A single droplet of approaching
rain touches my skin
reaches the very centre, the fields of silence.

Soon in the heart of thirsty being
teeny drops turn into oceans,
in them the symphony of eternity.



On Saturdays and Sundays
we wake up late, spend leisurely
time at breakfast, think of lunch,
plan meticulously for dinner
at some fancy new or familiar
joint, never for a moment wondering
if on other days of the week
the Mondays, Tuesdays and so on
right through the glossy soft-porn
calendar on whose pages
luscious actresses smile,
tempting the passage
of weeks, months and years,
anything genuine or worthwhile
is realized apart from the mere
act of living. Reflection, to be sure,
is a precious rare thing,
placed carefully
on the proverbial back burner
while life passes by imperceptibly
like the scent of nothingness.

To Night

i pause at the ends of time
gaze in wonder into your shadowy
endlessness, your arms,
stretching across velvety
expanses, jealously
embrace all to the fringes
of veiled existence.

Inscrutable, unpersuadable,
unwilling to unfurl the secrets,
the countless stars your
tantalizing eyes,
you keep mysteries deeper
than aeons in my own interior
deeper than being itself.

you and i are one, night
without you i cease to be.

Hangzhou image

Sipping green tea, misty
at a shady Hangzhou cove

on the moon bridge
across a still reticent
stream of the lake a slender
figure glides by, silent
umbrella sheltering, her
reversed double, striking
yellow in a watery mirror.

Is it the flimsy
shade of a mysterious
maiden, I wonder, blushing
angel, or golden deity?



In the disparate world of noises, I seek
the incalculable silence of the eternal,

in the centre of engulfing darkness
the desperate glimmer of dawning light.

In the tragic turmoil of every
screaming, struggling soul I hear

unarticulated voices of pain and desire
grasping for intractable meaning.

Wherever I search in all directions
I realize not the harmonies of lost being.

To the core of my own miniscule self
In desperation I turn; its quiet rhythm

through each and every molecule sings
for me the chronicle of existence.

Bird Soul

When Providence decided to fashion the soul
it envisioned a bird as life itself.

With the radiance of the rainbow
its beauty, its flights of fancy
what better symbol,
what lightness more seemly
than the beaming hues of the bird?

What song more soothing
than the voice eternal
in the still-dark awakening,
dawn’s spark in being’s garden?

Yet now with the browning of green
splendour through effluence,
the very existence
of the garden in jeopardy, what future
for the still-quivering spirit?

chulia street

Highly regarded Haji Adul Kadir Mohideen
Reminisces in his store;
Grey of beard, kepiah-haji
On his head, puffing an imported beedi,
Physically in Chulia street, mentally
He is in Nagapattinam; the Nagore shrine
Seething as usual with activity
Honours an alien wali
Who never stepped into this country

In Market Street and adjacent alleys
Chettiars count their money
Convert ringgit into rupees, promptly
Calculate the gains:
Another house in the native district
Another plot or two of paddy
Another daughter or son married
Another grandchild ushered into the world
In distant Tamil Nadu, ancient land
Of Silapadikaram, M.G.R., Sivaji Ganesan

Gone are the days when horse–or hand–
Cart, familiar rickshaw, tramcar
Led to a clamorous jetty, rickety sampan
Unloading bringing
The latest news,
With muruku, masalavadai, mampalam

Chulia Street is no longer the same
Though the adhan from neighbouring
Kapitan Keling maintains a familiar strain,
An occasional sermon intoned In Tamil;
Motorised traffic kicks high the dusty noise,
Bars and brothels prefer Mat Salleh
Introduced by beca-men,
The Japanese with their yen
Back in these parts with a vengeance

Tiger beer continues to flow
Besides watery whiskies and brandies, remember
“There is always time for a tiger.”
The hippies are hounded by junkies, pushers
Hawk their wares, rubbing shoulders
With benign mata-mata;
“Datuk, apa khabar, Datuk?”
“Apa hang buat?”
“Tak ada apa-apa, Datuk.”
A clumsy hand slips a tip
Another graciously accepts it
And Chulia Street does not notice.

The children have gone to study
On MARA loans or father’s fellowships,
Will return to cushy
Bumiputera positions
A life’s mission complete, another
Mamak will leave to lay his weary
Bones in the lap of his forebears

Another phase in history will end,
Begun centuries ago; the arrival
In this golden land
Where the climate is kind
And money, it seems, grows on trees;
Chulia Street will remain a name, a memory
A haunt of Alis and Babas, upstart aristocracy
Products of a New Economic Policy.


For now the wayang is over
Spectres dance no more
Upon the muslin, battles
Have been fought
Love triumphant enacted
In their basket the figures
Lie asleep

The audience is leaving, some
Still pondering the mystery
Of shadow and form:
Pray tell us, tok dalang,
Puppets or shades,
Tok dalang,
Which is the reality?

For now the wayang is over
On the day of judgement
Supreme Dalang
You will raise us again
In your boundless mercy
The essence of the wayang

hang tuah

You were fashioned a hero
A star
In your father’s dream,
Lived to prove
That heroes too
Can be human
In war or love,
But unlike the rest
You were born immortal
Precious warrior
Of Malacca
Bound to return
Some long-forgotten
Mahdi to reclaim
Taming Sari;
But tell us, Tuah
Where is she now
The Princess
Of Gunung Ledang?
Tell us why
The mighty sultan
Failed even in a fable
To build a bridge–
Golden pathway
To heart and throne?


this trap
of loneliness
enfolds us
within its wall
of darkness;
and that glimmer
is absent,
that root of radiance
that like the first syllable
of creation
unfolds in eternal
the lotus bud.

« Previous Entries