Thursday, March 30, 2006


A 2 a.m. journey from the weariness of a hard-fought day
into the dead of the night
And I'm startled by the hordes streaming forth
from the hearths of the city

People walking, laughing, singing;
Men jocund: resting by the wayside, waiting for the rest to catch up;
Women chanting, their voices keeping their barefoot moments company;
Children hoisted on their fathers' shoulders,
Youth prostrating themselves at a every hundred steps
leaving behind a trail of smouldering oil lamps
lighting the way for the generations to follow.

This is their weekly pilgrimage:
Their weekly soujourn from sin to salvation
from wish to fulfilment
from the darkness of a Monday night
into the light of the holy Tuesday morn
In the hope that their penance will bring them peace.

Mumbai's Siddhivinayak Temple is dear to many of the city's 15 million inhabitants. People leave their homes soon after midnight on Monday and walk the many kilometres to the temple in Prabhadevi. A pilgrimage performed in earnest they believe, will grant them their heart's desire: be it the recovery of a sick loved one or good results in an examination just concluded.

While I had heard of people undertaking this walk from suburbs as far as Andheri and Versova, I had never actually seen the crowds on otherwise deserted Mumbai streets in the early hours of any Tuesday. The first time that I did this week, I was surprised at the hundreds, perhaps thousands of people I passed by between Dadar and Bandra.

Faith, it seems is something us agnostics will always have trouble understanding.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep?

Digital dreams,
Electronic nightmares,
Infected vector explosions
inside swatches of colour
and colour gradients bouncing off screens
luminously destroying the daylight,
invading my space,
resounding in reveries
far from the clicks of a surreptitious mouse.

In the dead of the night
My dreams die with me;
The drones interrupt my silence.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Corridors in Twilight

Walking home in the shadow of the day
silhouette of twilight
wistful hour of in-betweens,

Following this corridor of humanity
Onto tracks, overheads
And incumbent platforms waiting without anticipating:

Members of the great surge
Inching towards the comfort of home
The keep of which has cost them their time away.

It will transcend this moment, this quest.

It will transcend all of time

And employ them forever.

Traversing Train Time

Traversing the history of a city
divided into twos and fours
laterally, conditionally,

histories flash past of each speck of sand
born in the once-upon-a-time sixty-six villages
as the dowry of a fair-skinned queen

nursed by wives within the fortresses
(of wealthy men building castles on opium soil)

histories now at home in small cars and big cars, homes on hilltops and homeless gutters.

This journey remembers them all.

(*) For those of you not familiar with Mumbai's history, the city - erstwhile Bombaim - was given to Henry VI as dowry when he married princess Catherine of Portugal; and hence it came into the control of the British East India Company who recognized its potential as a port and developed it thus. The rest of the city - what are now the suburbs, was once the area known as Salcette: the land of 66 villages. The main city within the fortress (Yes! there was a fort at Fort!) built by the company grew to become the major trading station it is today which grew from strength to strength upon the trade conducted by both the Empire and the native business folk. Today these business men are remembered as the forefathers of some of the great industrialists this city has produced but who, at one point in time, built their fortunes on the trade of opium. Ironic as it sounds, today's philanthropists were in fact, yesterday's drug dealers. Of course, back then the sale and comsumption of opium was perfectly legal and even lead to some very bloody wars in the Far East especially in China, but more of China that another time!
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