OtherCities, OtherWorlds

Tel Aviv Plays

Posted by admin on April 18, 2017
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The long street poles

along the promenade

cuts a right angle with the

straight line of the horizon

Carving up the Mediterranean sea

and sky into two hues of blue and green

 

The swirling waves crowned with white horses

hurry to the beaches

And spit similar image

in the tiny burst of clouds floating in the sky

 

People frolic in the beach,

beach bumming or just looking on at the waves

Cool-legged girls sun their milk and honey, soft-brown bikini bodies

that shine in the sharp Levant sun

as their black, olive curls flow at the direction of the breeze

The unrestrained breakers keep licking their toes

 

The waves breaking hard at the stony quay, a loud crash

is a catalyst that creates high tides in the veins of the boys of the summer

And one with passionate spontaneity

lifts a young woman he desires and plunges forward to the sea

The woman’s fleshy hips bouncing and bulging on his shoulders

until he collides against the tide…a loud splash

 

Drinking a cool corona and tuna pizza with fellow lunchers

softened up and slacking in the afternoon draft

that swirl the hairs of girls tying it up while caught up in their chat

 

A classy granny enjoying her drink with olives

and catching the waves raft

The window panes of tall buildings glint with the sun

 

As the afternoon give way to evening,

the sun dips fast, casting an orangy glow in the sky

Settling just for a second in the line where the sky and the sea meet

Just enough to cast a glimmer of red,

into the faces of a row of burqa clad women

until sizzling into the sea.

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Darjeeling Sling

Posted by admin on February 04, 2017
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Darjeeling, Darjeeling, oh Darjeeling…

Queen of the Hills… Darjeeling

To be in her laps, is like stirring in the midst of clouds

flowing down the crag

that embraces you in its chilly, cotton,

nauseating swing

transporting you to a distant past, memories that are

black & white – the monochrome that sets in the town,

in the drenched high streets, ridges, alpine trees

after a cold, sad rain that brings

thick, bluish fog of eve

that chokes the life out of this presumptuous old hag

 

Along the streets that rise

from the chaos of lower bazaars

Past damp, derelict looking wood

and concrete clusters of buildings,

past the moss-covered clock tower

The ticklish whiff of momo and tongba steaming

in the air from roadside eateries and bars

Walking up the winding streets

dazzling with yellow lights from shops, as girls with fresh pinkish cheeks

haggle and boys try to woo them playing on guitar

until you reach the wide expanse of Chowrasta

where people congregate on the benches

and talk about filthy local politics and their garden flower

 

In the morning, the town bobs up and down,

recover and disappears again in the mist

The Kanchenjung seem like a stately iceberg

that appear and vanish in thin air

While the verdant tea gardens roll in the hills in a gentle tryst

On a clear day with the erratic sun

blazing the town suddenly come alive,

all flushed like a comely young girl, blooming spring flower, unplucked, swirling as a feather, crisp

This sudden transformation of this frazzled old maid

reveals the innate delicateness of her youthful days

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Locomotive People

Posted by admin on January 19, 2017
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At the Raxaul train station people were shoving and jostling in line for tickets. Although not a major railway junction, the station was brimming with people. Some sat on their haunches while others lay on the floor, fanning themselves to beat the flies and the heat.

The Express arrived two hours behind schedule, its compartments almost deserted. A group of neatly dressed Gurkhas were placing their luggage on the platform. A lanky man stood out from the group. He was rather shabby compared to others. He clearly didn’t belong to the Gurkha group. With a smile on his pale face, he spoke with a slightly older Gurkha with broad shoulders and pursed lips.

I talked to another man in uniform, and he said I could travel with them in the military bogie, if I wanted. Despite having a reservation elsewhere, I could not turn down the offer.

Once on the train, I took a window seat and watched the soldiers settle, putting their luggage under the long wooden seat that could double as a bed. Soon, the train left the station. The movement was a relief from the mid-day heat and humidity. Continue reading…

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Evening in Paris

Posted by admin on November 02, 2016
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Paris is well worth a mass
Where lovers come to find romance
City of Light, A movable Feast
Spiraling and spiraling
the wide boulevards
form a network of spider’s web

And caught in the aligned
Tree-lined streets with cream-grey
Buildings with aligned top balconies
I say, Ah, Paris, finally made it
Blowing smokes of satisfaction
Sitting on the table of a packed café
That spill out into the streets

A city built for the sights and the senses
That, like a woman retaining her reserved sensuality
With declining age
Bewitches a young man with her elegance, fineries

And as if she exists in two realms
Only understood by Seine’s subtle bends
She transforms into a young, aquiline woman in love
Who gives you her everything while still retaining
Her innocence, purity and charm

But be aware oh! New, novice lovers
Easily mesmerized by looks
Try to see beyond flower filled balconies and windows
Because like the way she navigates the
Boundary of the old and the new trudging
The many bridges
You will find that she also wears
Two faces- one she always displays with
All the cosmetics and perfume of the worlds
The other she only reveals to those who
Have patience enough, and passion, to look

Looking intently at the surviving
jingle jangle of love locks at the Pont des Arts
Pairs, arm-in-arm, stroll
leisurely across the arch bridge
As if seeking blessing for their
Own committed love
From the innocent impressions of time

And in the labyrinthine mesh of the Parisian metropolitan
A frail and frazzled woman in grey jacket,
with her purse dangling down from her fingers
Remains standing staring at nothing in particular
Like an owl in daytime
As people walk swiftly past her
On the very busy passageway
Throwing not so even as a glance

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Ode to Singapore

Posted by admin on October 23, 2016
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I approached you slowly in the windy, moon-lit night
gliding like a Japanese torpedo to dock at your port-side/
Of course, I was dwarfed by your high-heels, stilts
As I burned my fingers in the rubies and sapphires of your necklaces, earrings, bright bracelets that generations of fortune hunters and sailors adorned you with/

Mystical you are, I had heard a lot about your oriental elegance from those who visited you/
But the mystery lady you are, you made me wait for long
Until finally, after years, you sprawl before me, purple satin-silk… tight mouth singing a song/

Those razor cut, fine mandarin eyes staring both softly and sharply
to forbid ghosts, evils from diving in and make you raging and mad/
And as calm descended, you took me in
and covered me in the starry night of your straight, perfumed hair/

Melting me in the fuel of your body all night/

You troubled me in the morning with your heat kept alive by the flame deep beneath you bulging hips/
And for three days I was lost in your contours, your highs and the lows, as I traced my quick breathe on them
Appreciating your silent, soft courtesies
Caressing the delights, fantasies that your slowly spread/

But I am angry with you as only a lover could
cause you didn’t speak to me, not a word all the time we held and embraced/
And my attempts to know you deepest oceans, swim in your fleeting stories went in vain
As I realised that nothing binds you, you are not even in the moment
you are a city in constant transition/

Your charms are reserved for the lusty white, yellow and brown worshipers of wealth
As you abandon your children to the stressful toys
So the migratory birds soars over you, spread its wings and states
I am unable to answer the sphinx at your gates

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Mumbai without reservation

Posted by admin on December 19, 2015
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Mumbai morning was quite a throwback from the glitz and bustle of Bollywood

The stately silence of the tall Victorian buildings, crumbling even as it harked back to its colonial-era elegance.

Red double-decker buses ending their morning round in front of Prince of Wales

…a museum styled in mock-Mughal, its domed structure rising among Palm brood

 

Bom Bom Bom Bom Bombay I had seen in matinee shows had turned to amchi Mumbai

The island seemed to be busy shedding its portly past

In names, at least, of the city’s important landmarks, spread wide and apart

….While I roam around sweating profusely in the rising heat and humidity that drive people into public areas and streets

 

A flabbergasted traveler in a Masala Mega-polis, with striking, contrasting images every step of the way

Skyscrapers, elegant sea-side hotels towering over hapless have-nots, hawkers selling gee-gaws, mutilated beggar,

Young drifters in thin shirts and ankle-length pants sprawled on pavements, sea-walls below raging stars and stellar

High-rollers (in Mercedes, Porsches) and middle-class strollers promenade past plush malls, restaurants along the curvy bay

Carefree and unconcerned…

 

The Gateway of India on the waterfront overlooks the oily waters of the Arabian Sea slapping against the stone steps

Built to welcome a foreign monarch, it now summons terror into the city from distant shores

The pretend Taj Mahal hosts royalties, rockstars, notable guests… and fanatic gunfighters out for blood and gore

Who take vengeance on the city for an unknown debt

 

At the Leopold Cafe, big fans bring some respite from the sultry evening and we chill (with a beer)

The clanking of the dishes seems to animate the place

While clumps of European and American tourists silently munch away and glaze

Amid well heeled/distilled Mumbaikars, while the big fat Parsi owner keeps sweating over the bill(s)

 

Outside the streets slowly get unclogged, but the pavements is teeming with sleepers in undergarments

A road-side peddler by day, his wares neatly locked away somewhere, takes a heroin shot and falls flat for the night

Perhaps to dream of Bollywood heroines, eye candy for his tired sight

In this overcrowded city tightly packed with skyscrapers and squatters’ settlements alike

 

Colaba, Marine Drive, Churchgate, Chowpatty, I drift about the strange city

Maybe to have a peek at its suffering — in small, low huts along grimy ramshackled lanes

of the world’s largest slums and red-light districts with people and prostitutes hanging around in the streets and drains

 

But I make do with photos of my guide books, or whizzing past in cabs shaking my head in pity

After a day-long steamer ride—back and forth from Elephanta caves and being transported into different time, space

To watch the setting sun sizzle into the raging sea from the islet of Haji Ali Shrine

 

After spreading an orange glow, then the violet sky reflecting the color of the waves as revelers take a dip in the brine

That break, break, break into the slippery stony steps of the Dargah of star-crossed lovers whose legends lay waste

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Star of the Sea

Posted by admin on April 26, 2015
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The breeze from the sea

sweeps the carefree

wanderer in you.

Blowing you up the

gentle slopes of the God’s

vineyard to give you a view.

From the top of Mt Carmel,

the sprawl of the city of Haifa

merging into the sapphire blue

Mediterranean

The dome of the Baha’i’s

shrine glowing and tall

And in the symmetry

of its terraced gardens

the equality it professes

between a woman and a man,

everyone and all.

 

Slipping down the quiet,

tree-lined streets…

the downtown, the German colony

Neat little limestone cottages

and houses left by

the German templars

turned into plush restaurants,

boutiques, bars

with people drinking

wine and martini

Their soft-bright

off-white glow is the colour

of the entire town

Hanassi, Pinsky,

Moraiah, Hadar,

Hashalom…

 

The silent, almost

abandoned lanes; dried fallen

leaves on dark-blue

tarred road,

Walking in the mild

winter sun after a heavy lunch

or huddling against the

chilly wind returning

gypsy-tipsy from Seminar bar

with friends after

a long-day class crunch

the mind blank, without

any feel or concern for

tomorrow or work

living in the present, as guests

of the season,

and the promise of excitement and leisure

without any reason

 

Then leaving the calm

of the town- for Tel Aviv

Nazareth, Dead Sea,

Jerusalem,

Reeling before you flat

green fields and small

rolling hills of willows

mustard, herbs; forests

of oak, pine and almond

Till you agree that

the desert has indeed

blossom’ed

 

You see science-tech

and religion, but also

the hidden, pent-up

conflict, the specter of

war and strife

And learn that in the

beautiful relics of mighty

religions, rulers and

empires of the past

are contesting claims

which has long kept the

holy land aghast

It seems to be never

ending story that always

brings with it its own

never-ending worry and

gripe

 

Sun goes down, twilight,

night — the end of the

day-long excursion

While returning all the

way to Haifa half-sleepy,

tired,

To a table of warm soup

and meal

And as sleep slowly steal

you away

Random thoughts take

you down a vista of

images that striked you

all day

And you realise that

nothing in life is as

peaceful like a quiet

slow night in your bed

With dreams slowly

enveloping you in the

safety of the Biblical hill

by the Mediterranean.

I say, Haifa you are

splendid, peaceful and warm, like

mother Mary to some degree

Stella Maris be

your name, cause you

are truly a Star of the Sea.

 

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Kolkata Collage

Posted by admin on March 16, 2015
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The Express click clacks into Howrah

on a nippy silver-grey morning.

Steel wheels squeal to a stop.

Flurry of activities off the track.

 

A torrent of humanity in the city by the Hooghly River.

Indeed this is the City of Joy

where beggars brandish their sores and shake off the winter.

 

The strong smell of beedi.

Vapour rising

from people huddled

around tea and food stalls.

Packed buses and battered trams

hurtling past old, crumbling buildings.

Half-naked people inside unused drains

Stray dogs, squatting pissers,

dark factory chimneys.

 

 

Calcutta, Kolkata…

like the interchangeable name,

the sights of the city change

from English grandeur

to Bengali geniality

with equal ease.

Waterloo Street, Jackson Lane, Elgin, Dalhousie Square

Dharmatala, Bowbazaar, Tollygunj, Belighata,Chowringhee.

Palatial mansions, British memorials, monuments.

The Royal Calcutta Club serving English cookies and afternoon tea.

They clamour for space

among brisk crowd, reckless traffic,

strikes, demonstrations,

sadhus, street hawkers,

handcarts drawn sometimes by horse

sometimes bare-chested men–a poverty striptease.

 

A forced but passionate mixture

of the East and West is Kolkata,

Where Bengali babus with tastes of

the English gentleman

complain about life in a dying city,

talk about Tagore, Marx,

the metropolitan problems—

they recall the heyday of the Raj,

and gulp down a rich pudding at Flury’s,

talking about Kolkata’s destitute and starving.

The indifferent human maze on the streets, lanes, buses, trams, the metro.

The various degrees of human degradation at Kalighat.

Blessed Teresa’s home for the hungry, the naked, the crippled, the blind.

The flesh-trading labyrinthine ghettos.

 

In Kolkata, a perfection-seeking youth

learns the bitter lesson

that life is not a textbook, all shimmery.

It is to learn from those

who find bits and pieces of happiness

amidst their destituteness, dispossession

pointlessness.

From a frail little granny wearing

a wrinkled sari, siting near a culvert

smiling, combing the dark tresses

of a little girl looking at passersby

with cool eagerness.

It is to take heart

from the fact that

there are lives in this city

who show how to squeeze

fleeting happiness

from their private misery.

(Citiwalks.com)

 

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The Turkish Connection: What Kathmandu can learn from Istanbul?

Posted by admin on March 01, 2015
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Ferry ride in Bosphorus, Istanbul

Looking at the Galata Tower from the Bosphorus straits in Istanbul, the part of my mind given to making comparisons reminded me of Kathmandu’s Dharahara. Both are nine-story tall (Galata stands at 66.9 m, just a little taller than Dharahara’s 61.8 m). Dharahara, also called Bhimsen Tower, was Kathmandu’s tallest structure when it was built in 1832, and so was the conical-shaped Galata when it was constructed in 1348. And both towers command a huddle of tightly-packed houses and buildings in the heart of the respective cities.

Though Kathmandu’s Dharahara cannot match the architectural splendor of Galata Tower, the likeness between the two cities of antiquity doesn’t end here.

To start with, writers and poets sometimes invoke Kathmandu’s  historical names – “Kantipur” and “Kasthamandup” – to call to mind the city’s former beauty while Istanbul could be referred to by many as “Constantinople”. (The Istanbul guide book I was carrying mentioned a certain Lale Pudding Shop at Divanyolu neighborhood, calling it the“fabled halfway point to Kathmandu of 60’s hippie lore”). And if Kathmandu is the City of Gods with hundreds of beautiful temples, shrines, stupas and monasteries in ancient city squares, palaces, narrow alleyways, and street corners  Istanbul is the City of Mosques. The first thing that strikes visitors to this city are the imposing, visually stunning domes and edifices of mosques which dot the city. The former imperial city that served as the capital of four empires – Megarian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman, making it the crossroads of various civilisations –  has altogether 3,113 mosques, minarets and madrashas. Continue reading…

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Haji Ali Dargah, Mumbai, India

Posted by admin on February 21, 2015
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Six-hundred-year-old Haji Ali Dargah is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Mumbai (formerly Bombay). May, 2009

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