November 2, 2023


                                             a triptych



My body carved from abandoned bricks of a ruined temple,
                                              from minaret-shards of an old mosque,
from slate-remnants of a medieval church apse,
          from soil tilled by my ancestors.

My bones don’t fit together correctly               as they should —
the searing ultra-violet light from Aurora Borealis
                                  patches and etch-corrects my orientation —
magnetic pulses prove potent.

My flesh sculpted from fruits of the tropics,
                                                          blood from coconut water,
skin coloured by brown bark of Indian teak.

My lungs fuelled by Delhi’s insidious toxic air
                                  echo asthmatic sounds, a new vinyl dub-remix.
Our universe — where radiation germinates from human follies,
                      where contamination persists from mistrust,
where pleasures of sex are merely a sport —
where everything is ambition,
everything is desire,                             everything is nothing.
                                  Nothing and everything.


White light everywhere,
but no one can recognize its hue,
no one knows that there is colour in it —         all possible colours.

Body worshipped, not for its blessing,
                                  but its contour —
                                              artificial shape shaped by Nautilus.
Skin moistened by L’Oreal
          and not by season’s first rains —
skeleton’s strength not shaped by earthquakes
                                              or slow-moulded by fearless forest-fires.

Ice-caps are rapidly melting — too fast to arrest glacial slide.
In the near future — there will be no water left
or too much water that is undrinkable,
                                              excess water that will drown us all.
Disembodied floats,                            afloat like Noah’s Ark —

no gps, no pole-star navigation,           no fossil fuel to burn away —
just maps with empty grids and names of places that might exist.

Already, there is too much traffic on the road —
unpeopled hollow metal-shells                         without brakes,
swerve about   directionless —           looking for an elusive compass.


Disembodied 2:  Les Voyageurs

    for Bruno Catalano

To understand yourself, you must create a mirror
                                                   that reflects accurately what you are ….
Only in the understanding of what is,
                                 is there freedom from what is.
— J Krishnamurti

Bronze humanforms sculpted, then parts deleted —
          as if eroded by poisoned weather, eaten away
by civilisational time —
                                  corrosion, corruption, callousness.
Power, strength, gravitas residing in metal’s absence.

Men-women, old-young, statuesque —
                                  holding their lives in briefcases —
          incomplete travellers,
Marseilles les voyageurs, parts of their bodies
                                                          missing —
surreal —                                steadfast, anchored.

Engineered within their histories
                      of migration, travel — over land, by sea —
coping with life’s mechanised emptiness.

Artform’s negative space or positive? What are we too see?
          Have these voyagers left something behind,
or are they yearning
                      to complete the incompleteness
in their lives?
          They are still looking —
                                  as am I,           searching within.

Marseilles, France


Disembodied 3:  Within

   for Aditi Mangaldas

You emerge — from within darkness, your face
                                  sliding into light —
you squirm virus-like in a womb,
draped blood-red,                                on black stage-floor.
                                  Around you, others swirl about
dressed as green algae,
                      like frenetic atoms
          under a microscope in a dimly lit laboratory.
Art mirroring life — reflecting the pandemic on stage.

Your hands palpitate,
                      as the sun’s own blinding yellow corona
cracks through the cyclorama.
          People leap about — masked, veiled.
                                              You snare a man’s sight
with your fingers mimicking a chakravavyuh
                      you are red, he is green, she is blue —
trishanku — life, birth, death —
                      regermination, rejuvenation, nirvana.

Everything on stage — as in life —
                                              moves in circular arcs.
Irises close and open, faces veiled unveil —
          hearts love, lungs breathe — breathless.

Lights, electromagnetic —       knotted, unwrapped
                      music pulsates, reaching a crescendo,
                                                          then silence.
Time stops. Far away in the infinite blue of the cosmos —
          I look up and spot a moving white.
I see a white feather
                                  trying its best to breathe
in these times of breathlessness, floating downwards —

and as it touches the floor, in a split-second
everything bursts into colour, movement, the bols/taals
                                              try to restore order,
rhythm,           both contained and free.

The backdrop bright orange,
                                  the silhouettes pitch-black.
As you embrace another human-form,
          the infinite journey of timelessness might seem
but now is the moment to reflect and recalibrate
immersed in the uncharted seas, in the widening circles,
                      telling us —                 others matter,
the collective counts.

I examine minutely the striated strands
                      of the pirouetting feather, now fallen —
its heart still beating, its blood still pumping,
                                              its white untarnished.
Life’s dance continues — with or without us —
only in the understanding of what is,
                                                    is there freedom from what is.

New Delhi, India

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