half-covered, as her voice shears the silence. Eloquent and persuasive, the cadences rise and fall as she plies her rehearsed pitch.
A shutter closes with a clang, followed closely by a motorcycle roar that soon groans away into the darkness. The clock-tower rings and I quicken my pace. I can hear the hum of the last bus' engine, and the whines of the drunk I shoved and sent swerving across the street. Elbows clash as I run through the customers of the busy, busy cigarette shop, but the bus has b…