Go Talk to the River: the Ovis of Bahinabai Choudhari

Published by Yoda Press (January 2019), Go talk to the River: the Ovis of Bahinabai Choudhari is a book of translations of the Ovis or verses of Bahinabai Choudhari, a 19th century peasant poet from the Khandesh region of Maharashtra.

Bahinabai Choudhary (1880-1950) was an unlettered peasant poet from the Khandesh region of Maharashtra who has authored a collection of poems in the form of ovis. An ovi is verse in couplet form that are set to an easy tune and sung by women in this state as they go about their work. So, in a sense, they can be regarded as ‘work songs’ not unlike the blues. However, while most ovis that have been popularly sung were about God, stories and characters from mythology, festivals or moral precepts, Bhainabai’s ovis were about her work both in the home as well as a farmer; they were about the village, people around her, incidents and about her maher (maikaor her childhood home that she missed so much having been married at the age of 13 (as most girls were in that period) and sent to her saasar (sasuralor matrimonial home). 

Bahinabai is not remarkable only because she ‘wrote’ (authored) these poems inspite of being unschooled but, to me, she is exceptional because she was perhaps the first Marathi poet to have written so well and so consistently about a woman’s work and experience. Her ovis also show us how she coped with adversity and reveal to us the personality of a woman of great resolve who took life head on, turned it into song and, in doing so, left us a treasure in the form of her ovis that were at once simple, earthy, full of with and also deeply meaningful.

This book, ‘Go Talk to the River’, contains translations of all the known ovis of Bahinabai along with their transliteration.

What people say about the book –

Anjali Purohit’s lovingly crafted translations of Bahinabai Choudhari’s poetry bring into English both the cadence and the ethos of this remarkable woman’s oeuvre. Bahinabai (1880-1951) was named after a 17th-century saint who composed devotional abhanga poetry. Born into one farming family in northwestern Maharashtra, she was married, at an early age as was customary in her generation, into another. Her everyday life revolved around the activities of running a household in a demanding rural economy and attending to the fields. Along the way, Bahinabai began to compose ovis – a form of poetry that has been sung by women in Maharashtra for centuries, and is closely related to the rhythm of grindstone and well windlass – in a regional variant of Marathi known as Ahirani. Unlettered, she wrote nothing down. Her ovis might have been passed down orally after her death; but equally, they might have vanished from memory. Fortunately, they were transcribed and committed to print by her son, Sopandev Choudhari, in 1952. Through print, recordings, the radio and academic syllabi, they have since passed into Maharashtrian culture at large.

In Bahinabai’s poetry, women’s labour receives long overdue acknowledgement, as do seemingly quotidian subjects that vanish below the radar of literary modernism: family relationships, financial difficulties, the vegetation and landscapes of the countryside, the Divine, and the challenge of leading a life of wisdom and prayer in the face of the world’s capacity for mischief. Anjali Purohit engages closely and deftly with the texture and resonances of Bahinabai’s poetry, her English shot through with Marathi as she attempts to convey as much of the oral tonality and lifeworld of the original as possible. Through this, she seems to argue that English in India cannot remain aloof from the subcontinent’s other languages, but must expand itself to include and be enriched by them.’

Ranjit Hoskote (January 2019)

‘…Go Talk to the River: The Ovis of Bahinabai Choudhuri (Yoda) is excellently translated from the Marathi (Ahirani) original by the poet Anjali Purohit. Bahinabai (1880-1951) was named after a 17th century saint who composed abhanga verse. The poetry is about the everyday, about a woman’s life and role in it, about relationships, financial hardships, and rural countryside. The poems are presented both in Marathi using the Romanised script along with its modern English translations on the facing page. One can see and feel in Purohit’s well-crafted translations, the texture and flavour of the original language, which is at the same time rendered in precise conversational English. The woman’s voice is shot through with power: “Arrey! Look, who I am! Who I am! / I have God’s name on my lips! / then the atma residing within says, ‘Then why / don’t you go and ask your tongue what it speaks.’”

Poetry comes back full circle to the magic of the “tongue” — a palette where sound originates; a place where sound become words, both spoken and written; where words in a poetic register sing resonantly in various tongues.

– Sudeep Sen, Asian Age, 5th July 2019

GO TALK TO THE RIVER: THE OVIS OF BAHINABAI CHOUDHARI translated by Anjali Purohit (Yoda Press, Rs450): Born in 1880, married at 13 and widowed at 30, Bahinabai Choudhari remained an unsung genius during her lifetime. It was only after her death in 1951, when her son published her poems, that she became recognized as one of the most poignant voices from Maharashtra. A cotton farmer from Jalgaon district, Choudhari was named after a 17th-century Bhakti saint who was known for composing abhang, a form of devotional poetry. Like her namesake, Choudhari had a remarkable facility with words, all the more so because she was unlettered. She had the gift of turning even the most mundane everyday situations into poetic truth. The changes of season, stages of harvest, characters in her family and neighbourhood, nothing escaped her keen sensibility. In a few lines she could distil the essence of a person, even of a favourite tree or cow, as though she were creating a verbal impression of their soul. Purohit’s translation, bolstered by an excellent introduction, attempts to faithfully capture the rhythms and nuances of Ahirani, the regional variant of Marathi Choudhari composed in.

Somak Ghoshal, Best to Meet them in Poems Live Mint, 19th May 2019

‘…Ahead of Poetry Day — celebrated across the world on March 21 — a look at an assortment of poetry that focuses on the diverse shades of our lives – Sasurvasin

Get up, saasurvasin bai

get up at midnight, neatly set out the grain

begin working the grinding stone

Get up, saasurvasin bai

get up, it’s dawn, the rooster crows

it’s time to take the pitcher on your head

Get up, saasurvasin bai

get up and light, light the stove

the sun rapidly rises

Get up, saasurvasin bai

get up, massive work in the farm lies ahead

You are but cattle in the shed

Get up, saasurvasin bai

Mother-in-law grumbles and is annoyed

wipe that tear from your eye

Get up, saasurvasin bai

be patient, don’t talk back, hold your tongue

let the memories of your maher comfort you!

From Anjali Purohit’s Go Talk To The River: The Ovis of Bahinabai Chaudhuri…’

The Hindu, BusinessLine, 15th March 2019


The Art Column: May 25th, 2018, Burnt Earth Yields Strange Fruit

(photo credit: The Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation, Rekha Rodwittiya)


Rekha Rodwittiya’s art underlines a strong feminist position and engages with the socio-politics of the world, says Anjali Purohit

Rekha Rodwittiya has been known to be a painter who engages with the socio-politics of the world, its contradictions and inequalities. Her art underlines a strong feminist position as also her reaction to the many issues that confront women.

In the artist’s words, ‘… I hold as consistent the desire to examine the feminine space of survival, the spirit of female endurance and the empowerment of pride and self-dignity that centuries of feminist oral histories are infused by, as the territory from which my work takes shape’.

The Jehangir Nicholson Gallery, CSMVS, is presenting her work at the show, Songs from the Blood of the Weary (Dialogues of Peace), which will run until mid-August.

Songs from the Blood of the Weary was first created by Rekha as part of an exhibition commemorating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations at Geneva in 1995 which brought together 12 paintings in the form of a painted room. Additional works from the collection of Sakshi Gallery form part of the present show. Together they provide us an understanding of the artist’s journey and the issues that are central to her work.

Rodwittiya says, ‘…in a world where atrocities are committed against women in the name of upholding traditional values, a focus to redress this is vital if we are to define true liberty for all humanity…’.

However, there are ways art can pose a challenge, be disruptive, confrontational and subversive without being destructive. The entire oeuvre of Rekha’s work demonstrates this very fine balance. Rich and nuanced, her paintings do not ‘explain themselves’ or offer a singular narrative but suggest meanings through the placing and character of the figures and the use of metaphor.

The metaphors consist of objects (often repeated like a refrain in a song) and the relative size and structure of human figures on the canvas especially that of women. The woman in Rodwittiya’s paintings is strong and corporeal. This confidence comes from laying claim to a heritage of feminist practice which she has elsewhere described as her ‘gifts of legacy’ where, in her words, ‘my complete belonging is within the womb of my feminist ancestry…’.

A collection of these metaphors is what Rekha describes as her ‘lexicon’ or vocabulary through which she creates her art. Objects such as a spade, fish, scissors, leaves, locks, dice, boats and airplanes, maps, are infused with significance when juxtaposed with human figures that play out a dramatic statement on each canvas—the position and ‘pose’ of the hands and fingers acting as clues or prompts (or ‘mudras’, as Rekha calls them) to the script.

The palette, predominantly red, brown, yellow and grey has been put to great effect in her haunting work, Burnt Earth Yields Strange Fruit. This is the artist’s articulation of her outrage at honour killings, female infanticide and dowry deaths. The title bears a disquieting throwback to the Abel Meeropol poem (sung by Billie Holiday) Southern Trees Bear a Strange Fruit, about lynching in the Jim Crow era. This becomes even more chilling for us today because of growing instances of brutality that have a real danger of becoming ‘normalised’ and not being ‘strange’ any more.

Finally, I leave you with this.

This show is at the JNAF Gallery, which is itself housed in the CSMVS. Tourist buses bring people from the mofussil on a Mumbai Darshan. They are impressed by the ancient museum pieces and then sometimes a family, wanting to investigate what lies in the east wing of the second floor, stumbles into the art gallery. One such large family with several unruly children was there when I visited the exhibition. While the other children ran about chasing each other through the space, I noticed one eight-year-old girl standing, quiet and absorbed, in the ‘painted room’. It was one of those rare private moments that pass without much notice. She didn’t want to leave even after several calls from her father. I believe that while art criticism must play its part in placing an artwork in the context of art history and aesthetic theory, being privy to the sight of this little girl was significant validation as well. I don’t know who she was but did send out a silent wish to her saying, ‘may your tribe increase’.


Anjali Purohit is a writer, painter, poet, translator and conceptual vagabond with a yen for gadding about town.

The column in the ADC48hrs can be viewed here –  http://www.afternoondc.in/48-hrs/burnt-earth-yields-strange-fruit/article_223596

The Art Column: May 4th, 2018: Three Storeys of Art

(photo credit: The Delhi Art Gallery-DAG)


A show such as this bears several visits to soak in the richness that it holds, says Anjali Purohit

Tucked away at the Kala Ghoda precincts, in the by-lane off what we knew till now as the Rhythm House, is a charming, finely appointed home for art that had quietly opened its doors in Mumbai five years ago. In a beautifully restored colonial era building, the Delhi Art Gallery (DAG) has successively offered some exceptional art collections in India.

Spread over three floors, a visit to the gallery is especially captivating because this tiered placing of the artworks gives a discerning gallerist great manoeuvrability to experiment, each floor of the compact space offering almost a canvas on which to place the curation of the show as a work of art itself. One is then taken through the exhibition in stages, the works on the ground floor yielding to a different vista on the first floor and then reaching the top in conclusion. Having viewed the three tiers, you descend, again to view the earlier tiers and perhaps ‘see’ the art works there in a new light making the experience much more immersive and participative than if the entire collection was placed in one large and open gallery space.

Presently, the DAG is showing its gallery collection, Manifestations of Indian Art. If the three floors have been used to display photography, figurative art and abstract art respectively, then one would subconsciously expect the abstract to be on the highest floor. However, it perhaps is one of the aims of curation to be disruptive (of expectations) and subversive (in content) as this show begins with abstraction, moves to figurative and ends with photography.

Abstract art from artists like S H Raza, Natwar Bhavsar, S K Bakre, Ambadas is on display. J Sultan Ali’s painting Festival Bull (reminiscent of the bull on Indus Valley seals) is especially striking, incorporating as it does tribal art, mythology and folklore against the suggestion of an agrarian setting.

Ascending the wooden steps, the intermediary landing space bridges the abstract and the figurative sections by four truly remarkable woodcuts from Hiren Das. At a time when the popular conception of ‘art’ did not go beyond painting and sculpture, it was the brilliance of printmakers like Das, Somnath Hore and Chittoprosad, in the mid-twentieth century that placed printmaking firmly in the realm of art. These three artists from Bengal were witness to the horrors of the Bengal famine but, while Hore and Chittoprosad’s work reflected these conditions in all their painful and brutal starkness, Hiren Das chose to focus closely on the depiction of the details of a quieter rural life.

The human body is the focus of the next tier with paintings such as M R Achrekar’s brilliant watercolour and K H Ara striking gouache on paper, depicting the female nude at rest, inward looking and unselfconscious. Other works include F N Souza, Akbar Padamsee and, surprisingly, two beautiful nudes in oil from Chittaprosad, the great chronicler of human suffering and political art.

However, for me, the most arresting and haunting canvas is the one from Sunil Das from his Prostitute series. The scribbled-on walls, an overhanging naked bulb, the lack of colour but for an all-pervading grey, highlight the squalor of Sonagachi and the posture and eyes of the two figures (evidently the prostitute and her customer) are deeply revealing as well as disturbing.

The next section consists of the photography of Nemai Ghosh who was a close associate of Satyajit Ray for over 25 years, recording with his camera almost every moment of Ray’s cinematic life. Much before movie stars were particular about which profile to show the camera, great trust with photographers meant that they were often photographed off guard and in candid moments. Accordingly, we have candid and beautiful portraits of actors such as Sharmila Tagore, Smita Patil, Simi Garewal, Amjad Khan, Jaya Bhaduri, Om Puri, Shabana Azmi and others.

One then descends again from the ‘realism’ of the camera, through the figurative interpretation of the human body and, after a final look at abstraction, walks out of the DAG into the ‘real’ world knowing that such a show bears several visits to soak in the richness that it holds.


Anjali Purohit is a writer, painter, poet, translator and conceptual vagabond with a yen for gadding about town.

This column in the ADC48hrs can be viewed here: http://www.afternoondc.in/48-hrs/three-storeys-of-art/article_222270

The Art Column: April 20th 2018: A Montage of Masterpieces

(photo credit: Gallery7)

As Indian art encompassing 150 years goes on display and sale, Anjali Purohit draws up a personal wish list

The New Year Sale exhibition at Gallery 7 offers a collection that reflects the keen eye of a gallerist who has spent over four decades in promoting and showcasing some of the best names in the art world. It reflects a discerning yet eclectic aesthetics and offers a montage of Indian art through the past 150 years. It is, then, an opportunity for us to view the original works of a whole (I’m almost tempted to say, ‘pantheon’) representative sweep of Indian art as it evolved from the early twentieth century to the present. Names we have heard, artworks we have seen in pictures but now have occasion to see in the original. Additionally, if it will tempt you, the gallery is offering these works at rather generous discounted prices ranging from 25 to 75 per cent of market price.

It is impossible to describe 100 works by 50 masters in the space of a column. Instead, I give you my own personal ‘wish-list’ from the show:
On display is a set of ink drawings by F N Souza, one of the founding members of The Progressive Group, which are exquisite suggesting as they do the tension within the man-woman relationship and an impatience with the quotidian. These demonstrate how restraint and an economy of line can still result in such a powerful statement.

Bikash Bhattacharjee’s mix media painting Doll is sinister and disturbing. This is from his subversive Doll Series which were in response to the violence, disquiet and turbulence that could not have escaped anyone living in Bengal in the early ’70s. As in all of Bikash’s works, these paintings too are rich with suggestion, strong yet nuanced and offer multiple narratives that draw the viewer into its vortex.

Several works by the artist, printmaker and sculptor Somnath Hore are on show. Hore is known for his works that were a reaction to the severe times that he witnessed in Bengal during the first half of the 20th century, namely, the Bengal famine of 1943 and the Tebhaga movement. I saw at least four drawings in ink by Hore, one (untitled) suggesting figures inalienably tied to their land and their plough and then two works on ecru paper that has ‘Runglee Rangliot, the legendary Darjeeling tea, nothing else is quite the same’ printed on it. On this paper, then, is a drawing of a defeated figure slumped at a table on which stands an empty glass and an overturned bottle and the other is a skeletal vendor with a beedi between his fingers squatting with an empty basket behind him. The irony cannot be missed and this itself is that which makes these two drawings particularly distressing and poignant.

M V Dhurandhar was a prominent painter during the British era. Apart from mythological themes, he also depicted women captured during their quotidian occupations. A set of three small format pencil drawings from this artist is on offer and make for a beautiful vintage montage of that period framed as they are in a single frame. These are dated around 1910-11.

Then, of course, there are several works from Husain. Particularly, an oil on board, Baby Jesus and two Donkeys from his Mother Teresa Series and a mix media work in shades of copper and black called Cyprus-Ten which is rich with symbolism and vivacity.

Exceptional also are the works by Bhupen Khakker, Sakti Burman, Badri Narayan, K G Subramanyan, Akbar Padamsee, Altaf, K K Hebbar, Jogen Chowdhury and more. Don’t miss this chance to view (and perhaps own) artworks from some of the finest Indian artists.


Anjali Purohit is a writer, painter, poet, translator and conceptual vagabond with a yen for gadding about town.

The Column in the ADC48hrs can be viewed here – http://www.afternoondc.in/48-hrs/a-montage-of-masterpieces/article_221215

The Art Column: April 6th: The Smell of Pepper and Jasmine

Home > 48 Hrs > The Smell Of Pepper And Jasmine
This is the first of a fortnightly column in the newspaper Afternoon Despatch & Courier. I will be posting reviews of art shows in town –

The Smell Of Pepper And Jasmine

Friday, April 06, 2018

(photo credit: Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke)

Nine painters from Kerala come together to showcase the shared locality of their artistic practice and highlight their own individual preoccupations and styles. Anjali Purohit visits the exhibition

In the frantic pace of metropolitan living there is often a wish to escape to a place that will offer some respite from the blinding reflections in the glass-chrome-concrete monolithic ideal that our city is racing towards. That is when thoughts turn to the cool, green, salubrious surrounds of, where else but, the abundance of god’s own country. Till such time as one can plan a trip there-wards, however, we have Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke that brings the lush abundance of that state to Colaba in the form of the show Nine Painters from Kerala.

These are nine painters who have had a longstanding association with the gallery but are being shown together for the first time with the belief that the exhibition will evidence the shared locality of their artistic practice as well as highlight their own individual preoccupations and styles. The artists, Abul Hisham, Aji V.N., Arun K.S., C.K. Rajan, Jyothi Basu, Ratheesh T., Siji Krishnan, Sosa Joseph and Vinod Balak hold dialogue with each other through their work which also demonstrates their rootedness in the land from which these works arise—the culture and milieu of Kerala. The paintings on display begin to offer, by the way of complement and contrast, a vivid montage of the land in which they are grounded but then further take off from this point to express their own preoccupations with themes such as social structures, self, family, untamed nature, alienation, desire, death, urban realities and politics.

Rateesh T offer us a large work, The Smell of Pepper and Jasmine, which is a heady and immediately visceral one exuding as it does not only the smell of jasmine and pepper but also of the wet earth, of desire and fecundity. It is, I think, one of the strongest images that stays in one’s consciousness for quite a while.

Vinod Balak is equally powerful with his canvas, Last Supper, where he makes an arresting statement that depicts a ‘last supper’ with local political figures but which could well be situated in any other space in the nation. The figures are typically ranged around a table that holds empty plates and an enormous, ripe jackfruit just waiting to be cut opened and consumed.

Sosa Joseph’s art engages with the complex cultural mix of people in society, specifically her own native Mattancherry perhaps suggesting the intricate warp and weft of social relations that ought not to be rent.

Siji Krishnan presents a fascinating landscape depicted in washes of water colour on rice paper reminiscent of ancient parchment rolls. The colours in Snake Crosses the Landscape are soft, soothing, pastel. Here, an almost perfect and subtle landscape of rice fields peacefully coexisting with each other, of waterways and gently undulating mountains is disrupted by a snake crossing across almost end to end from the right to the left in the foreground. Dangerous or benign? As always with fine works of art, it is best this is left as an open question for the viewer to engage with.

This exhibition is surely one that must not be missed since these individual painters might have solo shows in the future, but the pleasure in ‘listening’ to these paintings hold a conversation with each other about a love that is shared for their land, is an opportunity that might not come again anytime soon.

Do also immerse yourself in the current exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art (across the road from the CSMVS Museum) where Art & Soul Gallery has curated an important retrospective exhibition of over 150 works by the legendary artist, Manu Parekh. Taken together, this show offers a comprehensive viewing of his over sixty years of extensive artistic practice and the depth, diversity and significance of his art. This exhibition will run till the 15th of April.

‘Nine Painters From Kerala’

Date March 9, 2018 to May 3, 2018

Venue The Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, First Floor, Sunny House, 16/18 Mereweather Road, Behind Taj Mahal Hotel, Colaba

Day & Time Tuesdays to Saturdays
11 am to 7 pm

Anjali Purohit is a writer, painter, poet, translator and conceptual vagabond with a yen for gadding about town.


(published in The Afternoon Despatch & Courier here)

The Blues Trilogy




I am blue under the cavernous boulder

tired, worn yet awake with you on this virgin soil


we play with dragonflies on the mist

Intense. The smoke rises to the skies


cerulean cannot hide under any colour

so I gather crystal ferns from the rocky shelter


Teal. Your eyes are sad and weary in the rain

we know once the showers stop we must part


yet you spin sapphire dreams that briefly hover

we lie entangled wary, fearing for what is to come after

and see that fatal light filter through the latticed cover


With what fond hope my love did we look for landmarks

remembering old times we fancied were forever.





We are suspicious beyond our narrow quarters

we barricade faith and trust, lock them in chains and fetters


we condone each other under duress

for it is our common sins that hold us to each other


be sure the heat will come again

all dry and sere about the flowers


even as we prod numb flames over the embers

then we’ll look for the word that was given in earnest


promises meant,  loyalties not yet forgotten

then we’ll tear at the barricades that we knowingly secured


recall, that vision swift, clear and silent

yet nameless on the edge of this burning forest


but now no words are left in whose arms

we leave our loves behind relying

only on those distant days we spent dreaming together.





We are both barefoot this warm and tender night,

I summon desires and diamonds from the dust


the moon will rise again

all huge before the wind


the stars descend amidst the fireflies

the twilight has come and gone away with the treasure


So I will go splintering before the air and seek

the ghosts of our dreams beneath the cinders


This insanity is hard, wavering, altered

lost in broad daylight yet upon us like a deluge tonight


To what end did we refugees miss our chance and turning

we capsize our boat willingly into the mute waters

it sinks silently out of sight.


(first published in The Bombay Review – A Journal of Literary Things : Jan-Feb 2016)

Hope Street Poets-KGAF 8th Feb ’17

It was a magical evening at the David Sassoon Library garden when the poets Priya Sarukkai Chabria, Michael Creighton, Prafull Shiledar, Subhro Bandopadhyay, Sumana Roy, Sampurna Chattarji, Nia Davies, Kamal Vora, Ranjit Hoskote, Jennifer Robertson, Rohinton Daruwala, Hemant Divate, Prabodh Parikh, Mustansir Dalvi, Anjali Purohit, Anand Thakore, Kala Ramesh and Dion D’Souza spun poetry into the evening as it turned into the night for the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (Literature). A very special day in a very special place because the little garden there is an oasis of hope and proves that Hope does lie between the college and the library as that lane has been named till now.

The day was even more enchanting since some of us (quite a few of us, to be honest) were hosted at a brunch at the Mocking Bird cafe where we broke bread (and pizza) and generally brought the house down. Some images from the day –

An Insistent Music


The music was always in our ears
goose-stepping softly to a distant military tune
but the madman who perches by the signal

he could never hear it

then another beat rose to reverberate in our guts
drums and synthesizers in riotous processions
from dusk to dawn, emptying the streets into the sea.

the air thick with abir and gulal
eyes glazed, faces masked with revelry
the drums’ increasing tempo to the tune of currency

the procession danced crazier the air
scarlet, scarlet the faces and scarlet
the sky as far as you could see

the madman left his perch as every procession
approached, joining in yet keeping a respectful distance
feet keeping time

waving multicoloured rags over his head
he whirled and danced his dance
laughing and clapping his hands

isn’t being shut in just as bad as being shut out?

the roll of drums and cymbals closes in

darkening the horizon
the music that was always in our ears
marches faster, stronger, louder, bolder

now he hears it too yet he dances
with the same abandon
swirling and waving

and the streets empty into the sea

then suddenly he is alone
just him and the music

he sees the boots marching
to a military tune

he stands there by the traffic light
arms by his side, the rags limp in his hands
his grey beard gone pink with the colour

settling around him on the asphalt at his feet
the night is dark, uniform crisp sharp steps are all he hears.


(First published in Guftugu: Indian Cultural Forum)

DNA (from Teksto – the Peoples’ Magazine of the North East India Company)

Whoever was born a tabula rasa?
I came from the womb
with the history of our ancestors
the forks in their tongues
and the venom on their lips
interwoven into the strands of my DNA
wash, scrub and rinse, abrade and buff
it won’t come off.

Put on all the liberal masks of the world
one over the other yet
there will be a chink where the cosmetics melt
and the BB cream cracks
to show teeth and fangs
and atavistic passions
that would put our tribal past to shame

haven’t we now devised means so clinical,
long distant, sophisticated and global
that we can vanquish
entire peoples without a spot of blood
on our manicured white hands.

(First published in Teksto – the Peoples’ Magazine of the North East India Company)