Dekhna Hain, Dekhte Hain

By Advait Ubhayakar


dekhna hain, dekhte hain: a ghazal

the season to play with colours is always just around the corner
how will our good old bharat maa be drenched this time, let us see:

white is always the best background for slogans, will your
shade of jail clothes too become a shroud of mourning, let us see

the cyan and magenta are tracking fine on green screen, wait
why don’t i dishevel my hair in disgust a little, then let us see

yellow flames rise angry below him, you meme and mimic him too
but what if we just unplugged the tv of our times?  now   let us see

as journalists write open letters to our orange prime minister,
what if we lick each other’s wounds in the streets, let us see

as soni sori’s face burns in a hospital in chhattisgarh and a case is registered,
who will come for me as i redden my entire history book in answer, let us see

as universities are asked to hoist a two-hundred-seven foot tricolour,
why don’t students also paint their faces in pride colours and let us see

when black coats are all it takes to turn angry hordes into lawyers,
what’ll happen if we black out the hoardings of their masters, let us see

advait means the one not dual, be like one, they said. i think i will be
daitva instead, duty—bound to never agree with what they let us see.


the bed we had slept in for years

we dragged out piece meal and
dumped by the drain, hoping we
would grow to like our new one,
the one that now sat by the wall
we had built two monsoons ago.

some days later, i saw the broken—
up pieces of our bed were gone. the
garbage guy (whose face we’ve learnt
not to say bhangee anymore to, but
who can still see on ours that we still

think it), he must have found them,
sold them for scrap, bhangaar. i hope
he got something for the weight of the
memories it had soaked. good thing he
found it before monsoon hit. because

dregs of damp wood are worth less than
nothing in this city. i did find, at the bottom
of the drain, some flags drowning. must be
from the Republic day celebrations in the
colony last month. these new plastic ones,

they didn’t dissolve, they refused to rot.
their colours just clogged up at that
gutter’s mouth, that same gutter we used to
trawl cricket balls out of. who knows if these
too will bob up when it begins to rain?


a ghazal told, sold

in marble halls, alongside the mahabharata   mushairahs too would happen
poets sang in these hallowed   potholes, we are told.

now, village squares lie silent   in the margins of power-points
briny rhetoric still soaks   the beautiful lies we were sold.

even the bed has stopped creaking   since the days became longer
his lunch is also being made in   the other’s house, we are told.

the cricket stumps of stolen brick   that clung to our brick walls
were brushed over overnight   by the saffron we were sold.

the guns must start bleating   now that it’s a new summer
it’s the season of new shepherds   in old skins, we are told.

the boy who learns his mantras by rote   in hypnotic haze of 4 am days
will one day lead legions of men.   into dharma we were sold.

lands make their own language   from the loam of earthy cauls
our tongues live and die off   the words we are told.

our dogs were the first to bite   their heads off their collars
when they heard the news anchor say:   we were sold.

students can stay up to study all night   if they tie their shikhas
to the wall. the nail’s rusty but it works   with gravity, we are told.

prison clothes stained with piss blood   and cigarette holes
pockmarked like the bodies they hold   oh the dreams we were sold.

in search of development, let’s open our pants   then our banks
don’t stop the shopping, the sensex is dropping,   we are told.

one december day, when advait was seven years old,   his brethren began
to eat up babri.   “one brick in baba’s name too”   and i was sold.

Advait Ubhayakar was born in Bombay and has been a communications professional in India for over 10 years. Currently, he teaches writing and is pursuing his MFA in Creative Writing at Rutgers University in New Jersey. His non-fiction essays on the 2014 Indian Elections and New York City's 'India Day Parade' have appeared in The Sunday Economic Times Magazine, and he has been awarded fellowships by Rutgers (2013-14) and the Vermont Studio Center (Oct 2015). He is currently working on a novel and a poetry collection.

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