Tuesday, February 02, 2016

The blog has moved  ...... https://wordbandar.wordpress.com/

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Back and back and diversions and diversions

Back to the blog after a while, and to bombay after a wonderful vacation.
A long post on that later.

First a post on Sudarshan's new book -

The 65 lakh heist is a rip roaring read. A taut 200 pages, the book is an English translation of a 1977 Hindi crime classic - 65 Lakh ki Dakaiti or The 65 Lakh Heist by Surender Mohan Pathak.

The novel features Pathak's popular anti-hero Vimal, a reluctant member of a daring bank robbery that forms the heart of the novel. Set mostly in 1970s Punjab, the novel moves from heist to cross and double cross. Each chapter number is accompanied by the acetylene torch that plays a huge part in the robbery, and the book features reproductions of a few of Pathak's original covers.

A must buy-read. Read reviews here, here and here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

after a shamefully long haitus...

... a new poem

This poem

This poem will start simple
and speak straight to you
because you wrote it yourself
you will forget this poem
as soon as you've heard it.

This is the poem you
tried to write at sixteen
and would have at thirty
if not busy buying a living.

This poem will change nothing.
This poem was written in Bombay.
This poem is a road
you can either walk down
or rename.

This poem has seen death.
In fatal railway track crossings
and exploded first class carraiges,
Blood on riot born swords
and from every day
mosquito bites of indifference.

This poem has cried itself to flooding,
drowned in its own tears
and still lived to complain
about the city's under-performing gutters.

This poem is sunlight
and life giving rain. It
rises up and shakes it's
filth covered fist at the sun
laughing at its own bruises.

This poem is dead. It
wrote itself on the back of
an unencashed compensation cheque
passed from father to son.

This poem is ordinary, thats
why it is beautiful.
This poem is breath- sweet
smog coloured concrete scented
breath, the scent thrown off
by huge metal animals
in a steel and brick forest.

This poem would be ordinary
if it were beautiful
with burgundy dyed similies
and streaky blond allusions
but this poem is bald.
It uses none of it's
own words, instead it uses
ten rupee roadside words
stuffed in pavs, with onions
and two types of chutney.

This poem is washed over
in the surf of a thousand
other poems whose sentences
clamber over it like children
reaching for view of the tamasha
and yet its shoulders stay strong.

This poem will win no awards
This poem is unoriginal.
This poem comes without intervals
or toilet breaks, this poem
would be longer if the neighbours
didn't play-their-music-so-fucking-loud

This poem is a thief.
It sips your sweetest dreams,
gorges on your laughter,
wins your children's adoration
fucks your wife, your husband
and leaves you to navigate
those empty afternoon hours alone.

This poem is always simple
and speaks straight through you
you always forget this poem
as soon as you've heard it
because you write it yourself.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mango Fudge

Mango Fudge

Part I - Recipe

are made of this -
a basin of warm weather,
filled with a generous helping
of days as easy as
a lazy

river on a leash
friendly chatter like cold beer
down a throat dry with
shouting at four walls

of drunk laughter
silly humour, not pieced out
in chance bites but spread
smooth and deep delicious.
The sun

a generous mango dollop
on a plate of sky
a day you reach into
a bag of sweets with
no fear of finding
empty wrappers.

Part II - Digestion

Confessions after the second
evening drink are the easiest
to forget and swallow with
the next.

It's the mid-afternoon
story of a child's death
that makes you think of
the screams

that have no walls
to bounce off here, perhaps
they collect as those black
river-shore rocks

hidden under deep skirts
of water in some weather,
in others lying naked, bawling
to the sun.

Part III - Fudged

The woods are silent
when they creep up on you
The woods are silent and still
You ride an empty road
comfortably through a country
of burnt grass and rock

They're on you in
row after row, still and bare
Regiment after regiment they drill
past – a sepia evening parade
coming at you in thin

Of time as if
This road dipped in and out
of sleep as it dices
talk into slow spaced words
scattering breadcrumbs of sound

Of sweet witch cake
that stains your hand yellow
as you try to ring the bell
on this door of perception,
that remains closed for yet
another spell.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Other Butterfly that Stamped

The Other* Butterfly that Stamped

Rohinton Daruwala

A man, looking out a window spies
Two butterflies in a tree,
A male outside, while a female lies

Emerging from her cocoon, still not free.
The male over eager to mate,
Tears at the cocoon impatiently.

The man makes jokes at their fate,
Can't emerge now - my hair's not dry,
Reservations at seven, we'll be late.

He watches the male try after try,
And then sees him fly away
Into a lonely piece of sky.

The man imagines him making his way
In through window onto instrument panel
A green yellow stone in a garden of grey

Floating and landing in a careless channel
Of buttons, activating sequence pins
That launch missiles, whose metallic enamel

Like the teeth of fire-bearded djinns
Open up to swallow a city complete
In a single giant mushroom that spins

Out a gift of radiational heat
That warms the female butterfly
Now emerged and in all conceit

Fluttering impatiently, wondering why
Her mate wandered off and whether
The suddenly darkening sky

Is another case of butterfly weather.

*The entire story (thank the public domain) is available here

Monday, June 18, 2007



Before, your thin wick burnt
unnoticed, aflame in summer heat.
Now stumble, stumble in the cold rain
dissolving your melted misshapen feet.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Of catalysis and stranger reactions

Browsing the scifiction archive, was delighted to find to find this piece by Michael Swanwick, which of course reminded me instantly of Primo Levi's Periodic Table. The wikipedia entry refers to all 21 entries as "short stories", but from what I can remember, the majority were memoirs.

From my undependable memory - Hydrogen and Helium were childhood memoirs, hydrogen with the classic eyebrow-erasing chemistry experiment
either Cerium or Chromium a memoir of a desperate concentration camp existence
I have a distinct memory of one being about ammonia or ammonium, which of course can't be right, but it was about a chemical factory, so it probably is "Sulphur"
Either Lead or Iron, is a genuine tale - the life of a middle aged smith or quarryman

but all of them brilliant. It comes as no surprise that the book won this

And even the memory of Levi's books stirs as it did on reading, memories of the more weird-historical paragraphs that seep into chemistry textbooks - images of Sulphur vapour condensing, the rejected slag of an iron extraction, the long long pathways of sulphuric acid production - the alchemical dirt under the fingernails of modern chemistry.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007



tea, rhymes with gold,
or better still,
sunlight breaking through
the trees,

the coldness of stone
with the first touch
of a still pool
of water.

There's music
in sea-waves waking
at dawn,

in watching a man walk
watching a woman walk
or a child run
across a street.

I could paint you
a whole story
using only

the peach soft touch
of a first kiss

the hunger of
the endless empty hours
of midnight

the roll of
cool water down
a parched throat

the touch and
embrace of skin
warm as honey

and with the burning
lonely shame
of tears.

When I speak,
even in my silence.

The best poems
are written in silence,
to the rhythm
of a beating heart.

*written for/inspired by a friend's sign language workshop

Monday, April 16, 2007

Changing Planes

Judging a book by its foreword isn't as big as a sin as judging it by its cover, but it does come close.

I ignored Ursula Leguin's Changing Planes on bookshelves for quite a while before stumbling onto a library copy.
I had somehow gained an initial impression that the whole book was about air travel, but it isn't at all (well except for one part which is delightful)
What it actually is, is a woven-together set of short tales, each one describing a society on another "plane" that is just a little bit different from ours.

The first one - Porridge on Islac - is a gently dystopic view of genetic engineering gone horribly wrong.

My personal favourites are the two language ones (not least because I'm struggling at the moment with a language story myself):
The Silence of the Asonu - a few words on a society whose individuals literally never say a word and
The Nna Mmoy Language - a tale of a people whose mono-syllabary language is completely (and hence unintelligibly) contextual.

The third-last tale - The Flyers of Gy - whose bootlegged copy I'd read a couple of years ago seems appropriate for an end to a book about planes and planes. It describes a society of bird-like people, some of whom can actually fly, though for a change, not all of them want to. Its a completely different take of course from the normal fantastic/exultory approach to this (for a brilliant execution read Lisa Tuttle's Windhaven)

And browsing the Wikipedia entry for the book I stumble onto a new word - ethnography
Ethnographic it is then - 15 planes in 200 pages - not a bad deal for an evening's virtual travelling.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Take a listen

Asimov's Nightfall read out as a podcast

Monday, April 02, 2007

A stroll around Lankhmar

being yet another pointless book reaction....

Ahhh the sweet self-indulgence of escapist reading.
I'd been holding off reading Fritz Leiber's First Book of Lankhmar like a bag of sweets for so long.
So it was a sweet weekend troddling along with Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser

Leiber coined the term "sword & sorcery" to describe his stories, and there really isn't a better phrase. The stories describe the adventures fantastic, swash-buckling and occasionally comic of Fafhrd a huge Conan-ish barbarian and the diminutive Gray Mouser. There are few "heroes" staining these pages, as the pair battle demons, thieves, wolves four-legged and two-legged in the search for, for the most part, the usual exotic treasures - jewelled skulls, caches of rubies. Enchantment blows across the landscape often, with the occasional whiff of bitter revenge.

The stories beg comparison, with Robert E. Howard, but we will leave that for another post (and when I've actually finished the book, not too much sweet after all all at once)

inane observation -
It took me a couple of stories to guess that the constantly fog ridden and marsh approaching Lankhmar, with its deadly ancient streets smell probably a lot of New York.
Leiber's opening story has a troupe of travelling actors, something he probably knew quite a bit about being the child of two Shakespearean actors.
Those two things fix for me I think correctly how that old maxim should really read - its not "write what you know", it really should be "write and you'll probably end up writing what you know"

inane observation 2 -
the comforting thought, that even after these 600 pages, there does exist (on some bookshelf somewhere waiting for me) a second book of Lankhmar
which of course is like that most important of Sunday dishes - the second dessert

Friday, March 02, 2007

Ugli Fruit

much bad rhyme ensues on reading this post on this fruit

Ugli Fruit

Would you be green
if I picked a tangerine?

Would you be yellow
if you caught me with a pomelo?

Would you to care to kiss the nape
of the neck of a grape?

Or would you prefer
to grapple an apple?

Or dawdle and sample
a chickoo or two?

Another week till Spring
drops off into rot.

Remember, some day
they'll all taste the same,
and that some fruits
are ugli only in name

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Sand Libraries of Timbuktu

The Sand Libraries of Timbuktu

What does a book that's been
silent for seven hundred years
say when you open it?

Does it mutter half-sentences
in crumbling dusty dialects?
Or do the words burst out
of the page inexplicably like
a spring rising out of desert sand?

Perhaps the books are more ordinary
and like their curators
firework-bereft and bald
Tracts political, historical,
astronomical, and all in verse
enlightening, undramatic, practical
their ancient authors
unencumbered by the West

How often has a book that's been
passed from generation to generation
been read out loud?

Enough trickling out perhaps
to stain shores more familiar now
A sufi tale or two in Andersen's
with clothing heavier for the Danish cold
The silvery glint of a medical
treatise in Crusoe's empty island

Which of these thousands of books
Which of these millions of pages
Soon to be gathered up by academic
hordes, by armies of vain collectors
will be left to the careless wayfarer
blind to the beacon of Shining Africa?

Perhaps a thin sheaf of love poems
Like the claws of a meaty beast
Cast off as offal, but still the shape
of those that still mark our flesh
as we stumble blindly in the desert
in the slow search for the Caravan

Cigarettes and Dawn

Cigarettes and Dawn

his old man fingers shake a little
as he lights up the unfinished morning
and speaks

the myths are all wrong
Prometheus as a clumsy
found out thief
the real discoverers of fire
were a couple of neandernethals
trying to light up a joint

he takes another puff
after the joke's spilled out of him like smoke
a sliver of ash
falls onto the table like grey rain

ask yourself just what I'm smoking
he says
you'll probably start
with the smoke rings
cause they're so pretty
and thats as good a reason as anything
I'll bet you could float up there
for years and years

then, later
you might get down
and double up on the ash
evidence of the crime
and maybe you're real smart with evidence
you'll have at it with cold science
and all your machines of logic

and, later still
you'll think about the cigarette itself
you'll get past brand names
sink those fingers
right into the tobacco, the paper
you'll smoke em yourself
the real real experience
and then you'll think
you've got me

he coughs, and then
his voice lies still on the silence
like it were rich carpetting

if you're lucky
he says
you'll catch a glimpse of the flame
and maybe you'll get
to stare at it a little
baby-eyed unblinking
before it goes out

he's done smoking and as he gets up
to walk into a pink-grey morning
of half-filled tea glasses
he's got an old man's face
craggy and unshaven
with yellowed teeth
and two unblinking coal-black eyes
that could stare the Sun into shame

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Second Place!!!

second place in the Kala Ghoda poetry slam
and the poem I sent in

Sunday, December 31, 2006

resolutions shmesolutions

prodded by a caf thread
for 2007 - my (writing) resolutions:

I will write every day.

I will take the brakes off when I write.

I will start actually using my blog for blogging.

I will take my head out of the barrel instead of scraping the bottom.

I will work at not working.

I will try to remember there is more to Fantasy than Tolkien and Howard.

I will try to remember there is more to Tolkien and Howard than Fantasy.

I will learn.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Lunch with the Aztecs

Lunch with the Aztecs

We sit down to eat
in pleasing familiarity
the perfume of flowers
freshly picked
The mother smiles at me
with folded hands
In the bathroom
she says
father's in the bathroom
I imagine him
the last smooth scrape
he considers the blade
and why not?
an offering
a minute sacrifice
a slice of skin
for family health
a promotion
kinder neighbours

I wonder
if I listen close
under the sound
of my breath
What will it sound like?
splitting skin like butter
or the wicked wicked
sawing through
of tough leather
and will it boil over
like thin red lava
or splatter splatter rush
out like a river
subterranean once
now liberated

And then he will sit
with us
his fresh wounds glowing
with the pride
of paternal self-sacrifice

And the snake will dance
before me
its thick green body
with its sap of life
adorned with feathers
bright bright feathers

Atop the dizzying heights
of a decaying pyramid
I will squint
into a valley of bones
sharpened to daggers
and count which ones
I arrange for my enemies
and which ones
are arranged for me

Monday, December 04, 2006

When the Words Matter

When the Words Matter

It happens when I am sunk
deep into the ink black night
Or when I'm burnt brown
in the unflinching noonday Sun.

My Words lie on my palm
like hard empty diamonds
with no trace of breath or blood
in them, no trace of life.

They slip away onto the grass
in a hundred irrelevant arrangements
And I am left standing to ask
Do they matter? Matter at all?

And I consider myths
The general inspired by a single
line of verse to raise an army
and lay waste a kingdom.

Lovers seduced by a single
word, its syllables blooded
like rose petals, by a phrase
spelt like a chain of promises.

Words that have carried shame
and hate and hope and laughter
like thin shelled eggs
shed to hatch demons.

This much then is given -
to be the weak triggers, keys,
linchpins of events and happenings.
But this is not enough.

An argument that bends
weakly like the blades of grass
crushed under the wordless
demanding weight of my body.

And the meaning of the words
comes to me with the coolness
of an arriving dawn, the warmth
of a departing evening breeze.

It comes to me with the
raking sound of the nails of
a demon of pain that will not
depart until you coin its name.

With the sound of the ache
of an ecstasy of love that will
burst you open like over-ripe fruit
unless you vent its description.

With the unsounded scream
of terror at the deep night
of aloneness that swallows all
curses, hopes, pleadings poured into it.

With the unyielding will of
a prisoner knotting his own nerves
saying I will not forget ever
I will not will not will not

The Muse

The Muse

Each night he writes and writes,
Scratching out black gashes
On the thin skin of notebooks,
While I hover inches from his lips.

Each night he wants me to come
And light up the tender tallow
Of his flickering imagination.
Each night I come to him in vain.

He chose this house for its
Quiet solitude, but he know not
What lurks beneath its floor
Each night I try to make him see.

He thinks I come to help him
Write his sentimental verse.
I come to try and make him see the
Demons scraping up towards his feet.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Second Place!!!