Sunrise In Vattakanal

It is 6.40 am

and the bright golden sun

is climbing up the sky

outside my window here

in Vattakanal

the blue Nilgiri mountains stand in mist

from the far left along a wet rockface

to the deep distance

a conical mountaintop

framing the scene

from there the Nilgiris flow in mist

beautiful misty mountain

after beautiful misty mountain

all varying shapes and sizes

to the centre where there is a hill flowing harmoniously

also in the foreground

a big green one with a few pretty houses

and there are trees on the top of this hill

and beyond this these misty Nilgiri mountains flow

now downwards towards my right

I look and look mesmerised by the beauty

and at one point begin to see those mountains

as big ocean waves

one two three four five

layer after layer

like fingers of a hand

like dreams flowing

so translucent

and closer there are tall pine trees

they are beautiful too

their leaves gently sway in the breeze

and last night there was lightning in these mountains

I have never seen anything like that in my life

this far away there was no sound of the thunder

I opened my window and strained to hear

a sound but there was none

just big balls of fire lighting up the mountains

their green peaks glimmering golden in the darkness around

but getting back again

it is quite cold here although it’s May

and whilst here at my window in the morning

my neighbour from the cottage next door

comes over with a warm cup of tea

I thank him and sip the tea

I thank my luck and enjoy the beauty.

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Yesterday I Saw Labour

Claus took me on his bike to Harry’s Farm

here in Kumily

and we climbed up the steep hill road

till he dropped me at the end

and continued to market

Stefan was making manure out of cowdung

and dirty and sweating

we greeted each other and he said

he has an hour’s work to go

sure I’ll watch I said

while he continued to work

he was mashing the dung together

under the hot noon sun

then someone from a house nearby

offered me tea

while Stefan spoke with another guy

and then we all chatted awhile

and they decided we should all proceed

to Harry’s Farm and they would work there

so then three of us Stefan Jomon and I

trekked along the mountainside to Harry’s Farm

how beautiful the green valleys full of vegetation were

vast and deep with tall pine trees

and soon we are at another house near Harry’s Farm

and someone offers me coffee now

while Stefan and Jomon continue to work

on a dung pile here

Stefan first mixes it up with a spade

then fills the dung into a big steel tub

then lifts the tub full of dung

and pours it into the sack Jomon holds

they work like that while I watch

and we chat from time to time

about my earlier visits

while they fill 16 sacks of dung

over an hour

and now from here they will

carry it to Harry’s Farm where we now proceed

finally I sit down on a chair

and relax

and Stefan chops up a jackfruit for me

it is so sweet and delicious

I thank him for it

while he and Jomon now continue

to bring those 16 sacks of dung

on their shoulders uphill

all this is manure for the pepper

and the coffee that grows here

I marvel at their capacity

for this backbreaking work

while they chat and laugh

about this and that

and I eat that sweet jackfruit

and enjoy the lush green landscape

they talk about deer hunters and

the gunshots they’ve heard

as they climb up the hill

they talk about predatory animals

forest officers and guns

while I listen and eat

I had first met Stefan years ago

while he was a boy in school

he loves this work

he says good health is what you get

he dropped out of school and chose

to be a farmer like his father

and now they come climbing up the hill

with sacks  of dung on their back

and when it’s finally over

we all sit and chat again

while Stefan strips to his black shorts

and jumps into his natural rock pool

for a swim and bath

soon he offers us homemade chapattis

and peanut butter and honey

all from the property

it is so tasty and again we have tea

and chat

Jomon says he’s 29

and if he doesn’t work hard and earn well

he won’t get a girl

he too is a school dropout

he’s also a wedding decorator a rickshaw driver

a dairy farmer and odd job man around

Stefan talks about his family

while I talk about my life in Bombay

and then rainclouds appear in the sky

and Jomon offers to take me

back to my homestay in his rickshaw

I thank him and Stefan then

and Jomon and I make our way

back across the mountain path

he points out a baby snake to me

and again at Jomon’s house I’m offered tea

while his nephew and niece work

both children between 12-14 years

they work on their dung heap

while I chat with an old man there

and chickens run in and out of the house

soon Jomon also joins us freshly bathed

and in new clothes and I thank everyone around

while Jomon now starts his rickshaw

and we go down the mountain road again

into town

when we reach my homestay

Jomon won’t tell me the fare

pay me what you want he says

I give him a 100 rupee note

while he thanks me and I think

how sweet life is

as a fresh breeze blows

and it slowly begins to rain.

And From 6th Mile Road

there is that view of Tamil Nadu

its plains and farms and houses in mist

Claus and I are on his bike

we stop and I take pictures

here in Kerala high up in the hills

it is bright lush green

there is thick vegetation

jackfruit pepper and cardamom abound

leaves of various shapes and sizes

it is so beautiful

and at Shailendra ’s house up the dirt path

we sit and chat about this and that

his black dog licks me with its soft pink tongue

there is so much love I think

then we meet Adarsh from next door

who brings tea

and now we all sip tea and chat some more

then we all walk over to his place

Claus, I, Shailendra, his wife Seema, Adarsh

and now Adarsh’s black dog jumps all over me

there is so much love I think again

and the dog is so excited he is relentless

panting it climbs all over me

all the while its master orders it to get away

but the dog comes back again

and climbs all over me

travelling solo

so far away from Bombay

so high up this quiet hill

I stand still

and feel the love.

The World Is The Ultimate Magic Show

such a lot it has to offer

now I’m here in Kumily

it has been raining in May

Claus Garden is lush green

and Claus talks about life and insects

suffering and death

about Germany and Europe crumbling

I am old now it doesn’t matter, he says

and I’m relaxing after a long journey

two-hour flight from Bombay, five hour taxi uphill

and after living alone for so long

I’m happy to be here and happy

to hear Claus talking

I noticed the jackfruit hanging

from the trees

all along the way

I saw green rivers smiling in joy

and boys and men jumping into them

now the crickets begin to chirp

and before you know it

it’s a chorus

and then a roar rising like a wave

and now I know nature’s symphony

and think of the waterfall cascading

down the rocks

along the way

dawn is slowly approaching

the cocks are crowing

I look at the lightening blue sky

and I look at it

it’s wet deep blue like an ocean

like nature’s cinema and the

beautiful green leaves and me.

I Am Having A Conversation With Myself

in the hills

across from me here in Bison Valley

there are beautiful thick trees

over the side of the wide hill

they are there on the hill top too

how pretty the tree tops there look

in the morning mist

the different leaves slowly becoming visible

in the slow golden sun

so sweet so calm so carefree

and straight across from me here

high up in the hill

the trees are widely spaced

their light grey trunks rise silently and gracefully

into the tree tops

now catching the sun’s light

below there is grass

on the floor of the hill

I am reminded of the Georgics

I think of Virgil

in his robe walking the hills

I think of paradise

and now the birds sing

they whistle and coo

they sweetly tweet

and one bird that

just flew past me

left me a line

what a sweet little verse

tee taa tee tee too

thank you I say

to  life

as the sun now

burns bright golden

through the leaves of the trees

its rays blasting through

straight into my eyes

I close and then

feel the warmth.

Left Blue

by brown-and-cream trains

red BEST buses

I travel in black-and-yellow autorickshaws

taxis

through the neon burning

green orange fluorescent

pink

and think how much the withered darkness holds…

how the broken stars’ sob stories

keep the golden sand

awake at night

and the sea sniffling…

 

The above poem is from my second book Circling the Sky (2013).

The Branches

flare like an open palm

lifting me into the lap of the breeze

the azan from the mosque

is the sky caressing my heart

long cool notes

become the silence of the universe’s dawn

and now the cocks crow in relay

a clear cacophony of joy

as I fall through

the leaves of the pine trees

spread out like a net of smoke

turning into a big black langur

and I feel more

than thousands of years old

falling into my armchair

and when I go back

from the balcony

into my room here at the homestay

to take a leak later

I look at my face

in the mirror

I look at my face under

the blue woolen cap

I look at it

for more than usual

first there is only my mother’s profile

then I get a glimpse

of my father’s face

my own face

I find

it takes such a long time to see.

 

The above poem is from my third book The Branches (2015).

Trees

are so beautiful to watch

anytime of day

anywhere

especially from

a local train in Bombay

they look like grand carefree beings

benign beautiful godlike

in the afternoon their leaves shimmer

in the golden sun

and when they sway in the breeze

all those different leaves

various greens

browns

in all shapes and sizes begin to swim

and you forget yourself

and are refreshed

and at night

in the darkness

they hang against

the deep blue sky

sleeping

and when the wind blows

they wake and shimmer again

like the stars

go home go home traveller

they sing with the moon

go home and sleep

sweet dreams.

 

The above poem is from my third collection The Branches (2015).

In The High Green Hills Of Kasol

the sheep are led

down the wet street

my mind is a spring

by the Parvati river

how it gushes and rushes

down the rocks

as I am

whooshed

into a thousand bleating

mountain goats

led by this little shepherdess

in medieval red

how sweet

her beautiful girl face

under her cap

and I go down the grey road

leading high up

where the mountain peaks in May are still capped in snow

and as the sun comes out you see them glow

and O I am this high Himachali wooden house

looking out my dark eye windows

my roofhead of beautiful black slate sleeping in rectangles

until that black dog in Tosh takes me

down to the waterfall

and I fall down the earth path that is steep

and I sit on a rock and I weep

and as the water forces me open

I become all sound crying

Guruji I shout tears streaming down my face

and the high Himalayan snow-capped mountaintops smile

Shakespeare I cry aloud

and the white peaks dazzle like diamonds

then a bird begins to sing its sweet long note

teeee tee teeee teeeee tee tee

tee tee too too tooooo

tee tee

just like jazz

when I find

the dog asleep

behind me

and as I turn

the sparkling hills are starting to fly

Jimmy Jimmy

I say

thank you for your help

as we shout

Jai Bholenath.

So Nice

to be sitting here

on Om beach

watching the beautiful green waves

from this high rock

the swimmers calling to each other

the patch of green rolling hill

and the wide open sea

a gorgeous deep light green

how lovely the couples look on this hillock

this girl in a bright pink salwar kameez

laughs so happily

and down there

there are two foreign couples

doing yoga

how beautifully

their arms move in synchronicity

and the sunlight blasts

the grey-brown thatched cafes

and shacks on the beach

they too seem to be laughing

shining bright

and the coconut trees in their grove

of golden green

call out to the black rocks

in the sea dazzling

smiling their blackest smile

and the boats so slow are all lazily looking

at this other couple in front of me

hugging and rocking

hugging and still

so long I say

so long Dominic

I leave you here

to watch the ocean

let it calm your mind

let its soft silver waves

weave a garland around your neck

like it does the sand

chanting peace peace peace.