Poems | Gayatri Majumdar

February 2017 

Photos by  Gayatri Majumdar


There’s a strange light throbbing
flashing –
beyond the neon light
of the hotel room
silhouetted by trees
the red light strobes
to the beat of my heart.

Bodhisattvas wait 
their begging bowls 
gathering dust and rain water.

On the train ride
the costly Baggit peeps out
of the cheaper mirror-worked 
Kutchi sling bag.
I possess both; disown both.
The thing within will always pinch your soul.

Everything white
inside the hotel room
– the walls, sheets, split A/C,
coffee cups and cigarette.

How did you do it?
Guide me home –
from shore to shore
across subways filled with stench
up to the caves of Tiruvanamalai
down Churchgate B-Road right opposite Sydhenam?

Blowing smoke and censuring,
right on time every time
like when you waited to die
on a perfect basanta morning
lest I stumble or miss the bus?

Now following footsteps of Bodhisattvas
I arrive
in an accidental space.
To think I’ve looked for love
and some loose change
in a boundary-less universe.

As you lay wasted somewhere
on the debri
of an outer star and restless night,
a single sweat swelling  
your holy temple 
in an erotic kind of way.

Past endless lands 
of onions and cotton fields
Bodhisattvas walk
to bring color and succor 
to some forgotten hills
and moon-lit hoardings.

We come the longest way
to tomorrow;
carry the torch in our eyes
and a few cheap metaphors
in our pockets.


Then we babble,
say they know nothin’
‘bout consciousness and other realms,
you know with their
constant chatter and suspect demeanour.

And the wavelets rise and fall
thoughts, desires and lives
dissolving then into an oceanspread.


Am in love with a man
several centuries old;
and as I walk down these stony paths
those centuries flash past my eye
erasing my very existence.
It’ll take me a few centuries to get there,
but am willing to wait.

You took several of my breadths away
when you held my face
and gasping I looked up
at the divine ochres and blues of your face –

Bodhisattvas and apsaras in white
hidden in ancient caves
protectors of truth and light
from some very dark forces
in some very darker spaces.

Earlier our bus driver in khaki & Ray Ban
briefed us in his
unstitched English.
All through the ride
he turned reckless corners
at breakneck speed
to loud 90s Bollywood music,
to help us reach our destination sooner
and to make the ride, well, enjoyable naturally.

In Cave 16, or was it 10,
a Thai monk with elaborate tattoos,
flashed his laser light 
to study the floor 
for any telltale signs of miracles and satoris
where Bodhisattvas meditative sat
eating their meager meals
at the Lord’s feet –
So much beauty in 
so little, it hurts;
in next to nothingness
conquering the unlit
defying fear
brave soldiers of the believers.

Many more Bodhisattvas 
in long silver beards
sit on plastic chairs
waiting for their chai
outside shops piled with tyres
on long Sunday evenings
discussing flat tyres
and the price of onions.

I photograph large goddesses 
guarding themselves and the rear chamber
with weapons 
and their bejeweled nakedness.

Consciousness then comes easy
away from ravages of distorted beliefs
and loud traffic noise
as I count birds and flowers
and the change
I hand over to the man selling plastic souvenirs.

At the entrance to the same cave,
the goddesses’ breasts defaced.

The world fell with a thud,
but noiselessly
as I stumbled falling
in the dark
at the feet of the man
I love.

And the bored and tired
couple said, “how many
more steps? The caves
are all the bloody same.”
Just when I thought I finally arrived
I lost my head
when the guide snatched at my cell phone
accusing Me of wrongdoing!!

This life was never mine,
never will be again.
I should have left my self
eons ago
before the light caused heartburns.


Time used to be
a random man
I waited for 
day after day
blood draining my face.

Time ran away with her,
I got the consolation prize
and several unborn babies.

I whirled with time
showed him a step or two.

Americans filmed the acoustics of 
one of the caves
to the chants of
“Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ. . .
Buddham Sharanam Gachchami . . .” 
reverberating across the cosmos.

And the yellow Buddha on the cushion cover
in utter silence gazed
at time drunk sprawled on the floor.

Shivaji, our guide and auto driver,
says he’s a Buddhist; 
he wears a large yellow tilak 
and insists we visit Aurangazeb’s grave.


Meanwhile, elsewhere consciousness 
comes with a price
in a heartbroken city;
it’s never easy to remain balanced
on the debri of lost glories
on Park Street.

But balance we must;
dodging stars, mini buses and stranger planets,
cross flyovers across timezones
and try to not get killed
by a massive Supernova called Sophiya,
her fuchsia headlights and purple fairy-lights
playing a game of hopscotch 
in another dolphin’s dream. 

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