N a p a l m H e a l t h S p a : R e p o r t 2 0 0 7
Who Is A Muslim?
We were robbed,
my wife and me and our little boy.
Had just got on a train
. New Delhi
I had gone searching
for a few snacks,
to come back and see my wife crying,
surrounded by the crowd
and a policeman.
The snatch gang had done their job well
and were gone with the purse,
money for a few months life and work,
who was probably an accomplice
and would later on get his slice,
advised us to get on with the journey.
It was not the moment
for profound thought;
we still had many bags of clothes
and assorted stuff,
and our selves
to carry forward,
on the train to
For a night and a day
she was still in tears, my wife,
more from the shock
that so bad had fallen on us.
The people around
were really kind;
they bought us food and tea,
made sure that we wanted for nothing.
The next afternoon,
in the hot
a short man approached me
on my way to the loo
and secretly put in my hands
two hundred rupee notes,
and explained: “I am a Muslim”.
That was all he said.
My eyes were full as I took the money;
they still are, for I’ll never forget.
[Author’s Note: This is a true incident which happened earlier but I wrote these lines immediately after 9/11]
It is not clear
if he was a motorcycle mechanic,
a sex maniac
or an old fashioned black magician.
He was not a gardener,
had no feel for plants,
not a guitarist
as he was tone deaf,
could have been an art therapist or psychiatrist,
he did talk a lot.
It is not easy
to guess his age, education or nationality.
It is not ours to check the authenticity
of his passport or driving license,
as for what he said,
could claim to be
It is not important
if he was for the system
as he had a stake
or against it
as he was dirt poor.
The times are changing.
If your identity
is not clearly established
you could be taken in
as a suspected terrorist
and kept for all your life
without trial or bail.
Whether karmic rebirth
or original sin
he was already born
into a world
He did not like mosquitoes
like most of us
but said that he liked
elephants and tigers.
Was he an addict
or just habituated?
Would he cling on to life
to the very end
or give it up
to earn a few medals?
Did he believe in something?
There was something strange
about his appearance
but more about his disappearance
as he left suddenly
of unanswered questions.
Thiruvannamalai, 1st March, 2007
Once upon a time
there was a sacred river for our people.
We were the people of the river.
For us, who were born on its banks,
naturally, the river was the most sacred deity,
the very centre of our life,
Our myths were entwined with the river,
our dreams were of the full river,
our nightmares broke its banks
and flooded our lands.
We built a high city.
Our river died.
We were the people of the city,
the stench of the canal
with all the choked morass and sluggish death
was too much for us.
We covered the canal;
thus the dead river was finally buried.
We are the people of the city,
with the sacred river lost under us.
, 1999 Kochi
They never met
He was a communist
who left a position
in a sufi tradition
She was a closet fellow traveler
of the lesbians and rainbow children.
He walked with the people on the streets in Kerala,
discussed music and history with tea.
She stayed indoors in her own world near
(cooped up in an apartment flat?)
writing and painting and dreaming
of her native village of coconut palms
and wondering if her amma
is no more the same,
for the times are changing
and everybody talks about money.
He has two sons,
one is too idealist
the other only practical.
He was broken when his wife died.
He wished to see his sons settled.
She has a western husband who is practical.
and a daughter who lives in her dream world
which she believes will die with her.
He spoke different languages,
time traveled in Arab cultures..
She was struggling with German and English,
dreaming of living again
in the Dravidian country.
He was a failure in politics.
The party left him high and dry.
She is yet to make it in the arts.
Meanwhile she makes long phone calls back home
He is dead.
She is alive.