Creation and Criticism

ISSN: 2455-9687  

(A Quarterly International Peer-reviewed Refereed e-Journal

Devoted to English Language and Literature)

July-Oct 2019

Featured Poet


Homage to Maa and Other Poems — C. L. Khatri


Dr. C. L. Khatri, editor of Cyber Literature and of several anthologies of criticism, is an emerging voice in Indian English poetry. He is a bilingual poet writing in English and Hindi. His four poetry collections in English are Kargil (2000), Ripples in the Lake (2006), Two- Minute Silence (2014) and For You to Decide (2016). He edited an anthology of poems on world peace Millennium Mood in 2001. He was awarded Michael Madhusudan Acadmay Award for his poetry collection Kargil in 2002. His poems are widely published, anthologized and translated in different languages in India and abroad. Currently he is a Professor at Department of English, T.P.S. College, Patna. He resides at “Anandamath”, Harnichak, Anisabad, Patna- 800002, Bihar, India and can be contacted through email- drclkhatri@rediffmail.com or www.clkhatri.com.


 

1. Homage to Maa

 

I was holding her in my arms

In the icy winter morning

Her breath slipped out of my hands

My numb fingers could not hold her

My palms were greasy, vision hazy.

 

They got smeared with sand and soil

Of the fibrous roots of the fallen tree

Stream of tears washed the roots clean

Only salt survived in the quaint eyes

I lost myself in the maze of memory.

 

Every cleaned root told me a tale

Of her petal like hand on my head

Of her tears and kisses

Of her frolicking fairy tales

Of her lullabies lulling me to sleep.

 

She was standing like Mother Mary

Feeding me her breast

Alas! I could not be her Christ

She bore the Cross all through her life

I slept in peace, bloomed in spring.

 

Her glowing figures flashed on my tears

Mopping floor bent on her knees

Cooking food on chulha1 fed with cow dung cakes

Making noodles, paapars, pickles, sattu 2…

Oh, the aroma of frying grains in sand!

 

Grinding grains in grindstone

Boiling and drying paddy for the rice mill

Making granary with soil and husk

A feast for her gods and guests

A frugal house keeper counting coins.

 

She looked goddess incarnate

Offering oblation to the setting sun

And the rising sun on chhath3

Giving us thekua,4 kasaar5 and fruits in prasad 6

Guerdon of three days observance.

 

How dearly I cherish my domestic deputation

In teej, jeetia, bhai dooj…7

Decking home with flaming earthen lamps

White washing the sanctum of ancestral deities

On Deewali, savouring laddu 8 and balushahi.9

 

She taught me: everything has its day

Kartik Purnima10 was the day of khaza11 and milk

Sweets of sesame seeds (tilkut), curd and beaten rice

On Makarsankranti 12, gram flour and raw mango slice

On sattuani 13 were the breakfast.

 

Ganesh revolved round his parents

Won the race for circling the earth first.

She was in the centre of my diurnal course

I did wag, nag but rest on her lap.

She whispered, “Thank God, I am dying married.”

 

Absence shows one’s real worth.

Today I feel her more intensely

Than ever I did. A deity in the sanctum

She lives in me, breathes through me.

Who cares if I win or lose the race I am not in? (Two-Minute Silence 20-22)

 

Notes:

 

1. Chulha : Earthen Stove
2. Sattu : Gram flour
3. Chhath : A folk festival of Bihar
4 & 5. Thekua & Kasaar : Sweet snacks offered to Sun god on chhath

6. Prasad : The remnants of food items offered to god and then given away to a person

7, 10, 12 & 13. Bhai dooj, Kartik Purnima, Makarsankranti & Sattuani : Folk festivals

8, 9 & 11. Laddu, Balushahi & Khaza : Sweets

 

2. Two-Minute Silence

 

Sisters and brothers of India

Let’s observe two-minute silence

On the uprooted microphone

On the broken chair in the parliament

On the torn pages of the constitution.

 

Mothers and Fathers of India

Let’s observe two-minute silence

On your death, on the death

Of your fear and deference

To your vows and values.

 

Ladies and gentlemen of India

Let’s observe two-minute silence

On the death of dhoti and pugadi

Oxen and coolies replaced by wheels

Chopped up hands and lame legs.

 

Friends, stand with me

To observe two-minute silence

On this great grand culture

On this glorious century

On its great promises.

 

Let’s observe two-minute silence

On the shrinking space, shrinking sun

Stinking water of the sacred rivers

Sleeping birds, falling leaves

Watermelon being sliced for quarreling cousins.

 

Someone whispered in my ear

Can’t we do with one minute…? (Two-Minute Silence 67-68)

 

3. Kargils

 

Everyone is busy with his Kargil

My son has broken his leg

Hari’s promotion is delayed

Rahim’s Loom has grown outdated

Michael’s priesthood is threatened

Your son has failed, wife is nagging

brother’s application for licence is pending

 

These are our Kargils.

Our security is the Kargil of our Veer Jawans.

They have won their Kargil.

 

But who will fight against Kargils around

grown up like weeds in paddy field?

They suck its vitals, mock

fading buds, drooping cultivators?

Who will fight my friends, Who?

 

We wander either in others cruel spring

or in private winters for blanket

and die blind to the kargil within—

a challenge more eternal, more sublime

We don’t know when they choke

the throat of our spring and the spring of the nation.

 

Let’s be Jawans of Kargil

Arise, Awake, Ascend

and fight to the end. (Kargil 22)

 

4. Brandawan

 

The door opened

We were led into a vacant hall

Dimly lit

We thought it was also a temple.

 

The door closed

We sat on the floor

My eyes surveyed the wall

Stopped at the curtain

 

In suspense

What face of Krishna is behind.

The curtain was drawn

Krishna was taming the Naag in Yamuna

 

And the priest was taming us

With “Brindawan Bihari Lal Ki Jai”

And the receipt book of Rs. 101, Rs. 501, Rs. 1001

The guide showed both butter and chakra.

 

I was mistaken

I thought it was a temple

It was just a Chandanichowk. (Ripples in the Lake 12)

 

5. River

 

I thought

the river is not deep like darkness

not very wide like weariness

not very meandering like coils of snake

I will walk across it.

 

When water reached my neck

I thought

I will swim across it

though I am not a swimmer

I can do it even by flapping my hands and feet.

 

Heaven lies ahead

infinite peace, infinite bliss

sound sleep, selfless work

and salvation at the end.

 

I kept on swimming

kept on moving

the river also kept on moving.

I crossed so many ends

but the ends turned into weary ways.

 

With sand, soil and wastes

water grew thick like mud

a rhinoceros lazily lying

peeped at me through the skin of the mud

and said, “Ram nam satya hai.” (Two-Minute Silence 15-16)

 

6. E-God

 

One fine morning I opened my tab

dumbfound I was to see a new alphabet

consisting of only one letter— ‘e’

common for all languages

‘e’ opened e-mouth like Krishna

to show all letters in it

the realization dawned on me

i prostrated before e-god chanting

om ‘e’ invocation, meditation, salutation

om e-guruveh namah!

om e-birth namah!

om e-class namah!

om e-text namah!

om e-marriage namah!

om e-honeymoon namah!

om e-shopping namah!

om e-sex namah!

om e-healthcare namah!

om e-governance namah!

om e-banking namah!

om e-Swiss, e-Panama namah!

om e-crime namah!

om e-cremation namah!

om e-swahaaaaaa…!

om e-all pervasive power namo namah!

hail ‘e’ invisible, omniscient, omnipotent power!

my tail started wagging

my mouth shouting like Muezzin

eAllah eAkbar Rahmani Rahim… (For You to Decide 70)

 

7. For You to Decide

 

Sometimes I wonder

if Vamana’s legs are

what men need to measure

the infinite space and time?

 

Sometimes I wonder

can’t we run slow, stand and stare at ease

kiss the sky and be on the earth

like birds return to their nests?

 

Sometimes I wonder

is history completing a circle

from nomad to nomad?

Can I get patent of my ancestral home?

 

Sometimes I wonder

if I stroll like a sleepy river

I would be left behind where?

Can I see the world from there?

 

Sometimes I wonder

if granny’s tales are to be archived

if trailing tongues are to be mummified.

Can we condone this genocide?

 

Sometimes I wonder

if Bharata’s nine rasas would be programmed

if babies would be sold in shops.

You want umbilical cord or warranty card?

 

This is for you to decide.

For me it’s time to retire. (For You to Decide 19-20)