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Maru Kuruchit Ondo? (Have you buried your after birth here?)  

Why won't you leave me alone?
I have.
I don't speak Malayalam.
I don't wear a mundu.
I don't know my 7 th cousins.
Let alone my 2 nd.
I can't climb a coconut tree
like an uncle can.
I hate chakka.
I don't really like fish.
I like iddiappams, but who doesn't?
I haven't married a good Syrian Christian girl
with a big, fat dowry.
I don't have a family deity.
I am not a kalari-fighter
like a great, great, great grand parent was.

Why won't you leave me alone?
You know I have been ashamed of you.
You know I have been ashamed of that shame.
You know I have been ashamed of being ashamed of that shame.
You know I have gotten over shame.
You know I have never really felt ashamed.
You know I have never really felt ashamed of being ashamed.
You are just a place where Appachen and Amma stay. And even they are escaping to Conoor for half a year.

Why won't you leave me alone?
White like an angel in her Chattai-mundu, she walks.
Disappears behind a frond.
Slowly Ammachy turns sepia.
The house remembers her.
But who remembers the house?

Why won't you leave me alone?
Ammachy is dead now.
Uncles branch like thattai vadi,
they cross the ocean and take hold.
They'll sell it all
to feed the American dream.
They are selling the attic where we kept Cape Comorin sand and fought ghosts.
They are selling the pond where we sailed coconut frigates and battleships.
They are selling the well.
They are selling the stream.
They are selling the bloated cow.
They are selling our Bob'n' Molly collection.
They are selling the house that rose out of the coconut trees with Ammachy waiting for us.
They are selling footballs made of fresh rubber.
They are selling milk that came from cows not packets.
They are selling the fireflies that knit the air.
They are selling the lamps in the verandah.
They are selling 28, more 28, more 28.
They are selling mamne inde manam, the smell of rain.

Why won't you leave me alone?
There is a sound in my ear.
Thanga singing offkey but with so much passion that Yesu listens.

Why won't you leave me alone?
Ammachy still takes us to Tiruvella for biryani. Why won't you leave me alone?
“Fried the bats taste good,” says the man cleaning the roof in the middle of a cocktail party.

Why won't you leave me alone?
The tiger man still dances at Christmas.

Why won't you leave me alone?
Fields blinding me with green.
Behind Ammachy stands Ammachy, a long train into the distance. The guard waves and waves.
We escape to Bombay, Hubli, Hyderabad…

Whose earth in my earth?
Whose breath in my breath?
Whose blood in my blood?
Whose tongue in my tongue?

A crow wing hangs on the washing line to chase away crows.
The scent of cashew roasting fills the air.
Tomorrow, Ammachy wants us to polish her Burmese teak table.

Why won't you leave me alone?
At a get together, the boys invite me,
surreptitiously, to have 'drinks' with them, away from the women folks.
They are being friendly.
If that is Kerala, leave me alone.

An uncle more Keralite from separation
follows his daughter on a date
and drags her screaming from a restaurant in NY.

If that is Kerala, leave me alone.

Depicting beings of pure consciousness is different in one key aspect from depicting usual objects. A representation of lightning doesn't give shocks. A true evocation of an energy being… actually calls it there. And when that happens it can be jaw dropping.
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Appeared in Deccan Herald, on Republic Day 03.

Where is India ?

It is in the lice wandering like pilgrims in the filth-matted hair of the ascetic/sage walking half-naked down MG Road, (setting a bad example to visiting IT cats and so should be banned) not giving a 2 nd glance at the merc desperate to overtake my ‘gaadi', but afraid to risk rubbing shoulders, not to mention unaffordable paint, against the hoi polloi.

Where is India ? It is too busy burning its brides , (provoked by the hard tusks of greed dressed as the latest liberal God, the 1600cc car, the home theatre, the mirror-finished fridge, freely pouring kerosene over a creature who will never reach the high throne of mother in law and so direct her demons or sons to roast the human, who'll be left over and thrown out as no one really eats meat) to answer such silly questions.

Where is India ? It is in the cowdung trail of the starved, paper-fed cow, gathered eagerly by artists seeking to make the latest statements. Also by Sonabai still using it for jowar rotis thick, heavy and belly-fillingly satisfying, as she lies in bed in hospital, dying, asking for handouts from a child that tagged onto her as she gathered seeds to sell, 10 paisa for sackfulls, and who you or I don't see is mom in another birth, which we have conveniently insulated ourselves against with some strange hotchpotch of karma and cause, effect, punishment, pierced by the deep generosity of spirit that fills one's being with love as she who cannot feed herself feeds me.

Where is India? It is in the arm that tells a stranger and a wife and mewling brat on a street to come home, gives half a home and more and so forges bonds so thick they're banyan branches as the heart overflows.

Where is India? It is in your kadai, with red, yellow, brown, green flinging their blazing spice spells and muttering mustard flaring up in ghee streaming up in snaky flows making your salivating mouth ask for only what Amma cooked, so you turn your wife into her, only narrower for it rests in the gallis of memory that sometimes can't be mapped and so you can't find the way out.

Where is India? It's in the software cat's proud car purring like a tiger carrying appa, half proud, half thrilled, half don't-know-what-to-say at this sudden rise to fortune, that surely-must-fall, or at least cringe as the pink slip bares its teeth or too many all night, work-ins take their toll and the graveyard of obsolescence cheats the caviar-filled mouth of taste, so goes on a strange journey to a smashana sthala of wealth, and if Bill Gates prancing with an AIDS patient resembles something else, so be it, for everyone knows the poor are damned to tap on the windows of your mind or car, (both being identical; efficient, powerful, successful, zippy, and fitting into any parking space) and to return to that hand tapping, you turn down your window and dispense with the largesse of kings.

Where is India? It is in the cobra rising in my body, gold, fierce, terrible and so gentle into the dark womb of the night from which we pull the far speck of the kite down, manja entangling in strange heart-choked and mind-thorned places wrapping round and round the charka of the mind, that yearns to flee into the skies with kites crying as their bones wrench and the bamboo almost cracks scything down and freeing the cut patang to go haffa where it will into the sunset, the brambly tree of life, or the tall bamboo limbs of urchins waiting to rip its thin skin to shreds, only to see that what the hand wrenches from another, (if I can't get it neither should you) is of no import, for that which has been set free was never trapped, was never encased by paper or skin, or bone or bamboo, never spelt in scaly skin or hood or fang ripped out and pussy thrown in combat against the ancient enemy, the asura mongoose that transmutes into God and his flute that we cannot hear, yet dance to.

Where is India? It is in the shunyata painting sold to an NRI for 50,000 dollars.

Where is India? It is beneath a Gandhi topi, skulls filled with lathis, bandooks, land grab and the sound of a bell muezzin's call, Buddhist chant, that cut, dissected shows no special coil, just the usual grey.

Where is India? It is in the butt that moves to accommodate yours in the train and has so adjust maadied it has fallen off the berth and become very 3 rd class, so ready to be the khansaama to make a khichidi for world bank and whosoever has the money.

Where is India ?It is playing gili danda with Pakistan using nukes as gilis.

Where is India? It is in the smell of the smell of the monsoon.

Where is India? It is definitely in the ding's dance floor , where everyone's going to Australia , only sadly to find every one else has the same idea so Britain serves curry mostly.

Where is India? It is in the tiger roaring in the gallis of Bombay and nowhere else except the barred zoo where mouldy, large, striped rats growl in front of monkeys dressed as humans.

Where is India? It is in your brown skin that can be turned magically white, or at least a wheatish complexion, by multi-nats.

Where is India? It is in the missing queues for phones , the no longer waiting for gas, the fat stocked supermarkets, the sitting across the table with the world, the firang waiting for us to change it.

Where is India? It is in the auto driver who drives half an hour to return a bag to me filled with moongphalli shells called poetry.

Where is India? It is in New York where my 2 uncles, 6 cousins, 12 second cousins and zillion relatives stay not knowing whether to cry as the towers crashed down and life's no longer so easy in spite of the conversion rate and they wonder if all they did was for nothing, as all their friends have bigger cars, bigger homes, children who listen (er…) and servants and holidays and maybe a life.

Where is India? It is not in the space between Shiva, Allah and Christ.

Where is India? Is it in Vande Mataram? In the spice cupboard? In the Naga dance? In the blood streaked Kargill hill? In the kite dancing? Is it in the cobra to whom the universe is just one scale?

Where is India? It is a river, underground in your chest, somewhere left of patriotism, right of Buddha, south of the missus, and dammed up by huge concrete heaps of indifference and history.

Where is India? It is in you. It is in me. It is in the blood between us.

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Relationships like lianas strangle me around. Everyone must grow up to be an engineer or doctor. And marry the girl their fathers choose.

My favourite uncle offered that if I drop the 'mangalorean' I love he'll find a nice girl with a fat bank balance.
Thank you. No thank you. If that is Kerala, leave me alone.

Mals assume I must hang out with mals.
Sorry. I prefer humans.

I fruit pokey like a chakka.

Why won't you leave me alone?
One day you may.
One day, when I come to Kerala, I'll have to stay at a hotel.
One day, my uncles won't ask “arriyama o?” Why will they bother?
One day, there won't be a verandah and no rubber plantation.

Why won't you leave me alone?
You are not a place.
Or a language.
Or a people.
You are a kind of darkness.
Deep within me.
Fecund, green, or lamp-lit, terrible.

Kerala do not leave me alone.
Even if you are not the tongue in my tongue.
You are the earth in my earth.
You are the breath in my breath.
You are the blood in my blood.

Notes:
Maru Kuruchit Ondo deals with the Love-confused-hate relationship that some exiles have with Kerala.

Arriyama o? – Do you know me?
Amma - Mother.
Ammachy - (Mother) used here as Grandmother.
Bob'n' Molly - A popular comic strip.
Chakka - Jackfruit.
Chattai Mundu - A kind of Lungi worn by Christian Women.
Iddiappam - A stringy appam
Mamne inde manam - The smell of earth
Maru Kuruchit Ondo ? - Literally, have you buried your after birth here? For that is the place that draws you psychically back. Incidentally i was born in Bombay. So my afterbirth not preserved by the military hospitaal was probably thrown in some garbage heap.
Thanga - A servant of ours
Thattai Vadi - Touch me not

My Grandfather's Voice

My Grandfather has a voice like rich dark brown teak. A voice stained a woody umber by years of hardship struggle and wisdom. It has a natural polish like that of a table so used and loved kept gleaming through hard polishing driving in the wax.

You can see in his voice - the grain of his person - the rings of deep wells of living water; the rings of glorious summer and unrelenting winters; the rings of a natural goodness; the rings and grain that marks nature's finest.

In such a man rooted so deep and firm into the soil of knowledge one may be forgiven if one expects a limited tolerance. One couldn't be more wrong. For the wood of his voice breathes the winds from all climates, seasons, lands-rare and people - great.

Yet the strength in his voice's depth isn't to be trifled with. It draws on earth sources whose lodes run deep.

My grandfather's voice reaches its grandest at morning prayers - for here it communes with that source of power that men call God; and we know as awe, fear, delight, love or indifference. His voice like a solid tall craggy tree reaches and touches what men call God. Touching the bark of that voice feeling the force of it one is humbled and transformed. Sending oh weak creepers, slender tendrils up with its power.

Poetry: Identity