Srinjay Chakravarti is a 34-year-old journalist, economist and poet
based in Salt Lake City, Calcutta, India. His poetry and prose have
appeared in numerous publications, online (including QLRS) and
print, in over 25 countries. Print credits include Euphony (University
of Chicago), The Foliate Oak, Voices Israel, Orbis, The Journal (UK),
The Telegraph, The Journal of the Poetry Society (India), Dimsum,
Liminal Pleasures, Arabesques Literary and Cultural Review, Near East
Review and Poetry Salzburg Review. His first book of poems Occam's
Razor (Writers Workshop, Calcutta) received the SALT literary
award from John Kinsella and an Australian literary trust in 1995.
Absolutely straight and square, he is a teetotaller (no nicotine, no
caffeine, no drugs), never married, a celibate and loves it that way!
Her sleep sculpts the water, her hands
shape the blue-gold ripples of sunshine
floating through her eyes.
The soft sand of the river bed.
Pink stones and pebbles
stain the creamy smoothness
of the sandy bottom
under the tremulous current.
Her eyes closed, her body
open to the soft sleepy caress
of naked water.
Trees crouch on the banks.
Their roots, their fingers
go inside the river,
and arouse its shimmering haze
deep within her blue thoughts.
She sighs, and shifts
as fingers whisper
within the water.
The roots touch and caress
and probe naked water.
The river swims.
She lies still; she is asleep.
River, dreaming river.
She bathes in handfuls
of green sunshine
and blue water.
Leaves bend down
brush their lips on the surface.
Sunshine stains her sleep,
an ache colours her white body.
The river bathes itself
in the morning sun.
The swimming dreamer.
The water sculpts her sleep,
its hands shape her body
to its own dreams.
Roots break through
and the shallows
of her sleep.
The curious fingers
of the trees curl around the dreams
the river dreams.
Some soft as sand,
some are smooth pebbles,
some jagged rocks
shiny with grained quartz.
She is asleep.
Her body flows gently,
water-kissed and sun-dappled,
with the river.
Dreaming, she swims with the river
and the river dreams with her.
worth hundreds of thousands
of rupees in black money:
billboards blazing with neon and halogen,
Calcutta's dusk lighted up
with aurorae tropicalis
along the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass.
Here goes our realty check:
Strange and sublime
Des res for the lucky few.
"Home is where the art is."
80% greenery, 20% granite.
Marbled terraces, acres and acres
of rock gardens, lawns
manicured to a postcolonial parrotgreen,
swimming pools, tennis courts,
gym, bar, jacuzzi,
art gallery, golf course,
cafe and shopping arcade.
For the violet end of the spectrum,
status is passe, super-luxury is in;
penthouses, lounges, gazebos,
swank duplex apartments
with vitrified floors
serving as pieds-à-terre,
in lush landscaping
where even the atrial lobby is branded.
Driving along the Park Circus Connector
to the eastern suburbs;
Salt Lake, Lake Town,
VIP Road, First Avenue:
disgusting catalyst for queasiness,
the effluvia of garbage dumps
and charnel houses,
wetlands, bogs, marshes
being gobbled up by land sharks
to appease the appetites
of the filthy rich.
They live in the midst of such plenitude.
These are their dream abodes,
their very own corner of the universe.
This is how old women live,
in Calcutta's halfway houses
between Naxalite red flag-waving
and the marble palaces and granite mansions
thirty years later.
Here, a square foot of land
is worth much more
than the value of all their worldly possessions.
The bits and pieces
of each shanty are held together
by a glue of tenacity,
its doors with rust and resilience.
This is how old women live,
as doddery as their tottering shacks,
propped up by the stone pillars
on a series of massive hoardings
advertising life insurance,
camera phones, credit cards,
limousines, guilt-edged bonds,
teleserials, or five-star hotels --
"Have you met Life today? Meet Esteem.
Move up in life. Get an Accent.
Estate. For that special journey, called life.
Take a lifetime. Take an Astra.
Take control over life: with Sun.
Get the drive. Get Zip drive.
Get upwardly mobile -- with AirTel.
Roam the world. Take Command."
Under the shadow of
rusted metal columns
pedestalling Private Capital,
they build their huts
with the flotsam and jetsam
discarded by a metropolis
on its dialectical voyage to Economic Prosperity
steered by a crew of kitschy Marxists.
The roofs sieve rain,
the walls shudder with each blast
on a passing jalopy's horn.
It's a miracle they survive,
like their occupants --
heads unkempt with lice and nits,
their rags unwashed for ages,
their muddy feet scabrous with sores.
Termites enjoy a moveable feast
on windows and doors,
much more than their landladies can,
who have to scavenge on hopes for survival.
Their skins, creased and wrinkled
into parchments of ancient sorrows,
on which the years have scribbled
No less unintelligible
are the yellowed newspapers
with which their walls are plastered:
Good Morning, Calcutta Skyline, Times Today,
The Daily Awakening, People's Power, The Age of
From the watchman's tenement
comes floating FM Rainbow
on a pocket radio's static . . .
playing a disc of a legendary balladeer
from the communist Sixties
(a renegade now, having turned
into a rightwing wannabe MP) --
"I've seen skyscrapers arrayed,
kissing the cloudscapes;
And I've seen in their shade
The abandoned homeless
Living in despair."
Dusk deepens. With the darkness,
the phases of the moon shine
catoptrically in the crones' dreams:
bubbles on a strip cartoon,
floating on currents of sleep
and an indigotic nocturne.
Having become stone,
Allows crows and pigeons
To perch on his shoulders.
His black robes are decorated
With sticky white badges,
His neck garlanded with yellow ribbons.
Sparrows squabble with mynahs,
Kicking up the dust
Underneath his pedestal.
His toes are irrigated
By cows, goats and sundry asses.
Having let the grass
Grow under its feet,
Bengal's coalition of Marxists,
Socialists and pseudo-Revolutionaries
Issue press communiques
Bemoaning the theft of the Nobel gold medal
And various other regalia.
The Central Bureau of Investigation,
Pressed into inefficient service,
Recovers some of the loot,
From his arcadian campus itself.
But the loss
Of the Golden Boat
Is irrevocable --
When poetry has fled
This land of kitsch,
Where the spirit of the bard's verses
Is substituted by gimcrack baubles and trinkets,
By the glamorous homage
Of bird shit and cattle piss.
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