Aim, Shoot, Poster

On March 31, 2013 by admin





Alok Dhanwa








 District Magistrate


You are an outdated speaker


You speak such an oppositional tongue

As if you are fighting kings

Of a time when Parliament was unborn still


Do you think the Parliament has allowed

The language and traps of hostility the same

As it used to be during the times of the kings?


This man, on the other side of the table, listening to you so intently

Patiently, with full concentration

He is not a king

He is the district magistrate.


He is the district magistrate

More educated, adept, impersonal

Than the king.


This man is not from that distant fort—brought up in cold pomposity.

He was born in these back-alleys

He’s brought up amid our failures and mistakes

Aware of our courage, greed

He is way more  indulgent and canny than the kings.


He can conjure up more confusion

And keep us away more clinically from freedom

The government must keep close vigil on his superlative mind.


Sometimes we must even learn from him.



Lights, Projection, Your First Film


The night the bund gave way

And the river flowed in


You didn’t even care to inquire


The way you grew up without this town

Where stood your first train

Lights, projection, your first film.




The riches of those women have remained with me

The ones who had trained me to cross the chowk


From my mohalla they turned up

Every morning to their work they went

My school on their way

Ma would lend me to them. In their safeguard.

And I would await them after school-break.

Yes, those women taught me waiting.


And then the local quasbah school loomed

On my own now, I made other friends.

There were other roads to the school, other keys

We found out soon.


Decades gone, those days

Come back to me.

In some big city

Seeking to go across some odd, imposing chowk

I think of those women

I extend my right hand to them

And with my left, I clutch the slate


The way I had left them

At the broadsheet-backs of my twenty twenty years.



Who Saved my Soul?


Who saved my soul?

A flicker of a light from the little candle

A few boiled potatoes saved it.


Flames in dry leaves

And earthen utensils saved it.


That jungle yellow cot

And that yellow coloured moon

Those street-play lumpen jokers

In rags

With voices like the glory of truth

Tussling, exchanging blows

In street corners

Driving away rioters


From these fearless blithe Hindustanis have I learnt the craft of the stage

Drama seemed like some thoroughly drenched outfit.


Carrying tongs for grandma’s rotis

From the Idgaah mela, little Hamid returns

And after December 6

As February was sneaking in

Wild berries


Yes, these things have saved my soul.





Now you even get paid for forgetting

This is what greedy, untroubled folks do.





Ah, Junction. Where the train stops for some time. Tarries.

Refuels itself for the rest of the journey


I look for my old sweetheart there.


Aim, Shoot, Poster


Is it April 20, 1972

Or the right arm of a professional killer or the leathery mittens

Of some spy or some stain on the binoculars of a marauder?

Whatever it might be, I can’t call it a day.


It is an ancient place where I am writing now

Where till this day, tobacco sells more than words


The sky here is pig high

Nobody uses tongue here

Nobody uses eyes here

Nobody uses ears here

Nobody uses nose here


Here: only teeth and stomach

Arms scraped in soil

No humans

Save a blue khokhal

Relentless, that seeks grain


From one torrential rain to another…


Here, is this woman my ma

Or an iron girder 5 feet tall

In which hangs a couple of dry rotis.

Like long dead birds

There is no gulf between my daughter and my strike

As constitution, true to its promise

Keeps on breaking my daughter and my strike.


After one flash election

Am I supposed to stop thinking about explosives?

On this April 20, 1972, can I live with my children like a father ought to live?

Like an inkpot filled with ink

Like a ball

Like a heath full of grass

Can I live with my children?


Those people ferry me to my poems

They use and blindfold me, let me rot across the border

Never letting me reach the capital, distant

I get hounded, detained even before I reach the Zila-town.


No, not the government

The cheapest cigarette brand in this country has stood by my side.


My childhood, that germinated near my sister’s feet

Like yellow rend shrubs

Has been flattened by the daroga’s buffalo

If the daroga has the right to shoot so that he can save what remains human

Why not me?


In this soil that I am writing now

In this soil that I walk

In this soil that I plough

In this soil that I sow the seeds

And this soil from which, extracting grains

I carry to the godowns and storehouses

Should I have the right to shoot for this soil

Or this rat of a zamindar who wants to make this country

A moneylender’s dog?


This is not a poem.

It is the realization of shooting bullets

Which are now meeting every single pen-pusher.

Every single tiller.



Girls on Rooftops


Still the girls come on to the rooftops

Their shadows fall on my life


The girls are here for the boys

Downstairs, amidst bullets, the boys play cards

Sitting, on the stairs above the drain

Lazing on benches outside the footpath tea-stall

Sipping tea

Around a boy who plays the  mouth-organ sweet

Timeless tunes of Awara, Sree 420.


A newspaperwallah spreads his wares

And some young men read the early edition

Not all are students

Some unemployed yet, small timers some

Whilers, lumpens


But in their veins, bloodstreams

They await a girl

A hope—that from these houses and rooftops

One day, some day—love will arrive.

Translation by HUG


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