Three poems in Guajarati, thanks to Udayan Thakkar


Anil Joshi


We are birds of ice, we melt
in the heat of the summer winds;
our naked bodies drip
into lotuses as we call.
We shed noon’s heat with our feathers
and we fly.
Being birds of ice we melt
with every twittering cry.

We paint the space between
the green woods and the dry woods.
As evening drops from the sky
we’re a thread of gold in the air.
Night falls and we call, we call
like koels.
Birds of ice, we melt
with every twittering cry.

Translated by Suguna Ramanathan and Rita Kothari

Chandrakant Shah


Wearing the blue jeans you bought me
sit down to write to you
After a long time
Light blue is the denim and sapphire blue the ink
Between the two – this sheet of paper
Blank and white
On this sheet I write to you of my troubles
After a long time
We’re fine
How’re you?
write for the sake of writing
Ask for the sake of asking
I want to write just that –
After growing grimier
Over the years, these jeans have got so soiled
That I no longer feel like washing them.
To wash these jeans –
No river flows by
No friends
No farm, no well, no birdsong of koels nearby
No white cranes either
Instead, a white washer, white dryer
White washing powder to wash blue jeans
A white anti-static fabric softener
For the occasional static
Green trees seem white
White, the blue sky
The rainbow is white
White kohl, white soorma
White kumkum, white the white rice
White, white, pure white, white gulal
In this country of the whites, what a black fate is mine
On this bright white day, I sit here pounding life’s misfortunes
Sit here to write to you
After a long time

Light blue is the denim and sapphire blue the ink
Between the two – this sheet of paper
Not so white and no longer so blank
On this sheet I write to you of my reflections
After a long time
I keep writing that –
There’s no mango orchard here
To dry washed jeans
Even the sunlight here is sterilised
The wind EPA-controlled
Different water sprinklers nurture different patches of green
Everyone here has different lawns, different water, different sunlight
The jeans here are different for meeting people
Different for behaving, different for socialising
Ways of loving also different
Different TVs, different remotes
Different parties, different votes
Different cars, different phones
Different names, Jaswant John
Different brides for different grooms
Under the same roof, people live in different homes
I sit in my home, different from myself, distant from myself
Far far away
I sit here to bridge the gap on paper
After a long time
Light blue is the denim and sapphire blue the ink
Between the two – this letter
Never intended to be so long
On this sheet I write to you of bridges and gaps
After a long time
I turn the page over and write all over again that –
When I turned the almost-dried jeans inside-out
To dry them out completely
My life almost turned upside-down

Upside-down roads, upside-down driving
Upside-down men, upside-down women
Having upside-down conversations, I spend my upside-down nights
I draw water each day from upside-down taps
In the upside-down darkness, upside-down switches for lights
Upside-down alphabets
Upside-down voices
Upside-down silences
Surround me as
I sit here silently to write a wedding song
After a long time
Light blue is the denim and sapphire blue the ink
Between the two – this letter
Complete and yet incomplete
On this sheet I write to you this wedding song
After a long time
And finally I just want to write that –
After repeated washing
These jeans are furrowed
By deep wrinkles of dilemma
Wrinkles that tell
Of the desire to settle in the USA anyhow
Of the conditions to settle here
Of the acceptance of these conditions
Of adjusting to this acceptance
Of surrendering to the ‘medical’
Of growing dependence on social security
I sit here in the USA totally attached to Vadodara
I sit here to write of this attachment
After a long time
Light blue is the denim and sapphire blue the ink
Between the two – this letter
Completed and blank
On this sheet I write to you of my troubles
After a long time

Kumkum, gulal : Coloured Powders
Vadodara : Name of Indian Town
Translated by Arundhati Subramaniam



Harish Meenashru


He meets nobody and nobody meets him
as if with an intention to meet nobody He comes everyday to meet
Hastily on his bicycle
Always in such a haste that we can never meet him
and inquire about his well-being and he in turn
can inquire about the news.
Could this newspaper boy be in the last year of the college
or could have left studies ?
Could his father be a drunkard
Or somebody would have finished him ?
Its possible, he must be staying with his widowed ant in this harshtime.
Its possible, the family of his chachajan must have settled in Karanchi.
Seems to be from a good family, a Dehai of Valhaad, Moti Hatyavi,
Shiya or Sunni : these all are gray areas of newspaperly indifference.
And in such areas of human-ness, no-one can meet no-one.
Many a times, he falls from his bicycle.
Why this newspaper is so dirty and soiled today: everybody ask.
His elbow is bruised, pedaling with his right leg’s shabby chappal
He replies casually : Entire lot of papers had fallen in the mud.
But how come there are red stains instead of muddy ones?
And why there are mentions of RDX on every page?
He evades answering : How can such people be relied upon ?How terrible people we happen to meet in life ?
Many a times for months together there is no news about him
as if unwittingly he is placed in the attic of our own house-
awaiting a scrap-dealer.
All of a sudden, then , he reappears ,-worn out, dusty and yellowed -
If asked, ‘what’s the matter ?’, he would say : I was down with jaundice, sir.
His master is a complete rogue.
Who would employ someone suffering from contagious disease ?
Lastly somebody resembling him was seen at the Pasti-wala, the scrapdealer’s .
But how can such ‘seeing’ be called ‘meeting’ someone ?
Even today throwing a newspaper, either brand new or ruddi-worn out, he has just left.
As ambiguous as a pronoun. His face is featureless.
I glance at the first page : the same headline even today ?
Now I shall have to complain to his master :
How can we tolerate him throwing dated newspaper everyday on a running bicycle?
And when we call, he doesn’t even stop to meet .
I see in the direction of his return
North or East or West or South.
Suddenly a blast : Sure, his tyre must have burst
Or whatever it may be, one can not meet him.

Translated by Dr. Piyush Joshi


Anil Joshi is one of the finest 'geet kavis' (lyrical poets) of Gujarati. He was instrumental in ushering in modernity in lyrical poems by use of metaphors never used before. His diction retains the dialectic flavour.

Chandrakant Shah migrated to US in the eighties. He writes 'geets' and has evolved a poetic diction that mixes spoken American slang with dialect of rural Gujarat. 'Blue Jeans' is a volume of his poems about, as the title suggests, jeans!

Harish Meenashru is a versatile poet, with a vast vocabulary- his diction may be Sanskritised, or mixed with Urdu, English, Medieval Hindi, as the poem may demand. While his poem may confound the lay reader, it often delights the scholar.

By Udayan Thakkar


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