Poems by Anand Thakore
‘PUPPETS LIFE ENDS ON STRING’
The lone surviving gunman of 26/11 was hanged at Pune’s Yerawada Jail at 7.30 am on Wednesday. Asked for his last wish the 25-year-old terrorist from Faridkot village in Pakistan’s Punjab province said: ‘Gharwalon ko milna hai’ ( I want to meet my family)
-Times Of India, November 22nd. 2012
See: they recur, approach and recur beyond terror and grave,
The low tin roofs and ambient wheatfields,
The hills and goat-filled alleys of remembered infancy -
And soon - but here they are already,
Filling their water-pots, tending to their goats,
Those I could not forgive for being so poor,
So blind to my rage; for refusing
To see themselves reflected in my hate.
They cannot see me now, of course,
Capering through barbed wire and thin mud walls -
But this is hardly strange;
It was so much like this when I lived amongst them,
Only suddenly more acceptable now.
What is strange is being unable to feel the cold they feel,
The fireside warmth, as winter comes over us,
Here in Faridkot, village of my birth, visited once
And blessed for all time, - as my mother
Never forgot to mention at meals - by the Sufi,
Baba Farid, mystic of the floating basket,
Whose rapt levitations I marvelled at as a child,
And whose spirit I spat upon when I turned fourteen:
There was so little left by then in our lives to praise,
And his talk of delight in poverty had come to seem
Like senseless rant; the little land we owned sold
For so little, our torn pockets empty, our jackets threadbare,
As we stared, half-starved, at the full moon of Id, with no goats
Left to slaughter or sell , or barter for new clothes and sweets;
No money for cooking-oil or kerosene, then none for wheat;
And then, to top it all, that hard, unoutstareable look
In the eyes of a tribal girl, which could only mean no, never,
Not good enough, never will be - Baba Farid,
Whom I dismissed as a fake when I turned into a man,
And whose verse the living still lift their arms to,
In the warmth of winter fires at Faridkot! -
I am glad he was with me,
Before that final steeling of burnt nerves against all fear -
Terror of the torqued neck, trapdoor and noose. -
Your last wish, he said, will not be granted,
But will surely be voiced -
A single sentence that survives your death.
I am glad it was this and nothing else:
Let them come to me now - listen, I say it again -
Those I ran away from; gharwalon ko milna hai.
"It was finally forwarded to Queen Victoria, arriving in time to become the prize exhibit in the Great Exhibition of 1851."
-Bamber Gascoigne, The Great Mughals
Here, in this tower,
Bound by gold clamps to thin walls of gold,
I, who am pure mineral, neither mortal nor ghost,
Remain doomed to abide.
Of those who are sent here only the living escape.
I endure the doom of rock,
Inhabited by light and never at home –
No, never, never for a minute
Since I was taken from the stomach of this earth,
Except, perhaps, through the week I dreamed unguarded,
Unpraised and unpossessed,
In the waistcoat pocket of a British lieutenant
Who thought me worthless.
Most men who held me beheld only what I showed them,
And I saw much that their pride could not begin to see,
Though monarch and vassal alike,
Minion and minister, eunuch and page,
Cupbearer, concubine, courtesan and queen,
Only rarely guessed that I was watching.
I have seen too many blindings,
Too many trembling of oil lamps
In mirrored paternal halls usurped by the young:
The banishment of music,
And the nervous weaving of recalcitrant cotton,
Where fountains had leaped and the peacock once danced;
Too many orgies, too much opium, and too much penitence,
Too many depraved flailings in the courtyards of mosques,
And self-assured mastectomies of prurient goddesses,
By incensed, believing hands,
To be moved or repulsed, intrigued or deceived.
These things I have seen, and seen myself too often now,
In the sculpted faces of mute attendants,
While ailing emperors fondled me in slumber,
Then woke before death,
Envious of my transparence, but unaware of my gaze,
Staring right through me with opiate eyes
Or eyes vermilion with wine.
I, who have never cared to be a seer,
Have seen these things
And ask only now,
To be sheltered from the light that can never be mine.
Return me to the mines,
Carry me back to the dark that scorned me.
About the poet
Born in Mumbai in 1971, anglophone poet and Hindustani classical vocalist Anand Thakore, was raised there and in the UK. He has spent most of his life on the Indian subcontinent.. Waking in December (2001) , Elephant Bathing(2012) and Mughal Sequence (2012) are his three collections of poetry. A Hindustani classical singer by profession, he trained for many years with Pandit Satyasheel Deshpande and has given concerts in various parts of the country. He is the founder of Harbour Line, a publishing collective, and runs Kshitij, an interactive forum for musicians. He is the recipient of the National Scholarship for music from the Ministry of Human resource Development, a grant from the Charles Wallace India trust for experimental work in the UK and the Sur-Mani award for excellence in musical performance.Thakore describes his work as 'having arisen from a fortuitous confluence of seemingly disparate cultural Histories'. He lives in Mumbai, where he teaches Hindustani vocal music in the Guru-shishya tradition and is currently working on his fourth collection of poems