Anarkali

Anarkalli.jpg

When “Anarkali”, the popular movie about the tragic romance between Prince Salim (later Jehangir) the son of Mughal emperor Akbar and the court dancer Anarkali finally arrived in our small town, I got a summons from my aunt,

‘You will come with me to see a film today,’ she said.

I was shocked. I had never known my somewhat stern aunt to ever watch a movie. But I had never had the guts to disobey her either, so I dutifully agreed. Of course, I was curious to find out too, about the movie that could make her act so out of character.

It was a two mile walk to the dilapidated cinema hall. I must add here that not having any other form of conveyance, we relied on our own two legs to transport us everywhere.

I’m not sure how old I was then, definitely below ten. But the movie, particularly the last scene in which, condemned to death, Anarkali is being walled up, left a strong impression on my mind. So strong, that years and years later this poem emerged from somewhere…

ANARKALI

When the walls rose up

Around Anarkali

Her heart unfolded

In paeans of joy

(So the movie says)

Celebrating love

Her song soared up

Higher, sweeter

Even as the last patch of sky

Was bricked out

Salim mourned

But life is long

And love short

And finally

There was consolation…

There was Noor Jehan

The slave girl

When she dared to love

Little knew

That

The walls of love

Press close

Fatal

They shut out the sky

And once

The air inside

Is breathed up

Nothing remains

But the song

And even that

Is often lost

Scattered, dissolved

By the winds of time…

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LOVE, THAT FLIGHTY DJINN

  I would have liked to live forever within

  the opaque glass walls of your love.  Seeing the world

  through misty eyes.  The sun’s heat

  softly tempered to my back.  The rain,

  a distant, soothing patter.  Not a drenching torrent

  churning rivers of mud and slime

  to drown in.  But

  the mist holds demons. Their cries

  will not be stilled.  And glass is fragile

  Even a single stone‑‑carelessly flung

  can shatter this sanctuary  we built

  You and I—

  out of the power of our dreams

  this vaporous castle

  which can stand—

  only till the magic lasts.

  Loving, my faltering steps take root

  reaching, touching

  my heart, a wing, a feather  

  caressing you.  All night…

  your warmth filling me.  Battling

  the shuddering dark

  that waits, a patient hungry dragon

   But…

  love, that timid bird

  that flighty djinn.  Comes

  to roost only when it wishes

  Not in response to my call

  or yours

  No matter how urgent the need

  No matter how desperate the hour.

 

in the time of mango blossom

In the time of mango blossom

pain stabs,

a pale spear

sharp as the scented spikes

that weight the tree

as eager

breathless,

it awaits

fulfilment.

The yearly ritual,

the time of fruit.

 

Our time was a flower

that bloomed

and withered again.

But—

the seed remained,

dry, insignificant

almost unseen.

And yet—

it held promise

of life

of blossom.

Colour, fragrance

within its husk

The thoughtless wind

tears the flower apart,

scatters its petals.

But

the seed rides its back.