Ankur Betageri

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 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
irri­ta­bly burn­ing
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.