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 –

30th March 2016, Celebrating Poetry with PEN All India Centre

The PEN All-India Centre, The Consulate General of the United States, Mumbai and Kitab Khana come together to create synergies between Indian English Poets and American Poets at the Kitab Khana, Fort, Mumbai on Wednesday, 30th March 2016. We have esteemed delegates from the Iowa University’s International Writing Program( IWP).
The overarching theme for the evening’s reading is ‘Defending Free Expression’. The poets reading that evening are –

Sandra Alcosser
Adil Jussawalla

Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

Sampurna Chattarji
Menka Sivadasani
Ranjit Hoskote
Mustansir Dalvi

Rochelle Potkar

Anjali Purohit
Jennifer Robertson


Reflecting Erasures poster

Some Photographs from the event –


The paintings here –

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A brief outline of the talk –

First, a poem about memory –


Burnt sienna, raw umber, mahogany

twelve shiny tamarind seeds

stowed away in an old tin box on the loft


between the stack of copper vessels

and a rusty locked iron trunk

whose key can never be found


Mother played with them when she was little

and taught me when I was six


to sit cross legged on the floor

fling them on the ground

toss one up and pick the others

before it fell down


invent words and tunes,

conjure worlds and magic wands

that set things right


spells, monsters and evil witches

trounced by good people who live happily ever after


lazy summer afternoons, a soft muslin nine yard saree

and the sweet smell of a grandmothers lap

a little girl in a mango stained petticoat


grazed shins from the rough bark outside her window

of the neem and the gulmohor

holding hands to spread a filigreed pandal overhead


a fragrant carpet of crimson petals and chrome seeds at her feet

her treasure of tamarind seeds before her

with the gleam of cats eye, jasper, topaz and quartz


her dowry and her trousseau

you can throw a seed at the sky

and will it the power to hide the sun


girls become women and tin boxes

with tamarind seeds and sweet scented childhoods

get put on the loft where the sun cannot reach


not forgotten but ignored

like some words we are too embarrassed to speak

because they’ve grown labels


Let us take the box down today

spread them all before us again

toss them in the air

see how they fall


do love and loyalty stay close

do trust and honesty blink

from being in the dark all these years

or can they still look the sun in the eye

do truth and reason keep a distance

or do they hold hands, take wing and fly

like butterflies and birds

set free from the nets


if we manage to get them all afloat perhaps

we’ll also rescue gossamer wings.


Today I’d like to speak about memory, history, self identity, displacement and the consequences of erasures. All of this especially in the context of the erasures effected during the course of a rapidly metamorphosing metropolis (particularly our own city, Mumbai) that seems to be hurtling towards being ‘Shanghaied’. I’d like to speak about my response to these transformations where I attempt, through my work on canvas and with words to retrieve, record and archive the things that have symbolizes the spirit of this city and that held significance not only to me but to very many denizens of these streets who also share this love for our city, our ‘watan’.


  1. I) Memory forms the history of an object or being. The history of a person is his self identity. Identity defines character and character shapes action which results in the act of creation/production and events which then leads to the evolution of the being – object, person, the individual or a city.


Thus a person is defined by his actions, by his story – history.


I believe that the city too is an organic being – it develops, grows, has a character that is defined and shaped by its history. Both, its broad economic and social history as well as the particular histories of the people, individuals, communities and neighbourhoods that have organically grown around commercial and professional activity.


Mumbai has been shaped by the industry, trade and businesses that grew here along with the neighbourhoods that served these activities and the populace that served these trades, industry and business. People from diverse regions from within as well as outside the nation’s borders converged to be nurtured by the city as well as to nurture it themselves – a symbiotic relationship that also resulted in the intermingling of different cultures, social backgrounds and classes. This gave the city its consmopolitanism – a dynamic culture that was alive, symbiotic, enriching and inclusive.


2) The past two decades have seen Mumbai moving far too rapidly towards a rather drastic transformation. In that process, it is obliterating – erasing – many aspects of the city that symbolized and shaped the very character of the city.


Palimpsest is what is leftover from successive erasures. It is an indelible record, an archive, of the ghosts of erasures. Scars perhaps, that remain even when the animal is moulting.


Mumbai, then, is moulting, shedding its skin and metamorphosing.


Mills give way to malls, expansive chawls with teakwood rafters and wide wooden staircases worn down by several generations of footfall make way for cold towers of glass and chrome, the welcoming Irani cafe at every street corner is eased out by lounges, restobars and pubs, simple childhood games fade before gaming and gadgets, communities scatter before the massive JCB earthmovers …and the megapolis carries out many erasures.


In the face of this rapid transformation we obliterate many aspects that have symbolized the ethos of the city. The erasures therefore are not only of structures but also of its history and character. Many of the things that stood as the essence of the spirit of the city seem to lose relevance. The erasures then, are obliterations from public discourse, public memory and from relevance. Erasures of context, of significance, of values, milieu, of a way of life, of aspirations and co existence.



3) Thus, it is not a nostalgic remembrance of ‘the good old days’, or a recitation of ‘in our time…’ nor even a Luddite position of opposing all change but rather a statement that attempts to underline the ramifications of obliterating something that was crucial in building this city over several generations. Something that had given the city its dynamism and its character as being open, open minded, safe and modern. So even as we replace that musty old chawl with a spanking new gated community, drive out vendors from the streets and replace them with malls selling vegetables in plastic wrap, replace the Irani café and udupi restaurant with swanky coffee shops and burger outlets – we are yet left with the question of whether this implies progress, ‘development’, an advancement and betterment of Mumbai as a thriving cosmopolitan metropolis or is all of this leading the city towards becoming more parochial and exclusivistic, towards breaking of the community spirit and leading its people into becoming self directed, isolated and alienated – all of which implies a breaking of the city’s cosmopolitan character and, perhaps, a retrograde movement towards becoming more and more provincial and narrow minded.


4) What does a writer or painter do who is witness to this sad history of her city? She can retrieve, record, archive and point to these erasures. Try to outline the palimpsest (in the form of memory) left behind – to capture its bylanes, mills, Irani cafes, behemoths, chawls, chimneys, alleys, staircases, corridors and doorways not only because they are part of personal as well as collective memory, but also because they have defined and shaped the complexion of Mumbai – the warp and weft of the social fabric of this city and the character and spirit of its people.


Presenting then, a collage in Paint and Poetry – Some love letters to Bombay/Mumbai



A cruel sun beat down and roasted to a crisp within an hour

spices and red chilies laid out to dry on the pavement

then, like the child wanting to create fire with a lens and straw

it shone back reflecting from a million walls of glass


and multiplied enough to start a fire in the belly of the rubble

of wood, brick and Mangalore tiles all bulldozed in an organic heap

waiting to rise again like a new glass and chrome phoenix temple

demanding obeisance – tall, smooth, silent, intimidating and sleek.


Smooth the realtor’s tongue, intimidating the muscle power

behind his safari suit, silent the automated window pane of his jaguar

tall his promise of alternate shelter, sleek the polarized Ray Bans that cover

his swiftly calculating eyes – glass and chrome hot enough to start a fire


no place to hide or rest or nest and that was when the swift footed squirrel

eloped far away elsewhere with the soft feathered sparrow never to return.



There it is, that sound

the constant hypnotic stacatto

iron wheels on iron rails

the track waits for none


and the impatient crowd on the platform holds its breath

for a momentary pause in that rhythm

so they may enter and be one with it.


There it is, the tick tock

like blood in your veins the pulse of the clock

a beat that rules your feet

tethered to the treadmill at an unceasing urgent pace

running faster even to remain at the same place


and the smothered impatient thoughts hold their breath

for a momentary blink to get a toehold into your mind

that might compel you to think.


There it is, the roar

that restive thrashing at the shore

the restless wave on the rocks protesting reclamation

the ominous hum of earthmovers,

silent evictions and demolitions and giant cement mixers

snaking about everywhere like vipers


and the impatient wave holds its breath

for even a momentary pause, a chink

in the machine’s armour so it may reclaim

the territory that was rightly hers.



When the moon is full and bloated with the sins of men

and with the lies that they speak, then she puts on a jaundiced halo

and reflects a light so blinding that the people may not see

and cringe and die in shame at the horrors that their wantonness has begot.

When the moon is full and bloated.


Then she picks up her weary satchel to set off on her lonesome beat

Through the alleys and the subways of the city that is on heat.


Searching for that one act of kindness from hands that do not seek

For courage and compassion in this city that is on heat.


Seeking a mind that still finds meaning in syllables

forming tenuous words that people are too embarrassed to speak

she searches on her lonely beat.


And when she finds them she exults at this redemption like

an excited schoolboy unearthing a stash of marbles who marvels at his find,

she exults at this redemption.


Then bathes them in her gentle light

He cleans his treasure with tender care


She covers them with her mantle

He wraps it in brown paper


She returns to the skies

He hurries home with his prize


She guards them through the night

He conceals it out of sight


She stands vigil with the stars and the fireflies

When the moon is full.



From the dark wooden staircase worn down under five generations of footfall

From Teen Batti, Saat rasta, Kaala Chowki, Lalbaug and Shivdi

to the ST bus depots at Bombay Central, Parel and Dadar running

extra services during April, September and October

eager happy families, kids, aji and atya with brass boxes

full of laddoos and rexine bags with zippers that do not work

carrying little gifts of childrens’ clothes and plastic toys that will

put stars in the eyes of nieces and nephews.


ST buses loaded with bodies aching for rest, for quiet

and for tight embraces of brothers that stayed back

or went back defeated by the city of bright lights.


Kin they must necessarily invite

to every function in the family – happy or tragic

if they don’t feed them on the thirteenth day of the funeral

who else is there when they themselves pass?


Of all the attachments the city breeds is there one as strong

and compelling as the call of the red soil he left behind

barren, meager, dry and unproductive, yes

yet his very own.



And I want it this way

Cafe Mondegar with you on a Saturday night

when it is crammed full of peoples voices


clatter of cutlery and Mondy’s Crew

shouting out orders over our heads

the air warm and spilling over with


beer smell and the merry old man smiling

from a frame on the wall beside

a Budweiser in blue and red neon lights.


on the busy walls, another of the crew frozen forever

in a goofy smile with foam overflowing

the six beer mugs he manages in one hand and


behind him the buggy horse with a quizzical smile for

the lobster that jumps up from a plate and bites the nose

of an astonished patron, napkin tucked into collar


knife and fork raised in anticipation,

if Hoshang is on the premises

he’ll tell you its history all over again.


Our bentwood chairs right next to the juke box

hard rock on a loop, loud, very loud

languages crisscrossing above in disciplined warps and wefts


till they become a dialect all its own

and it descends like an insistent fabric

resisting purification or decipherment


the air as crowded as the seven column menu

sandwiched between the glass and the checkered gingham

loud, very loud so we can’t hear each other speak


and we fall as silent as the stir fried

pepper garlic prawns on a Mario-print plate

silent as the condensation on the cool dark bottle


silent as the pool at its feet

Then I will hear only what your eyes speak

listen to your hands as they rest on the table


read the history your burnished skin reveals and

the whisper of the wave in your hair as she softens

the blows life has thrown at you.


I want it this way, no words between us

just that which settles down on us from above


we’ll slip in between the binaries to reach

a fuzzy logic beyond denotations


not what you said but the implication of the gap

that lies behind it wanting to be read

the semantics of the spaces between your words.


for the times to grow silent are upon us now and we must

hold our tongues, adjust the kerning, leave room for our silences

to express that which we dare not speak out loud anymore


so then we will plot a conspiracy

and make muteness a weapon for our mutiny.



The mynah calling

Late for work

The leaf a trembling

Just can’t shirk.


Dewdrops unnoticed

Grab a bite on the go

Clouds a gathering

Will miss the 8.20 slow.


Wait, don’t go

Where the heck are my socks?

It’s a beautiful day, take a CL today

Door shuts and the key turns in the lock.


The house still calls

Behind the locked door

Two empty glasses on the table

Still asking for more.


A deep dark sigh

Echoes to its own call

Louder at every turn

Beyond the solitary hall.


It whirls on its toes

And fills every room

Drums out the emptiness

And pirouettes round the gloom.


Till nothing else is left

But the swirling of its sound

Like a dervish in his dance

Oblivious and unbound.


Then it falls exhausted

With yet a hope in its sight

Busy as the day might have been, there’s still

The promise of the night.






ASIATIC SOCIETY: 4TH Dec 2015 – RECORDING ERASURES: REFLECTING MEMORY – An exploration through words, verse and image.

Reflecting Erasures poster.jpgChange implies replacing the old with a new order – erasures and overwriting. Society in general and cities particularly have seen very rapid changes in the past decade. Mumbai especially seems to be in a hurry to transform almost every aspect of its being.

Anjali Purohit, an artist, writer and poet living in Mumbai, has been witness to the sad history of this metropolis for the past forty years; witness to some of the erasures effected during the course of this metamorphosis and also to the palimpsest that it leaves behind. Most of her work – both in words and in paint – reflect her exploration of her relation with this her mutating homeland, her ‘watan’ where she tries to capture its bylanes, cafes, mills, behemoths, chawls, chimneys, alleys, staircases, corridors and doorways not only because they are part of personal as well as collective memory but also because they have symbolized, defined and shaped the complexion of Mumbai, the warp and weft of the social fabric of this city and the character and spirit of its people.

 Recording Erasures: Reflecting Memory will attempt to explore this archival memory through the work and poetry of the writer/painter and to examine how such memory (palimpsest), despite attempts at erasures, still holds relevance, significance and validation without which, perhaps, our lives, to that extent, remain poorer.

Mumbai Moulting: Erasures and a Palimpsest

Mumbai Moulting: Erasures and a Palimpsest was conceived and curated by Anjali Purohit as a conversation between Poetry, Music and Art. The conversation was about a Mumbai that is eager to shed its skin. A city in a hurry to become Shanghai and in this process carrying out many erasures. But these erasures always leave behind a palimpsest, a memory, a ghost of those erasures.

And yet, the very ethos and vibrancy of the city has generated so much reaction from poets and musicians for generations in their attempt to capture and make permanent aspects of the city that they wanted to preserve. This event was an attempt to renegotiate those poetic and musical creations and counterpoise them with the writings, music and art of artists and poets of the present. The urgency and irony of Erasures was highlighted by the fact that the art installations and cultural intervention of these voices was taking place in a factory warehouse earmarked for demolition immediately after the Vikhroli Skin pop up event concluded.
It included paintings by Anjali Purohit from her show ‘Erasures-A Partial Account’ presented as an intervention that added a voice to that of the singers and the poets.

The songs presented by Amarendra Dhaneshwar at the culture lab were –

The first song, too well known to need an introduction – yeh hai Bombay meri Jaan was from the film CID, written by Majrooh Sultanpuri.

Mumbaichi Lavni – Lavni is a form of Marathi folk music. It has a distinct tempo and is usually about beauty and love. Here Amarendra Dhaneshwar presented a Lavni called Mumbaichi Lavni that is about the Shahir’s love for Mumbai. Written by Patthe Bapurao in the 1800s it describes Bombay right from the docks to the stations and markets, the Kala Ghoda and the Khada Parsi down then finally to the chawl that will protect, sustain and shelter the migrant worker. Patthe Bapurao came from a high caste Brahmin family but rebelled against tradition to take up what was then considered the lowly profession of a folk singer and writer. He married a dancer and was severely ostracized by his community yet persevered to become a very popular shahir.

Majhi Maina: is a folk song written by Annabhau Sathe who is known as the people’s poet of Maharashtra. It speaks, amongst other things about migration, loneliness and the bonds that still remain even though one is swept away by the pace and industry of this city.

Girnichi Lavni: is by the poet Narayan Surve. It is a love song to the textile mill. The poet describes the love that the mill worker feels for this mother – the siren at dawn that sings the bhoopali, the wheels, the thread, the bobbins moving ceaselessly, joining threads that break, weaving strands together – the fascinatingly beautiful cloth that emerge resplendent in so many colours and textures – silks and malmals, saris and shelas. After creating all this splendour, when we return home – there’s no money for fuel to light the stove, now what will we cook. Or should we just put a stitch in our belly to quell its call, just like we stitch (tie) together the strands on the loom?

Chino Arab Hamara – is written by Sahir Ludiyanvi from the film Phir Subah Hogi.

Seene mein Jalan – from the film Gaman is written by the poet Sharyar who chose to speak about the pain of the deprived, the man on the street – Why is there a fire in his heart, a storm in his eyes – why is every person in this city so troubled.

The poets who read their ‘Bombay/Mumbai’ poems that day were  Mustansir Dalvi, Menka Shivdasani, Anju Makhija, Anand Thakore, Anjali Purohit, Rochelle Potkar, Smita Sahay and Shona Urvashi.

A video of the event here –MUMBAI MOULTING: ERASURES AND A PALIMPSEST: Godrej India Culture Lab – Vikhroli Skin 14th December 2013

and the video here –

Holding up Half the Sky

The Mumbai Chapter of 100Thousand Poets for Change, organized by Menka Shivdasani, was a festival of Music and Poetry Reading over four days (26th to 29th Sept 2013) hosted by the popular south Mumbai bookstore Kitab Khana.
The event on 27th was curated by writer and artist Anjali Purohit – Holding up Half the Sky was an evening of music and poetry themed around the lives of women – The purpose here was to create a dialogue between languages, cultures and mediums of expression to create a synergetic interaction that, having expressed themselves together on a single platform, would create a richer and deeper understanding of the issue.

Six city poets read their poetry on three aspects of women’s lives – Women and work, Being Woman and Woman as mother, daughter, partner, wife, lover. Pt Amarendra Dhaneshwar of the Gwalior Gharana accompanied by Mukta Raste on the table rendered the music.

The event began with Marathi songs by the poet Narayan Surve (Dongari Shet Maza ga…) about a peasant woman working on a stony mountainous patch of land and the other by Daya Pawar (Mee Dharan Bandhatey…) about a woman labourer on the construction site of a dam. Annie Zaidi and Anjali Purohit read their poems about women and work.
The section devoted to Being Woman has the song Mungi Udali Akashi written by the 13th Century saint poetess Muktabai and was chosen because at some level it also stands for the contradictions that women live through on a daily basis and yet manage to deal with them to create something that is beautiful. Menka Shivdasani and Rochelle Potkar read their poetry on the subject.

The last section about women in the context of their relationships had two bandishes – thumris – the first one ‘Babul Mora…’ written by Wajid Ali Shah and the other by Amir Khusrau, ‘Lakhi Babul Morey…’. Smita Sahay read her poetry in English and Urvashi Pandya read in Gujarati.

Some memories from that evening –

and –

PEN@Prithvi: Saturday, 9th March 2015


invites you to its PEN@Prithvi session for May 2015: Coming Home to Writing: A CONFLUENCE

In our May 2015 session, a set of emerging writers from different disciplines and domains – including Anjali Purohit, Barnali Ray Shukla, Devashish Makhija, Dion D’Souza, Dominic Alapat, and Jennifer Robertson – will come together to share their journeys.

They will discuss the experiences that continue to shape their writing, as poets, fiction writers, film-makers, script-writers, translators. They will talk about the blurring boundaries between the various mediums they explore as creators of art; the interstitial spaces they inhabit; and the trajectories they often take before arriving at a poem, a story, a screenplay. The writers will also reflect on the seminal works that have shaped and influenced their work, process and world-view. Jennifer Robertson will moderate the session.

General Secretary
The PEN All-India Centre

VASUNDHARA: Dialects in Dialogue


This collaborative experiment, curated by Anjali Purohit, was an attempt to hold a dialogue between the different arts with the aim that when this confluence occurs, the result is a creation that is somehow a little greater than the sum of its parts.

POETRY, MUSIC, DANCE AND ART are but different dialects in the language of self expression.

These four forms were in conversation about women’s lives, about choices we need to make in life, about aloneness and belonging, desire and passion, compromise, loss and solidarity.

Music, dance, poetry and art conversed and responded to each other to create a confluence of shared experience that strove to fulfill a desire for communality and fraternity.

The warp and weft of this collaboration was formed by these strands –


Translation into Italian………………Nuria Sala Grau

CLASSICAL BANDISH in the Tradition of the Gwalior Gharana: Neela Bhagwat



ART……………………………….­………Anjali Purohit

THE HOPE STREET POETS: Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, 13th February ’15 – some images

A Poetry reading session was organized by the Literature section of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015 at the David Sassoon Library Garden on 13th February 2015. Curated by Ranjit Hoskote it featured the following poets –

PANEL I (5 pm to 6:15 pm) | Session Moderator — Ranjit Hoskote
Adil Jussawalla
Aditi Rao
Sudeep Sen
Priya Sarukkai Chabria
Desmond Kharmawphlang
Anjali Purohit

and the rest of the evening will be equally magical with –
PANEL II (6:30 pm to 7:45 pm) | Session Moderator — Mustansir Dalvi
Keki Daruwalla
Jennifer Robertson
Arun Sagar
Rochelle Potkar
Tsippy Levine Byron
Randhir Khare

PANEL III (8 pm to 9:15 pm) | Session Moderator — Jennifer Robertson
E.V Ramakrishnan
Bina Sarkar Ellias
Mustansir Dalvi
Anupama Raju
Anand Thakore
Mani Rao