Octet by Vikram Seth

Artwork by Uruslav

You don’t love me at all? O God. O Shit.
You still ‘respect me.’ Thanks. I value it
About as much as one who’s asked to use
A second hat when he’s in need of shoes.
Since, I discover, my own self-respect
Is quite enough to keep my spine erect
Why is it true my ample self-affection
Will not suffice to buoy me in rejection?

Learn more about Vikram Seth and his works here.

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Also on Indian Verse: Unclaimed by Vikram Seth

Note: Heartbreaks are difficult to deal with. While the first cut is the deepest, the rest still flippin’ hurt, as Sheryl Crow and Passenger would say. But we go by the words of Dr. Stephen Hawking who knows that life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.

Vikram Seth tries to see the funnier side of a heart-break in his ‘Octet’.

Who or what does this poem remind you of (besides your pet hamster)? Tell us in the comments below.

Octet by Vikram Seth

Key by Dom Moraes



Ground in the Victorian lock, stiff,
With difficulty screwed open,
To admit me to the seven mossed stairs
And the badly kept garden.

Who runs to me in memory
Through flowers destroyed by no love

But the child with brown hair and eyes,
Smudged all over with toffee?

I lick his cheeks. I bounce him in air.
Two bounces, he disappears.

Fifteen years later, he redescends,
Not as a postponed child, but a letter
Asking me for his father who now possesses
No garden, no home, not even any key.

Learn more about Don Moraes here.

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Note: Dom Moraes meticulously pieces together images and presents a life-time condensed in a flashback. His voice echoes through the corridors of memory as his childhood rushes back to meet him and he relives a time past, while at the same time noticing things that are now forever lost.

What images or objects do you associate with your childhood? Share your stories with us in the comments below.




Key by Dom Moraes

To An Unborn Daughter by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

Artwork by Pascal Campion

If writing a poem could bring you
Into existence, I’d write one now,
Filling the stanzas with more
Skin and tissue than a body needs,
Filling the lines with speech.
I’d even give you your mother’s

Close-bitten nails and light-brown eyes,
For I think she had them. I saw her
Only once, through a train window,
In a yellow field. She was wearing
A pale-coloured dress. It was cold.
I think she wanted to say something.

Learn more about Arvind Krishna Mehrotra here.

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To An Unborn Daughter by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

Life Signs by Jayanta Mahapatra

Photography by Mitsuru Moriguchi

What’s in my father’s house
is not mine. In his eyes,

dirty and heavy as rainwater
flowing into earth, is the ridicule

my indifference quietly left behind:

and the whisper
of an old myth in the clouds.

Thinking to escape his beliefs
I go to meet the spectre of belief,

a looming shadow the colour of mud,
watery and immense as the Ganga.

Learn more about Jayanta Mahapatra and his works here.

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Also on Indian Verse: Freedom by Jayanta Mahapatra

Note: One of the shorter poems by Jayanta Mohapatra, ‘Life Signs’ continues to echo the nuances of father-child relationship. The visual details highlight the emotional appeal of the poem as the son revisits his old father and sees in his eyes a life that is at once too close and yet, unfamiliar.

How was your relationship with your father? Share with us the comments.


Life Signs by Jayanta Mahapatra

The Rains by Dilip Chitre

Bangladesh: O grande transbordamento

Through her blood’s lightly layered
Hazy darkness
Lightning flashes out branches of my being
When, through intoxicated wet leaves,
The sudden stirring that’s the month of Ashadha
Passes tenderly like a slight shiver.
And there remains
Only she
Of the trees, among the trees, for the trees:
Woman smelling of the season.

Learn more about Dilip Chitre and his works here.

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Also on Indian Verse: Father Returning Home by Dilip Chitre

Note: The charm of Dilip Chitre’s poetry lies in the soft, beautiful images his words create and the permeating gaze which pulls the reader’s eyes towards the poet’s vision as the latter draws out a story from the image.

Ashadha is the fourth month of the Hindu calendar that marks the days roughly between 22nd June and 22nd July. During this period, the northern half of India experiences a dry spell in weather while the southern part feels a steep rise in humidity.

What do the rains remind you of? Share with us in the comments.


The Rains by Dilip Chitre

Why Do The Heroes Die by Meena Kandasamy

Photograph by Henri Huet

Unlike in fairy tales, young heroes die.
All the dazzling princes, strong men of might,
Robinhoods and Messiahs that never lie
Are done to death, Evil winning the fight.

Heroes are bled; not just deprived of life
God turns in his throne, the dead in cold graves
And perhaps death ends the lifetimes of strife.
Is slaughter the prize for not being slaves?

Brave men encounter blows, fight their case,
Leave forsaking the world they came to mend.
‘Youth may arise and fill this vacant space’
One faint hope; heroes reach the destined end.

Heroes get their Halos. Applause. Praise.
All glories shine brighter with sacrifice.

Learn more about Meena Kandasamy and her works here.

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Also on Indian Verse: Non-Conversations with a Lover by Meena Kandasamy

Note: What defines Meena Kandasamy’s poetry is her acute caste consciousness and the cutting imagery with which she exposes the deep divides inherent in the Indian society. Another characteristic quality is her versatility to explore subjects and thoughts that are more universal in their appeal. In Why Do the Heroes Die?, she questions the value of each life lost to valor in the battlefield. For every person willing to kill, there would be another willing to die to save others. Between this murderous madness, countless stories are lost.

Is slaughter really the prize for not being slaves? Tell us what you think.

Why Do The Heroes Die by Meena Kandasamy

Yeshwant Rao by Arun Kolatkar

Photography Credits: Lorne Warburton

Are you looking for a god?
I know a good one.
His name is Yeshwant Rao
and he’s one of the best.
look him up
when you are in Jejuri next.
Of course he’s only a second class god
and his place is just outside the main temple.
Outside even of the outer wall.
As if he belonged
among the tradesmen and the lepers.
I’ve known gods
prettier faced
or straighter laced.
Gods who soak you for your gold.
Gods who soak you for your soul.
Gods who make you walk
on a bed of burning coal.
Gods who put a child inside your wife.
Or a knife inside your enemy.
Gods who tell you how to live your life,
double your money
or triple your land holdings.
Gods who can barely suppress a smile
as you crawl a mile for them.
Gods who will see you drown
if you won’t buy them a new crown.
And although I’m sure they’re all to be praised,
they’re either too symmetrical
or too theatrical for my taste.
Yeshwant Rao,
mass of basalt,
bright as any post box,
the shape of protoplasm
or king size lava pie
thrown against the wall,
without an arm, a leg
or even a single head.
Yeshwant Rao.
He’s the god you’ve got to meet.
If you’re short of a limb,
Yeshwant Rao will lend you a hand
and get you back on your feet.
Yeshwant Rao
Does nothing spectacular.
He doesn’t promise you the earth
Or book your seat on the next rocket to heaven.
But if any bones are broken,
you know he’ll mend them.
He’ll make you whole in your body
and hope your spirit will look after itself.
He is merely a kind of a bone-setter.
The only thing is,
as he himself has no heads, hands and feet,
he happens to understand you a little better.

Learn more about Arun Kolatkar and his works here.

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Also on Indian Verse: The Station Master by Arun Kolatkar

Note: Arun Kolatkar works through contrasts that are stark and powerful, yet subdued, which make his images blend into the background without dissolving altogether. In  ‘Yeshwant Rao’, there is an added layer of light humour that balances the poet’s rather sharp critique of idol worship. The description of Yeshwant Rao manages to recast the idea of a hindu god by removing the extravagant and retaining only the essential aspects of divinity.

What do you think the poet is trying to say in the last three lines? Tell us in the comments.



Yeshwant Rao by Arun Kolatkar

Still Life by A. K. Ramanujan

Photography Credits: Joshi Daniel


When she left me
after lunch, I read
for a while.
But I suddenly wanted
to look again
and I saw the half-eaten
lettuce and salami,
all carrying the shape
of her bite.

Learn more about Ramanujan and his work here.

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Also on Indian Verse: Self-Portrait by A. K. Ramanujan

Note: It is quintessential Ramanujan style to find life and its multi-hued stories between the cracks and crevices of everyday experiences. ‘Still-Life’ is another poem that showcases Ramanujan’s mastery.

Do people really leave their traces and echoes behind when they leave? Tell us in the comments!

Still Life by A. K. Ramanujan

Unclaimed by Vikram Seth

Artwork by Huebucket


To make love with a stranger is the best.
There is no riddle and there is no test. —

To lie and love, not aching to make sense
Of this night in the mesh of reference.

To touch, unclaimed by fear of imminent day,
And understand, as only strangers may.

To feel the beat of foreign heart to heart
Preferring neither to prolong nor part.

To rest within the unknown arms and know
That this is all there is; that this is so.

Learn more about Vikram Seth and his works here.

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Also on Indian Verse: Time Zones by Vikram Seth

Note: Vikram Seth’s poems are as succinct as they are powerful, untangling a thought thread by thread and capturing so much in so little. The rhymes and the simplicity of his work make him a favourite for those who sit and shyly scribble verses on the corners of tissue paper that go on to exchange hands and hearts.

Have you had any strangely intimate experience with a stranger? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below.

Unclaimed by Vikram Seth

Background, Casually by Nissim Ezekiel

Artwork by Toti Cerda


A poet-rascal-clown was born,
The frightened child who would not eat
Or sleep, a boy of meager bone.
He never learned to fly a kite,
His borrowed top refused to spin.

I went to Roman Catholic school,
A mugging Jew among the wolves.
They told me I had killed the Christ,
That year I won the scripture prize.
A Muslim sportsman boxed my ears.

I grew in terror of the strong
But undernourished Hindu lads,
Their prepositions always wrong,
Repelled me by passivity.
One noisy day I used a knife.

At home on Friday nights the prayers
Were said. My morals had declined.
I heard of Yoga and of Zen.
Could 1, perhaps, be rabbi saint?
The more I searched, the less I found.

Twenty two: time to go abroad.
First, the decision, then a friend
To pay the fare. Philosophy,
Poverty and Poetry, three
Companions shared my basement room.

The London seasons passed me by.
I lay in bed two years alone,
And then a Woman came to tell
My willing ears I was the Son
Of Man. I knew that I had failed

In everything, a bitter thought.
So, in an English cargo ship
Taking French guns and mortar shells
To Indo China, scrubbed the decks,
And learned to laugh again at home.

How to feel it home, was the point.
Some reading had been done, but what
Had I observed, except my own
Exasperation? All Hindus are
Like that, my father used to say,

When someone talked too loudly, or
Knocked at the door like the Devil.
They hawked and spat. They sprawled around.
I prepared for the worst. Married,
Changed jobs, and saw myself a fool.

The song of my experience sung,
I knew that all was yet to sing.
My ancestors, among the castes,
Were aliens crushing seed for bread
(The hooded bullock made his rounds).

One among them fought and taught,
A Major bearing British arms.
He told my father sad stories
Of the Boer War. I dreamed that
Fierce men had bound my feet and hands.

The later dreams were all of words.
I did not know that words betray
But let the poems come, and lost
That grip on things the worldly prize.
I would not suffer that again.

I look about me now, and try
To formulate a plainer view:
The wise survive and serve–to play
The fool, to cash in on
The inner and the outer storms.

The Indian landscape sears my eyes.
I have become a part of it
To be observed by foreigners.
They say that I am singular,
Their letters overstate the case.
I have made my commitments now.
This is one: to stay where I am,
As others choose to give themselves
In some remote and backward place.
My backward place is where I am.

Learn more about Nissim Ezekiel here.

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Also on Indian Verse: Soap by Nissim Ezekiel

Note: ‘Background, Casually’ talks about the poet’s journey of growing up as a Jew in modern India. The poem blends together the experiences of an individual who feels a part of and apart from the country he calls home. It is a brilliant mix of paradoxes, a vision cutting through the cracks and crevices of everyday life, to settle upon the core of the questions and quirks that we all share as human beings.


Leave a comment below and tell us what you think.

Background, Casually by Nissim Ezekiel