Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Sentinel


He wakes when the world is dead
His own world awaits whom he left behind
With only the hollow darkness ahead
Just to feed his family on his mind

Neither plead nor commit a crime
He resorts to a profession taxing on him
Sleepless nights and rare family time
Night leaving its color on his eyes' brim

Safety for self or a safe haven for us
A dilemma that may cost his entire life
Chilling moonlight or amidst gushing dust
Anxious for me more than his own wife


Listens to my crib while I miss his salute
A daily offering he pays without a blink
With concern for his child but no refute,
What I give in return, makes me think


He gets much 'more' than a scanty wage
A blind eye to his war with last night's rage
An ignored heroism while I was fast asleep
A onerous battle with fear, given no heed
A usual suspect for a crime in vicinity
Beating around the bush while disposing his duty

All this just to feed his hungry clan behind
With a modest wish to see his baby shine
To elate those anticipating eyes of his wife
When he brings home few pennies worthwhile


He doesn't speak but his eyes do demand
Just a bit of respect rather than reprimand
A dignified life is all he aspires
Not a lavish life till he retires


Today when I'll see that wrinkled face
In the evening upon reaching my base
That ripped uniform, that dangling lace
Preparing himself for another darkness

I vow to greet him before he does
Every morning and during dusk
It's just a gesture that will help him boast
A man denied dignity will haunt me the most


Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Portable World


I was bought for dollars, the master spent
Wrapped in pricey sheets and urban scent
Adorned the wall with pride and joy
Others on the wall went quiet and coy

Folks from far flocked around like sheep
In dazzling jewels and pockets deep
Flashes and glitters to welcome me on-board
Thence began a tale of solitude untold

Like a pampered child, I was lauded by all
An object of shimmering glory on the rustic wall
Gazed at my peers with the look of a snob
Among the rotten canvases, felt like heartthrob

I heard them giggle as I turned my gaze away
Unfazed by this act of sardonic display
Boasting of vibrant colours on the face
Divine prints festooned with golden lace

The taut canvas face was wiped everyday
Every speck of dust, was firmly swept away
Days passed away hence many a week
From lauds to gratitude, gaze to a peek

A couple that bragged of immortal love
Kids like those of the angels above
Battled and bayed on petty topics
From choice of car to ‘who carries the bricks’

But, the one that went right through the heart
Was the ‘dollars spent on the trade of my art’
Layer over layer, the dust piled upon
Every day was dusk and nowhere the dawn

Through the astral view I beheld my fall
The cruel peers grinned from the adjacent wall
Weeks into months and months into years
A beauty that once was, now in shambles and tears

The hinge on the left, has left its scars
In this tilted state, I face towards the stars
A brooch that once adorned the wall
My taut canvas sags alone in the empty hall

Master’s kids have grown into men much wiser
Master has grown into a lump much miser
My sagging canvas echoes his receding health
His sons’ wives eye his will and wealth

I learn that this house will come to mortgage
A new master would then light up this cave
I hope of coming out from this dusty grave
It’s a portable world if you see through my eye
Self is most vital for the mortal thy
Just a dangling piece of art if I am
What good to each other are you Oh man!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

An Unconventional Rendezvous

I didn’t know them and neither were they peculiar enough to be written about. Rather, there was nothing distinctive about them which any of my co-passengers in that General bogey of Lucknow-Bhopal Express would want to remember. But still, I would like to mention about them here for myself, and for all the similar sophisticated folk who feel that life is about achieving a high societal status or fat bank accounts.

It was the month of December and travelling in a general compartment of a train in U.P. for the first time makes your journey all the more doleful. Not just because of the hard cushion-less bench pressing against your bottom mercilessly for hours, but because of a plethora of aspects – shattering and thundering of double pane windows persistently threatening they might crash upon you anytime and none of the 2 layers being able to stop the freezing wind from coming in; inimitable characters flocking all around gossiping on topics ranging from the scanty dress of a B-grade actress to petty property disputes back home, from Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement to that kid he bashed up back in his village; clamour of the beggars to those torturous and deafening ringtones of the mobile phones to shouting over the phone at the top of their lungs; the cocktail of smells originating from different sources like the spittle of paan, the open lavatories, the garbage dump at the railway lines near the platforms and that odd obnoxious smell from the sugar mills outside in the fields as the train crosses by.

I could have sat there unperturbed, engrossed in The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell had it not been for a surge of curiosity when I asked him “which station just passed by?”

He must have been in his late 40s and wore thick glasses which resembled the bases of 2 coke bottles; a woollen cap and a sweater to avoid the chilling wind through the windows; the muffler covering the lower half of his nose and the dropped neck resulting in intermittent snoring; a thin strip of moustache that ran neatly along the boundary of his upper lip hanging tightly from the peeking nasal hair. A big round belly floated beneath his laid back torso followed by a crumbled beige trouser dressed with black spots. The tattered shoes with worn out stitching clearly reflecting the number of miles they had done so far. He took the window seat with a huge jute bag in his lap precariously clutched between his left arm and the gigantic belly.

It was too late to realize that my question shook him out of his modest dreams. He searched for the source of the question before he replied back to the person sitting next to me “Kalpi just went by”. I was about to say to him ‘it was I who asked you the question’, but this time I was quick enough to realize the terrible squint in his eyes.

She must have been in her early 40s and sat adjacent to him vehemently coughing and sneezing. Her right hand was resting on his knee. She had an equal ratio of grey and black hair divided in the centre by a red crease of sindoor. She wore a pale yellow woollen cardigan and a maroon shawl covering up to her nose just like her husband’s muffler. Her eyes were looking down to the floor like a slave until I presented them with that shrill question. Her eyes looked pale and the grids of wrinkles neatly decorated the dark circles around her eyes.

But, there was an unknown keen tinkle of happiness in her eyes and face, something that made her say “These trains are … (cough) … such a pleasure … (cough) … to travel. Oops! … I hope … (cough) … I didn’t hurt you”. After a careful observation I realized she was pressing her husband’s fingers as if to infuse some sort of sensation into his hand.

“No no!” he said in an apologetic tone so as to cure the woman of her guilt of accidently waking up her husband. “Kalpi it was! Jhansi would be another 2 hours from here” he said in a dominating voice.
She looked at me with a discounted smile and again dropped her sight towards the floor. It seemed to me she was somehow not coughing while her head was down and chin touching her breast. She felt comfortable that way.

“Do you belong to Bhopal or Lucknow?” It had been almost 6 hours I had talked to anyone so I triggered off a conversation with him.

“We belong to Jhansi, but our son had been working in Lucknow” he replied.

“Oh cool! Then you must be a very frequent visitor to Lucknow.” I spoke with a lot of vigour and enthusiasm as I was also working in Lucknow. “Where is he working by the way?”

The man looked at the woman as I asked this question. She gave him a stern look as if controlling herself from coughing another time.

He shook his head in response and his vision dropped towards the floor again. The woman, with her stare fixed at her husband, replied to my question “He is no more now”. And she started coughing her lungs out as she completed the sentence.

I could not even blink my eyes for 2 minutes. I gazed at their faces trying to figure out how it may have felt to be in the shoes of those modest brave-hearts.

“Arre bhai! One packet of masala peanuts please?” He ordered the vendor who had been shouting at the top of his voice just to sell the 2 rupee packets of cashew, peanuts and walnuts.

The man offered me the packet. Both of us gently pulled out few pieces from it. The woman clearly looked tempted by the packet but her throat was too bad to handle masala peanuts; neither did the man offer her any.

I wished to go back to The Tipping Point but somehow my mind didn’t. My eyes were sunk into the book but I kept on glancing at the mannerisms of the couple. I was unable to digest the fact that they had lost a son and still they found this train pleasing.

It was around 3:30 pm and most of the noise-makers had resorted to keep their mouths shut. Most of the passengers including the woman had gone off to sleep. There was a perfect synchronization between the dangling handle hooks on the ceiling and the sleeping passengers on the berth as the train caught up speed. The only noise was that of the fans, the shattering windows and the speeding train itself.
“It’s been almost a year now when his bike was overrun by a drunken truck driver”, he somehow sensed that there were questions waiting to erupt from inside me.
“It’s really unfortunate!” I tried to reciprocate with empathy. “So what was your purpose of visit to Lucknow”? I asked.
“We had to collect his Provident Fund and gratuity settlements from his employer. My wife’s brother also stays in Lucknow, so we both went together.”
“It’s tragic really!” I said in a fatigued tone. “Which company was he working for?”
“Tata Motors! Do you know this company?”
“Oh God! I am also working at Tata Motors. What was his name?”
“Ajit Pandey!”
“Whoa! You are Ajit Pandey’s father? Sir, it’s an honour to meet you! I could never meet him in person but I have heard some great things about him. He was a great human being and an asset par excellence to the company.”
“Yes! He was good”, he said in a modest tone again.
“Sir, did you know that our company has an award named after him?” I said in an exuberant tone.
“Oh is it? Not that I am aware of.”
“Sir, it’s called ‘The Ajit Pandey Memorial Trophy’, given to the employee who exhibits the values, brilliance and the acumen that Amit possessed.”
He did not say a word. I could literally hear him swallow a lump of saliva and yet again his eyes went down towards the floor.
I realized that I acted more enthusiastically than required on such a sensitive issue so I didn’t utter any word further.
The woman lifted her head up. This time her eyes were red and damp. She had heard the entire conversation. I could not take my eyes off those deep eyes that had absorbed grief as big as this. The dark circles around her eyes beginning to get deeper and darker. I knew that another word from me would mean the liquid heart will overflow off its brim. I had already spoken a lot.

Another hour went by just trying to pull my concentration into The Tipping Point. All in vain! I could not stop thinking.

“We will get down here!” He spoke as the train halted at the Jhansi station. “All the very best young man!” he said gathering the lost sparkle in his eyes. “These shabby trains aren’t that bad. They have given me some really good friends in the past. Today also it didn’t disappoint me.” I could not even respond to his wish properly.

The woman let go of her husband’s right hand as they left their seats. His hand recoiled back to his stomach as he pulled himself up. I did not even want to think about the extent of his paralysis, but he did have limp in his right leg too.
The elderly couple stepped outside the train; the man, still clutching the jute bag tightly with his left hand and the woman still holding onto her husband’s right arm.

They looked happy that way.

My gaze followed the duo till they disappeared among the station crowd. All of a sudden, I realized, the cocktail of obnoxious smells didn’t feel disturbing anymore. The cacophony of the crowd started to seem pleasant. The noises from the fans became a symphony to my ears. I took off my shoes and socks and put my bare feet on the dirty floor. I caressed my palm over the tainted glass window. The loud gossips of the co-passengers started to make sense. The disgust towards the people sleeping on the floor turned into pity and sympathy.

Meanwhile, the train moved ahead. The crowd at the platform had settled down. I saw the couple again, sipping into small tea cups and sharing a laugh. Their heads turned towards the train and their gaze met mine through the window. Their lips stretched apart in a smile. A tinkle shone in their deep eyes. He raised his left hand holding the tea cup as a toast to this unconventional rendezvous.

I pressed my head against the window grill, still gaping at the strength of their love for each other. A bond, so strong, that even the wrath of their son’s death could not snatch away the smiles from their faces. A bond, so strong, even the mightiest of storms cannot do them apart.

I felt so little!

I pulled myself up and ran towards the door of my bogey bare feet, stumbling upon the people lying on the floor, rubbing against the crowd ignoring the abuses as I knocked off few cell phones on my way. I reached the edge of the door so that I was the only person visible to the people outside the train.

The couple looked astonished at this weird act of mine.

I smiled at them for a second and then raised my palm to the forehead.

“Salute!”

The dying sun rays reflected from her cheek as the tinkle rolled down from her eye.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Employee Suggestions - The Seeds of Change


A seed of change, sown in the brain
Shoots from the soil of knowledge
A fledgling steers through the rain
To challenge monotony's courage

All these seeds from all directions

Form a wise and fecund stream
To achieve those arduous perfections
Compiled under a suggestion scheme

Firms then flourish with Glory and awards

Those fertile brains honoured with rewards
Mammoth tasks accomplished at minimal cost
Doubt, agony that once was - is now lost.


-       Ankit Singh

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Rickshaw-Puller

By Ankit Singh


Fresh morning dew - dripping from the leaves
Piercing the thin eyelids - dawn's focus beams
Raise the alarm to wake up for the grind
My muscle is my money, to feed the clan behind


A checkup on the strength, a hunt for rust
Few pats on the cushion swept away the dust
For minutes I gazed at its rustic charm
My old eyes felt the first monsoon of a farm
Trembling, I gripped the handlebar with pride
My muscle is my money, the city is my stride


Maiden halt at the mansion that rose to the skies
Like the ones in dreams from open eyes
A little princess emerged chirping like a dove
Dangling locks harnessed with hair-band above
Little did I know of the contents of her gear
My muscle is my money, hunger my prime fear


On the jute cushion she cuddled herself up
Waved at her mother who sipped her tea cup
Fair as an angel as honest as a mirror
Gentle as a feather was her playful leer
She broke the ice to catch me unaware
My muscle is my money, I may have acted queer


Naively she remarked at my ripped pant
I could barely look at her neat scant
She gazed for long at my tattered shirt
My shirt grudged at her wrinkle-free skirt
I pedalled my envy through the morning breeze
My muscle is my money, despair needs to cease


With only pedals to her school to spare
My heart panted with passion none could dare
Eyes in the freckled face glimmered with cheer
The child-like joy in riding the load clear
A halt in the shade, to set up on another
My muscle is my money, I'm just a Rickshaw-Puller








Thursday, 25 July 2013

Introspection

If I wish, I can break the rules
To alter the monotony, I need no tools
If I determine, I can leap over the stars
To crush that that's beyond my powers


If I wish I can kill the evil in me
And let not relationships laugh at me
If I determine, I can diverge the storm
To let my soul take its form


But wish is a wish that I can only wish
Determination will not be served in a dish
Wish that my determination shall not falter
Determined I am to live a glorious life after

Sunday, 21 July 2013

The Red Snow

(Part-1)


Slowly, I stripped off the curtains aside

The drape that hindered the white moon light 



White was the colour of the lawn that spread


White was the colour of the Alps ahead.


Laid behind me were the folks from my land
Casual, indolent snoring like a band

Little did they care of the air outside

Neither did they notice that uncanny ride.




I followed a bunch of men, through my gaze


While still trying to wipe off the window haze

Wind that night was hideous and chill

Only when I could see beyond the window sill,



Four men rose to take on two
A girl and a boy with nothing they could do

The boy being bashed; the girl did plead


The cold goons ensured the two must bleed




I ran to the stairs as fast as I could

Watchmen dozed under his night hood

The clamour of the quiet that I then saw

Could have made even the bravest heart thaw



 . . . to be continued