Cerebral Fodder

September 2003



Amid the recent blasts from bombs detonated in Mumbai and the unstoppable boom of its current bull market one may be forgiven for being seriously puzzled by what is going on. As always, there is a deeper malaise at work, and an even stranger logic. Will the bombs wake us up or put us back to sleep again? Will they put us merely on passive alert or shall we go on the offensive? The truth probably lies somewhere in between. To feel a bit carefree—and transcendent—at a time like this is only to express Kundera's 'unbearable lightness of being'. What choice have we but to oppose whatever oppresses us, when everything seems to be falling apart and an incurable sense of powerlessness takes over?
I offer two pieces of prosaic verse that reflect in part the state of things as they are. This is far more painful for those who live, or have to live, in India—yet Indians must face the truth no matter who tells it. Perhaps it will point to things as we might like them to be. After all, India may well be at the crossroads of all the crises now facing mankind. A chronic patient who nonetheless lives on scraps of hope—who can't lose sight of the good that does exist.

INDIA, the Patient

Two Verses

India’s Aberration ?

A cancer that has metastasized?
Or a benign, local one?
Or just a chronic, peripheral condition?
Or just a temporary wound?
Or a serious illness in its acute phase?
Or just a minor scratch on the surface?
An innocent bruise?
Or an innate disorder that has no antidote?

This land of eternity
Flush with vitality
Even as the dens of disease and death gnaw away
Like an infection that never heals
Where sugar calls the shots
Where sugar hijacks its blood
A diabetic body politic
A hyperglycemic state
Fighting the rot

Poets in Despair

All you fine poets
You rhapsodize
Your words resonate with 'literary' feeling
They need a home
They find a home
In pages far too alien
In hallowed journals of repute

Yet you hang out
In colonies, nagars, and societies
In kutirs, kunjs and enclaves
Where callous babus
Spread the stink of bureaucracy
And thick-skinned philistine rulers add their own

How helpless you are
You feel utterly powerless
You can do nothing
But romance word after word
Caress their images, sounds, meanings
If the poet as PM plays deaf, who else will listen?

No matter
Something lusty about the incongruity of soaring language
The supreme anodyne for hell
The modern supermarket elixir
A cheap protest
Bring it on, the more the merrier
Privation leads to a hunger for more
Not less
Not less

—Jayant Deshpande