Ankur Betageri, (18/11/83), is a bilingual writer based in New Delhi. His poetry collection in English is titled The Sea of Silence (2000, C.V.G. Publications.) Two collections in Kannada are titled Hidida Usiru (Breath Caught, 2004, Abhinava Prakashana)and Idara Hesaru (It’s Name, 2006, Abhinava Prakashana) He has also published a collection of Japanese Haiku translations called Haladi Pustaka (The Yellow Book, 2009, Kanva Prakashana). He holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology from Christ College, Bangalore. He co-edits the journal Indian Literature published by Sahitya Akademi and is contributing editor(India) of the Singapore-based ezine writersconnect.org. Recently, he represented India as a Poet at the III International Delphic Games held at Jeju, South Korea.
The quiet and rising tension in the jaw of the common man
You are drinking chai in the office canteen
looking out the window absentmindedly
at the unreal summer shadows of trees
thrown about carelessly
with the occasional bird
lighting the bough
and preening its brilliant wings
when suddenly you hear someone StaMMeRinG!
You look around and see
your whole inner self
in all its trembling
splayed out in the shuddering body
of the ‘boy’ who serves chai.
Racked by the nervous torment that being here
has become, he is stammering
unable to utter a sensible word,
he is stammering in a terrible frothing anger
at a bully customer
and – I realize – at a world that has failed him.
I see chai-drinking chootias around me
smiling; I gulp the chai and unable to make out
what is happening to me,
unable to contain the trembling which is possessing me,
unable to go on sitting at the table, on the chair
in this stable world, in this insanely stable world
which will continue to be stable even after my death,
unable to do anything that could stop
his quaking body from stammering,
unable to do anything about the laughter
which goes on quietly massacring,
I drink chai
chai-drinking, English-speaking, afsar-cunt that I am
I continue to drink chai as if nothing has happened,
as if nothing will ever happen,
as if the trembling within me has
nothing to do with what is outside
as if yoga, meditation, shitty self-help books
are what I require,
as if happy hours at the bar, Sunday-sair with a girl
would instantly restore me to normalcy –
ah happy-cunt of the great Indian middle class!
ah intellectual-cunt debating in news channels!
ah corporate-cunt discussing growth in ac boardrooms!
ah poet-cunt churning out verse for international journals!
ah bollywood-cunt selling flaccid dreams to the poor!
ah cunt on the election poster
ah cunt in the complicit rooms of police stations!
ah cunt selling merchandize and noise on FM channels!
ah cunt running newspaper by splattering naked bodies of women!
ah student-cunt fornicating and agitating in college campuses!
ah actor-cunt asking us to end poverty from your palaces!
ah brand-ambassador-cunt for fair skin, white teeth and slim hips!
ah soulless empire of cunts
looking down from hoardings, ad-widgets and social-networking sites!
I shall exorcise myself of you and your ghosts!
I shall speak now of the wrongs, speak now of the murders
I really have had enough of your chai!
I – the Cunt with a Conscience – shall master this human trembling
I shall rescue from the rot this precious inner feeling
I shall hug the fevered hearts and speak for all those
The Indian Soul
for Shri Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul
The Indian soul is pure
no amount of money, corruption and sophistry in the world of high art
can corrupt its soul
look at the Indian dog licking at the worn out tyres of a Maruti 800
look at its eyes and you know it is sacred
its hungry and cold in the misty Delhi winter
and you can weep out of pity for it
(my head grows soft like a peeled cucumber
as my face weeps inside the cheeks)
but the dog doesn’t need my pity
it feels my love and runs away barking
as if its dangerous to linger in my pity…
The Indian women are pure
I loathe them and call them rubbish
and they let me go
yes, they tried to shackle my heart, break my spirit
yes, they enticed me with the dream of babies
BUT when they saw my purpose they let me go
I slept over them like on the warm sunny beaches
and looked at the sun take the sea with it
and when I rose they fell off my body
like so much sand,
they never stuck to me –
(it was I who stuck to them
coming in the way of their life in comfortable cars
bearing sun-faced babies and listening to technicolour songs –
and when they saw that my spirit was getting muddy
in the warm pools of their cosy homes
it was they who kicked me out
complementing me, indirectly:
you are too much for us, too much!)
The Indian women are pure
they mind their business and know
each one has his own destiny to fulfill –
Just look at the beautiful women in the sarees
how graceful their movement and many-splendored their bangled hands!
its just that they are not for me
and they smile at me warmly and let me go
and I smile back at them happily, flapping my wings.
The Indian soul, no matter how deep in the muck it gets pushed
is pure and full of joy
look at the Indian cow lying on a bed of its own dung
look at the buffaloes wallowing in their own shit
but still giving – two times a day – pure white milk!
look into the buffalo’s eyes
can anyone be as calm and quietly contented as her?
The Indian soul is pure and joyous and sacred
and no amount of western shit splattered on the shop fronts
hoardings and newspapers can change it –
Half-naked women swing hips to tasteless tunes of bollywood?
Let them! Let the buffoons and jokers pass themselves off as heroes
and once done, let them do netagiri
folding hands, showing teeth and all –
none of it is going to change the Indian soul
it will always be deep and pure and joyous
away from all that is ephemeral!
The Indian soul – no kidding, guys, – is pure
(no, not as pure as the beauty soap just taken out of the box
like they show us in the ads
but pure in a way our drugged imagination cannot even conceive –)
Deep in the Delhi night
I breathe the glacier-pure air
it quivers in my nostrils, in my lungs, in my hair
I breathe in the great expanse
and breathe it back in space
The Indian soul is us, a will that has found its sap
the Indian soul is us, a light that cannot be stopped
and India is the earth, whose map cannot be drawn.