Tag Archives: legend

Sun in the mouth

And the truth scorches and singes
the pink open flesh of your mouth
with its pungent yellow taste, so,
speaking the truth is not so easy
with just one tongue, anyway.

Seeing might have been closest
to truth and as Plotinus said
the eye would not be able to see
the sun if it was itself not sun
and so seeing was understanding.

The Egyptians called the eye
with the circle of the iris
with the pupil in the centre
as the sun in the mouth
and that was their truth.

Cyclops must have had little
to see in this vast world and
deprived of the whole truth
and that was his loss, his tragedy.

Even Argus with all his eyes
couldn’t escape in the end.
How much truth, how many eyes
of how many senses would it take
to tell the truth to the lord of the third-eye?

A king of a Tamil temple city
raged mad to know the truth
of the scent of a woman’s hair.
Since money bought truth
he made ready, a thousand gold coins.

And a poor poet still married to faith
prayed on to Shiva, the lord of struggling
survivors, lord of births and lives and
deaths, lord of poor poets who gave him
a poem to be sung at the king’s court.

A savant there picked a mistake like
peeling the scab of a healed wound
and said that the poem was wrong.
He said that any woman’s hair
did not have a natural scent.

The lord of dances and grey ash
and cremation grounds came down
to challenge this stubborn man who
extended his truth, even if the woman
was the consort of the lord.

He would not budge even if the lord
threatened to open his third eye,
the eye in the forehead which would
reduce him to bone-white ashes
as light as the wispiest clouds.
The court cowered in fright. . .

But in arrogance the savant said
a mistake is a mistake
even if it was the lord
of the forehead-eye.

O’ saint-bard and master of many wily words
What do you know of truth or love,
or the scent of a woman’s hair?
On the nights of naked sky and
a fragile quarter moon, my lord,
he of the deep blue throat,
he of the rivers in his hair,
he of the third-eye, comes to me.
Before he tears the blankness
of my womb, before he traces
the length of my spine, the curve
of my thighs, before he strokes
my cheeks, he buries his head
in the thousand and one nights
of my long tresses and he says
it smells like the wind-lost voices
of his childhood summers.

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Another Paradise Lost

One sleepy summer afternoon, while helping
myself to a glass of chilled water, I saw a
snake lying curled under the fridge. It could
have been a very poisonous cobra. Very

quickly, I chose my mode of attack: Acid.
Staggering, I reached for the glass bottle
so that I could pour the yellow-green cheap
acid on its slimy body, burning it to death.

“Stop it”, the snake hissed in pure Tamil
connecting with me in the language of
my prayer and poetry. “I am an exile.”
And I configured mental images of political

refugees. It wriggled out and I saw that
it was balding, almost Rushdie-like, perhaps
with a death sentence too. Controversy was a
crowd pulling catch-phrase, to which I dutifully

succumbed. Acid bottle in hand, I heard the
snake preach to me about living in detachment.
“The perfection of life is when you do not
know the difference between yielding and

resisting.” The scrawny being writhed further
and told me of rebirth and reincarnation. Being
a writer I really wanted to take notes. Instead
I began arguing. “Shut up”, the snake said to me,

“Karma and the whole stuff that follows it is just
bunkum. You, a crazed agnostic, disagree because
of borrowed ideas.” Sharp movements of the red
tongue terrified me. Almost sensing my fear, it

said, “You could never challenge what you do
not comprehend.” The snake spoke in circles, in
patterns that could only resemble a snake
swallowing its tail. Whatever. And then it

occurred to me: Speech was the oldest trap,
the charming deceiver, persuasion’s weapon
and Satan’s first area of expertise. “Stop it”,
this time I said the words. “Tell me just your

story. Save the cant and rant for critical times.”
My acidic tone gained me a menacing status
and I continued, “You are a mean serpent.
Instigator. Trouble-maker. Sly liar. Undulating

temptation-provider. Unworthy reminder
of the seduction of strength over matter.” It
protested in a booming resonant voice, “No, I
am not any of this. I am just an exile, from

paradise. Because of your Catholic upbringing,
you don’t even know about the paradise lost
in Hinduism.” Who bothered for history or
heritage, except shriveling snakes and failed

writers? At least, we both had something in
common. “Look here comrade, my credentials
are different. In heaven, I was an activist. An
avid dissenter. Before the accession to heaven,

long long ago, I was a mighty monarch on earth,
feared and respected. I was Nahusa the Great.
My subjects were happy, the kingdom prosperous.
And I ruled for twelve thousand years, until the day

when I decided that I could take leave of life. In
heaven too, I was venerated. But one question had
plagued me all the years of my long life, and it still
tormented me in heaven. I wanted to know why

caste was there, why people suffered because of
their karmas. I questioned the Gods, and the learned
sages there. I asked them what would happen if an
high-born did manual work just like the low-born.

I worried about the division of labor, this disparity
in dreams and destinies. You could say I was a rebel
pleading for liberty-equality-fraternity. I had a riotous
history of revolution. The Gods plotted against me,

decided that I was trouble. I was cursed to turn into
a vile snake. I was banished from paradise. For sixty
million years, I shall roam the earth, and then I may
return.” This was a different case of the paradise lost.

In this tale, there was no forbidden fruit, no second
fickle-minded woman. Tradition triumphed over reason
and the good were cast away. I let the serpent go,
happy that he had given my hungry mind a story, or

perhaps, a poem to be written on unfair days. I began
to respect snakes — the challengers of hierarchy.
While I gave him the freedom of safe passage
I vowed never to kill serpents. Much later

I realized brutally that this was just another
occupational hazard for choosing a life
where I was to be showing solidarity
with activists and dissenters.