Castles in the air - they are so easy to take refuge in. And so easy to build, too.

आम्हां घरी धन शब्दांचीच रत्नें | शब्दांचीच शस्त्रें यत्न करुं ||
शब्द चि आमुच्या जीवांचे जीवन | शब्दें वांटूं धन जनलोकां ||
तुका म्हणे पाहा शब्द चि हा देव | शब्द चि गौरव पूजा करुं ||
- abhang of Tukaram Wolhoba Ambile of Dehu

There's No Freedom Like That of a Child's Imagination

கடலுக்கு உண்டு கற்பனைக்கு இல்லை கட்டுப்பாடு

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

the taste of sea breeze

Our e-book, the taste of sea breeze, was published as a celebration of two years of IN haiku Mumbai. This anthology contains haiku, tanka, senryu, haibun and renku, alongside a form which we think we invented - the renbun (haibun linked to each other on the lines of renku).

Available on, it is edited by Rohini Gupta (who also did the cover), with contributions from Paresh Tiwari, Mahrukh Bulsara, Brijesh Raj, Gautam Nadkarni, Sandra Martyres, Kasturi Jadhav, Rochelle Potkar and yours truly.

Read the reviews here.

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Tattoos - A tapestry poem with Shernaz Wadia

Shernaz's poem

she survives your spitefulness
inked indelibly on her tattooed psyche
past years mute alibi to the sting

with your spiky jibes hematoma
has discoloured the dermis of her mind
it’s scarification is grossly brutal

but the poison of your reprisals
has not crushed her courage; her doughty
spirit has in fact devastated you

My poem

All they need is a young mind, raw from within and
hurt by the deep scars of history. Some come as
india ink on paper - called Koran, or Bible or Geeta -

indoctrinated into the brain by incessant repetition.
Some as the chants of priests and monks, in strange
intonations often accompanied by incense. Or blasted

from loudspeakers, a call to arms against imagined foes.
They all leave scars, fresh for a new generation to be
inked. Not everything requires a sterilised steel needle.

Tattoos – Tapestry

They survive your spitefulness - young minds,
raw from within, hurt by the deep scars of history
inked indelibly on their tattooed psyche;

and past years mute alibi to the sting. Not
everything requires a sterilised steel needle: all
you need is india ink on paper, called

Koran or Bible or Geeta. Hematoma has
discoloured the dermis of their minds,
indoctrinated by incessant repetition of

your spiky jibes. They all leave scars, fresh for a
new generation to be inked. The scarification,
 in strange intonations often accompanied

by incense, is grossly brutal. But the poison of your
reprisals – some come as the chants of priests
and monks, or some as a call to arms

against imagined foes blasted from loudspeakers
into the brain –  has not crushed their courage. Their
doughty spirit has in fact devastated you.

(First published at Rate My Literature, 26 June 2016)

What is tapestry poetry?

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Summer - A tapestry poem with Shernaz Wadia

My poem

This summer I made a bonfire of my loves.
Beneath the pregnant clouds and still air
Of the sweltering nights, as the breeze died,
My remembrances of us together – yellow
Like the oleander, thespesia and laburnum—
I let them burn, and lend themselves to the ash.
They scatter as the rising wind whistles, playing
Chinese whispers with the fresh-leaved trees;
The dust has a new smell: rain at last, rain at last!

Shernaz Wadia's poem

ferocious heat scorches villages
the debris of funeral rites
and cadavers adorn river beds;
parched throats vie with the aridity
of cracked earth and barren fields
Ah! the murderous inclemency
fuelled by man’s rapaciousness!
Aircons buzz, fans whine in urban homes
And water runs wastefully from taps

Summer – Tapestry

This summer, as aircons buzz and fans
whine, the dust has a new smell: of
cracked earth, barren fields and
cadavers in the still air of sweltering
nights; parched throats vie with the
aridity of ferocious heat; the murderous

inclemency — fuelled by man’s rapaciousness —
even though water runs wastefully
from taps in urban homes!
My remembrances of us
together scorched me; in the dying breeze
I made a bonfire of my loves, I let them

burn with the yellow-leaved oleander,
thespesia and laburnum that adorn river
beds; They lend themselves to the ash like
debris of funeral rites. And scatter as the
rising wind whistles, playing Chinese
whispers: Rain at last; Ah! Rain at last!

(First published at Rate My Literature, 11 June 2016 and republished at

What is tapestry poetry?

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Monday, June 27, 2016

The asexual atheist's dictionary

At the nth party (a social obligation) someone comments that they've never seen you with a female partner. Then someone else will sensibly point out that you've never been seen with a male partner either.

Catch the rest of it here:

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014


क्या मेले के गुब्बारे कभी ख़ामोशी की तलाश में भटकते होंगे? क्या पूनम का चान्द कभी अमावस की आस रखता होगा? शहर की बसों ने कभी ढूँढी होंग किसी गाँव का रस्ता? क्या सागर की मछलियों ने एक दिन किसी वीरान कुएँ का ख़्वाब देखा होगा?

मैंने न तलाश की न ख़्वाब देखे हैं,  इन सियाही की लकीरों में मैं कबसे गुमशुदा हूँ|

पीपल वृक्ष —
एक त्रिकोण पत्ते
में समक्ष भू

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Tall Tales

My first public storytelling performance. Tickets Rs 750, at the door.

The Barking Deer, Mathuradas Mill Compound, Lower Parel, Mumbai.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Hath not a Jew Organs?

Mr. Nallasivam Chettiar (NC) Businessman aged mid-thirties
Mrs. Parvathammal Chettiar (PC) Wife of above, thirtyish, traditional outlook
Judge (J)
Attorney for Mr. Chettiyar (AN)
Attorney for Mrs. Chettiyar (AP)


J Right! Now that both parties are present, plaintiff may please state case. Cut to the point and no sentimental drama please.

AN Sir, plaintiff presents a case for seeking divorce from his estranged wife Mrs. Parvathammal Chettiyar on the grounds of incompatibility and mental harassment. My client and the defendant are married for seven years without issue. Two years ago, my client met with a serious accident leading to damage of his right kidney, requiring organ replacement therapy. After a suitable blood-related donor was not found, my client agreed to accept a donation from his wife. Since that time the defendant has continuously caused harassment to my client by constant nagging and reminding him that it was she she who saved his life and that he was therefore obligated to her.
(Pauses, sips water)
The constant nagging and demands for increased attention over these two years have played upon the peace of mind of my client, and he is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. These have caused him to be distanced emotionally from an unloving wife, and he is unable to sustain such a relationship that has lost all meaning. Therefore he seeks divorce from his estranged wife so that he may find love and peace of mind elsewhere. He is willing to make a reasonable settlement as arbitrated by the court towards alimony and maintenance for the rest of the defendant's life. This is the case for the plaintiff.

AC Sir, defendant accepts the case of the plaintiff with conditions. My client Mrs. Parvathammal Chettiyar is a reasonable person, and agrees that a loveless marriage is of no meaning. She is willing to accede to divorce, on the condition that Mr. Nallasivam Chettiyar shall return the kidney that was donated to him, along with proportional damages towards compensation for the physical and mental trauma caused to my client.

NC That is a most preposterous and unreasonable claim Sir!

AP Surely not, Sir! My client is a lady of scant education, who only recognises the ancient Indian tradition that it is her wifely duty to sacrifice her life to save her husband's life. In return, all she she expects is that he be faithful to her. Instead he has violated the sanctity of their marriage by taking up with another woman, and seeking to divorce my client in order to marry her. Such an action is mala fide to the spirit of marriage, and therefore the sacrifice of my client has been negated.

AN Ha! Mala fide indeed! Come on, Sir, infidelity is a problem in all marriages. And what is fidelity? Sticking to a person who does not love you? Just because Mrs. Chettiyar gave him the kidney, has she become his owner? My client does not refuse to acknowledge that he owes his life to her, but does that mean his life is pledged to her?

AP Sir, you must note that the act was a selfless one in the first place. Instead, her undiminished devotion towards her husband has been cruelly rewarded with selfishness and infidelity, which is disgusting to say the least. oHhhhIt has caused her tremendous anguish and pain, and yet she acknowledges that their matrimonial relationship is over in all but law. Mrs. Chettiyar is therefore willing to give him legal release. However, she endangered her life by having donated her kidney. Therefore it is only reasonable that the plaintiff enable her to pursue a life of complete health by returning the kidney. He has no right to retain it by virtue of having voided the marital relationship.

AN Defendant keeps repeating the same thing over and over again. By his logic, every spouse who donates an organ will get the right to keep the other as a slave. He or she can then claim legal sanction to ill-treat the recipient. She can nag him, verbally abuse him, refuse him sex, show him down in front of neighbours and in everyway interfere in his normal life. All this and more has been perpretrated on my client by the defendant. Where did all the so-called ‘selflessness’ go? It was for pure profit, sir, the defending party is trying to get this court to validate their idea that a whole soul can purchased with a mere organ.

AP Sir, the plaintiff’s case is verging on imbecile and completely hypothetical arguments now. They are trying to mislead the court by inventing outrageous claims. The fact remains that the plaintiff has violated the marriage. Therefore, if he wants release, he must return the kidney. We repeat, his action is mala fide.

AN Sir, all this is nonsense. His actions cannot in any case be considered mala fide.

AP (emphatically) Yes, they are mala fide.

AN (emphatically) No, they’re not.

AP (voice raised) Mala fide, mala fide, mala fide!

AN (voice raised) Bona fide, bona fide, bona fide!

AP (voice raised) Na dhin dhin na!

AC (voice raised) Dhin dhin dhin na!

AP (voice raised) Na dhin dhin na!

AC (voice raised) Dhin dhin dhin na!

J (Shouting) Quiet! Stop all this nonsense. Now, attorney for the plaintiff, do you have any argument to state why your client should not return the kidney?

AN Sir, we have here scientific evidence to prove that though the donated kidney did belong to the defendant, it now biologically belongs to my client. Kidney cells die after wear and tear, and are replaced by the stem cells of the host. Over the period of two years, all the original cells of the donor have been replaced by stem cells of my client, and the kidney is therefore now his own tissue. We have carried out a DNA test to prove this point. Thus it cannot be alienated from him on the pretext that it did not originate within his body, and besides there will be immense medical problems to try the preposterous notion of 'returning' the kidney. Instead, my client is willing to pay a generous maintenance that will take care of all the defendant's requirements, including future health problems that may result from her having given him a kidney.

NC (Pleading) I'll pay amount of money, sir, please rid me of this terrible nag!

Parvathammal CHETTIYAR (Agitated) Aiyo! Nee naasamaa pova! Ava nalla iruppaalaa? Nee saava! ava saava! Aiyo! Aiyo!


JUDGE Quiet Mrs. Chettiyar. Counsel for the defendant, have you anything to reply?

AP Sir, all we wish to ask is, does a biological fact bind the hands of fairness and justice? Can any act be justified because it is biological? Men have a natural tendency towards murder and rape, so does that mean rape and murder can be made legal? Is there no moral obligation of the law? Will the law allow a woman to suffer because it is a biological fact?

AN Sir, Now the defence is trying to climb the moral mountain and claim a position of great virtue. It is no use being sentimental. It will be practically impossible to try to transfer my clients kidney to the defendant. There will be severe immune reactions. We can call in a qualified surgeon to testify, if deemed necessary by the court. It will only endanger the life of both parties involved. Instead, my client is willing to negotiate a generous settlement.


AN Sir, my client has just offered to pay for an operation to provide a kidney to the defendant, including the cost of surgery and post-operational care, whatever it costs.


PC (Screaming) Aiyaiyo! Aiyaiyo! Ennai enna cheyya solraane! Nee naasamaa pova! Naa enna cheyya? Naa enge pova?

J Mrs. Chettiyar, I warn you again. Please calm down.

AP How can she calm down, Sir? The plaintiff has just made the cruellest suggestion he can make to her. According to her knowledge ofd the traditons that bind her, he has just suggested to her that she give up her chastity. How can she receive an organ from another man? It is her marriage duty to share her body with that man only, and she did that literally. Now he suggests she share it with some unknown person. He has again violated her dignity, right under the court’s eyes. We will not let this go unpunished, Sir.

J Punishment or otherwise, you leave it to me. Attorney for plaintiff, what do you respond to this?

AN (Whispers to Mr. Chettiyar, then faces up) Sir, again the defence is trying to make sentimental statements since they have no grounds on which to refuse divorce. Mrs. Chettiyar is free to receive a kidney from her mother or sisters, who are her blood relatives. Such donations are free of complications. We have definitely not insulted the dignity of the defendant.


AP Sir, now my client says that this tantamounts to beastly greed. Now that her husband has ruined her, he also wants to ruin her family also.

AN (Shocked) This leaves me speechless. The defending party is not allowing logical debate at all now. Nevertheless, we stick to our stand. It is medically impossible to ‘return’ the kidney, so we will help find a suitable donor and undertake all the expenses.

AP Sir, I wish to ask, can money replace a kidney? Can a payment for impaired health substitute for the health that my client had foolishly sacrificed in the interest of the plaintiff? Can a man violate his domestic life and atone for it with money?

AN We suggest to the defendant that she take a break for sometime, and think rationally. One must have a pragmatic attitude in life. What has happened has happened, and now one must move on. So they may kindly stop harping on foolish sentiments, and negotiate a settlement. The sooner the better.

AP My client has been a dutiful Indian wife, steeped in tradition. She was an unselfish slave of her husband for so many years. I suppose that in the plaintiff’s eyes that includes unquestioned surrender of her vital organs. He is a cold, cruel man who thinks nothing of abandoning her for another woman.

AN (emphatically) Be practical, Sir.

AP (scornfully) Practical yourself!

AN (voice raised) Thath thath tha ri ki ta!

AP (voice raised) Dhith dhith tha ri ki ta!

AN (voice raised) Thom thom tha ri ki ta!

AP (voice raised) Nam nam tha ri ki ta!

J (Shouting) Quiet! (Calmly) I get your arguments now. Anyway, both of you please state your final stands, and then I’ll I’ll make the judgement.

AN (Whispers to Mr. Chettiyar, then faces up) Our case is simple. Despite all the nagging and nasty behaviour of the defendant to my client, he offers a settlement with generous maintenance and also offers to completely pay for an organ replacement operation, in return for an amicable divorce.

AP (Whispers to Mrs. Chettiyar, then faces up) Sir, we shall not budge from our position. My client wants the return of her kidney, and will release that man only then. He can get a kidney from his new wife, surely she will be as dutiful? That is all our case.

JUDGE I have never come across a case like this. This man has had a troubled marriage, lost his peace of mind, and wants release from his troubles. He may be justified. There is no point in such a marriage at all. It cannot be considered that just because a person has saved another’s life, he or she gains a right to possess him or her.
But this woman has sacrificed the most vital part of herself for the health of this man, but realises that it is her final wifely duty to make him happy by releasing him. But does she deserve to have her kidney back? Biologically it belongs to him now, but she had donated it in complete sense of wifely duty as she understands it. In her view, she has been betrayed. I cannot argue with that. What judgement do I make?
(Stands up and addresses audience)
August listeners and watchers of this scene, I am really stuck on this issue. I feel it will be an injustice either party if I make a judgement one way or the other, but the judgement has to be made. But I think I can count upon the audience’s collective wisdom and understanding to make a conscionable judgement. Therefore, I shall leave to you the judgement. Does the kidney belong to him or her?


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