(Photograph courtesy Jayshree Shukla. Posted with due permission)
Love and faith light up the dense tangle of streets
that lead to the dargah of mehboob –e – ilahi,
and the tomb of his beloved disciple Khusro,
garbed in rose petals, attars, offerings
and a heady whiff of spiced kebabs,
lost words float across the treetops,
arches, patios and tombs, sometimes,
quietly they nestle in an empty nest
or whirl down onto the marbled floor
in an aerial dance—like dervishes,
caught in a mystical ecstasy, their souls
electrified by the rising crescendo of qawaals.
Possessed in a feverish frenzy of longing
and sensuousness, bodies dissolve
into each other and in turn into
the saint and the poet, love rises
as smoke at the end of the lit incense
and floats through the prayers
tied to the marble lattice
I sit in a corner, eyes closed – entranced,
the poet in me loses herself to the scents,
the sounds, the sights, the dust, the birds,
the trees, the sky, the marble, the songs,
and then dips herself in holy water
as green as the greenest emerald.
The sun seeks its path among
the silhouettes frozen in time.
I lean against the afternoon draped pillars
and feel my inner darkness melt
with their lengthening shadows,
the senescent walls soak up the pain
as I trace my fingers over them.
Across the courtyard, time, like a poem,
burns in the dua-e–roshni as the day
meets the loban perfumed night.
Two lovers completing each other
like two halves of a sphere.
It is in this cosmos
that the inexpressible exists,
visible to those eyes which can see.
(Based on one of my visits to the Dargah this is one of the poems in the Delhi Series. First published in Asian Signature Magazine.)
The fringes of the day lingered
on the rampart of Sikander Lodhi’s tomb,
moving on to the walls
that spanned out in a series of arches and columns
that stood like trees of life
supporting what remained of that glorious past.
Patches of light played hide and seek
on the buildings as the sun sought its path
among the silhouettes frozen in time.
I took the nearest path, shaded by arched trees,
the crowd was sparse, but love was everywhere—
on the rocks, behind the trees,
on the steps of the mausoleums,
over the eight-pier bridge,
in quiet corners screened by bamboos,
it even sprawled across the sloppy lawns
oblivious to the scattered graves,
or the cacophonous roosting birds.
Love doesn’t care about the mundane,
nor does the dust of the ancient bones
of dynasties that shaped Delhi.
I passed laughing children as
they teased ducks by the pond
and sat, eyes half closed against the sun,
a blade of grass between my teeth
watching the empty sky
from the shade of a blossoming Kachnar tree,
The breeze stirred the leaves,
their shadows moved,
a pair of cooing doves paused to listen
to rustling whispers
from the parapets dark birds flew like fragments
of charred paper rising from the fire,
a kite watched from the lonely turret.
Leaving the comfort of shadow play
I take the familiar path to reality,
harsh headlights, groping hands,
catcalls and swearing,
dust and fumes choking the city lungs,
the green grass merging into concrete,
the dying river
and night, now creeping across the sky
hiding the many sins of a city
more ruinous than the ruins I left behind.
This poem is part of the series of poems about Delhi that I am doing. It was first published in The Criterion – An international Journal In English’s Vol 7 . Check out the journal for literary essays, poetry, fiction etc from world over.