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Poems by Almitra
 
IN MEMORIAM : CAPT J S VELU

A man of great and wild extremes
Impossible, unlikely dreams
Of cleaning all of India's towns
Of solid waste from roads and drains
Within a year, or three, or ten.
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KANPUR’S HEALTH OFFICERS

They have no desks
They have few chairs
Paan-stains adorn the office stairs.
Because there are no lights at all
Within the public toilet-hall
There’s pee along the outside wall.

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ON PRESENTING A PAPER

Public speaking is an art
That can set you worlds apart
From the mumbling boring drone
Who reads on for himself alone.

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OSHO GARDEN, PUNE

Oh, show me the beautiful garden of Osho!
Oh, show me the loveliest glade in the land!

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TOBY HODD, GIR 1968

He came from England, all the way
To study what the lion’s prey
Consumed, and what, along the way,
They did to their own habitat.

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THE TRIBALS

It was our first Environmental March
To save the fast eroding Western Ghats.
This simple village woman left her home
To walk with others from the big city
And tell them all her pitiful story.

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INSPIRATION

Who has inspired me the most?
A square but living “paperweight”
A man who had no arms or legs
Displayed here in a circus once.

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ROOTS

It was a journey to the recent past
A sentimental journey of the soul
This visit to my great-grand-father’s home,
A burning wish for over thirty years
To seek my roots and pay my homage to
The founder of a fine upstanding line.

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DUMAS, 1940

Hoshang, an only urban child,
Lived night and day for holidays
At Dumas, his ancestral place.

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THE PATTERNED FLOOR : EIDETIC MEMORY

It was a floor of deep-red octagons,
Green squares, ochre lozenges, black and white
Triangles nestled in the space between,
A tapestry of “carpet-pattern” tiles
Cool, smooth and polished, laid upon the floor
Of bedrooms in the houses where I was born,
Built for the clan in nineteen twenty-eight.

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MUTTI

“Sing and dance for me when I’m dead,
As Hindoos do. No tears.” she said
As she turned ninety, ninety-one,
Radiant as ever, like the sun

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AVIVA’S COUNTRY WEDDING

“We plan next month to wed” she said,
My lovely daughter from the woods
Of Coorg, where she is studying figs,
And Tarun, tall and strapping friend
From college days in Bangalore
And USA, where day by day
They grew from friends to something more.

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GEOFFREY LEONARD HILL

He came from far Australia, with his golden beard and smile.
We called him Zoroaster. He was with us for a while
Until the snows near Mukar Beh snuffed out his bright young life.

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Little Brown Roads

They’re little brown roads on the map
They’re little brown roads on the ground
That leave the busy beaten paths
And wind through villages and woods

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CO–WIVES’ CLIFFS, INDIA

Above a rock-girt valley, stark and bare,
The precipice was fanned by rising air.
The two wives of the farmer far below
Sat at the brink, combing each others’ hair
.

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S I L H O U E T T E S

They were far-sighted, great and gracious souls
Who planted up an avenue of trees
Arching in tunnels of a shady green
Over the highways that we use today.
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DECCAN POEMS – 1

Tamarind land
with gleams of neem
in a wasted plain

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DECCAN POEMS – II

Alone on the plain stands the proud fort of Naldurg
with Moghul medallions and low pointed domes,
mussulman arches and bastions of stone.

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CAUVERY ROAD

Come, take my hand and we will go
On a tour of the South-lands. I will show
You sights that will live in your memory,
Of rivers and fields and greenery.

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THE HILLSIDE FRES

The night’s crisp edges crackle in the glow
Of golden lines of fire that race and flow

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GOA: THE FISHERMAN’S TALE

Child of the sand and sea and sun,
Of six poor children the eldest one,
Costancio Fernandes, when he was just eight
Was launched, by a then-common twist of fate,
On the most remarkable life I have known.

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GANDUGALI OF CHITRADURG

He’d wake and walk aboard at night,
Young Madakeri Nayaka,
Across the massive battlements
Of rocky Chitradurga Fort

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KUDREMUKH

A dozen strangers newly met,
Invited for a two-day trek
By Dr Venkatesh of SPARK,
We drove from Bangalore all day
To Forest Lodges at Samse,
Feasted and joked till it grew dark,
Laid all our eats out for display,
Then loudly snored the night away
Like lions fighting, or at bay.

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KAZIRANGA NATIONAL PARK, ASSAM

Through the tall grass the fog rolls in
Hiding the spots they wallow in,
Clay-coated rhino, unafraid.

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LADAKH MEMORIES

Land of contrasts, land of smiles
Stony wastes and verdant isles
Barren slopes for miles and miles;
Snow-peaks reaching to the skies
Seem close enough to touch, almost:
Distances deceive the eyes.

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HIMALAYAN DIARY

The rushing river whooshes by
Our bus that climbs these Border Roads,
An engineering marvel here
In landscapes gashed by cliffs and falls
And gorges carved by raging force

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TIRACOL FORT

High, bright and white, a glorious sight,
Tiracol fort commands the heights
Above the River Terekhol
Northernmost creek and boundary
Of Goa’s old territory.

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PULICAT LAKE

“Pulicat Lake? Where’s Pulicat?
“Palavarkadu?” “I don’t know.”

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ABBI FALLS, SANGAMESHWARPET

That was the day
That God held him safe
In His sheltering palm.
Through the waterfall flying
He fell, death-defying.

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VICTORIA TERMINUS

Did you ever, on your way
To the station, of a day
Stop to look at all the carving on the wall?

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ODE TO A TREE FROG

Gumtoes is my pride and joy
My frog-prince and my heart’s delight
My leaping acrobatic toy
My entertainment every night.

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Garbage Haiku

The twilight frogs are silent.
Stray dogs, smoking waste…

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MY DREAMS

My dreams! My Technicolor dreams !!
Oh, how I love my wild wild dreams !
I wake each morning with regret
At leaving my enchanted set,
Improbable or comic stars
And convoluted garish plots.

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