1 On my virtual wall

On my virtual wall, I see icicles hanging from my friend’s window
in some far off land, daffodils springing surprises
at another friend’s door in Seattle, and ducks floating merrily.
I breathe the whiff of bougainvillea
growing untrammeled on another friend’s boundary wall.

Yet, socially distanced, I’m, so far away, my tactility at bay.
Far, far away.

It tugs at my heart that I cannot touch, I cannot hug,
but believe me,
I can feel the waft of love
reaching me across boundary walls.

I place a call to a very dear friend in Italy,
who gushes excitedly,
advising me lovingly of what to do and what not,
in these sad, anxious times.
‘We will definitely meet in better times,’ she promises,
‘and remember, we shall overcome.’

Yet, socially distanced, I’m, so far, far away, my tactility at bay.
Far, far away.

I close my eyes and see the moon beaming,
am I dreaming, or do I really hear
the moon’s intoxicating rhythm?
‘Yes, I am a dreamer’ ….
And I see ‘the dawn before the rest of the world.’

Ah, there it comes – but on tip toe, like a scared cat.
I peer through my window and listen, rapt.
To the sounds of silence- raucous and chaotic.

Life goes on.
A little distance away, at a construction site, the fight is on.
As another concrete structure rears its head skywards.
Suddenly words leave me in the lurch as a sparrow perched
on a tree bursts into a song of freedom. So clear. Not at all distant.
Yes, you may say I’m a dreamer, but I am not the only one,
Lennon sings in my head and I too start to hum,
convinced that we shall definitely overcome.
Yes, I am a dreamer…and I see the dawn before the rest of the world.
A love-filled dawn, when my tactility will no longer be at bay
and social distances will once again be overcome.

[This poem was published in www.destinypoets.co.uk, 20 March, 2020]

2 A Sliver

I sit near the window, ruminating,
riveted to the sounds of an ear- splitting silence.
Masked humanity lumbers in the dark,
stark terror etched on faces.

In the room, Leonard Cohen soulfully sings
about cracks in everything,
I hear a pigeon yodeling,
and a tiny robin puffs out its chest,
testing its notes in the silent air.

On my mental screen, I see an octogenarian, in a hospital room,
thumping a triumphant fist in the air,
silently celebrating his victory over the virus.

I glimpse a sliver of bright light,
insinuating itself through a crack
and flooding the gloomy room.
The pigeon yodels on,
and the robin appears to have struck the right note
after all the testing.

[Published in www.destinypoets.co.uk. 22 March, 2020]

3 Kafka Revisits

“Don’t step outside your homes’, was the warning.
What about those who have no homes –
the homeless and the hopeless, the pavement dwellers.
Are they secure from the virus? Are they immune?
My heart aflutter, muttered.
Or will the sky above shield them from hunger and disease?
My mind was churning, learning and unlearning,
tuning itself to the new times, the new paradigm.


Hey, a cockroach! Is it really a cockroach?
Never seen a cockroach in our house before!
The only critter which can survive a nuclear attack –they say,
blindly groping its way on the unmopped floor.
It scurried around, helter- skelter
under a welter of recrimination from us – the incarcerated folks.

Was the roach also on its way to panic buying?
I wondered, as it blundered around blindly,
scurrying around.
Finally as I opened the door a little,
it hastily crossed the Laxman Rekha,*
and was out – to be serenaded by the sounds of silence.
Eerie and surreal.

*In Ramayana, it is a line drawn by Lakshmana around the cottage where Rama, his wife Sita and he stay at Panchvati in the Dandakaranya forest [Now in the city of Nashik, Maharashtra]. This line was supposedly drawn for the protection of Sita.

4 The long walk back home

The homeless, the impoverished,
the street dwellers, were all forlorn
Even the dawn was dark; the dam had burst.

“There is some food back home in our village,
the company people asked to vacate,
there was no option, and we had to leave.”
Onwards trooped the hapless group
Towels wrapped around their heads,
as protection against the sun.
But even the dawn was dark; the dam had burst.

Armed with water bottles, packets of biscuits
and a handful of grit
onwards trooped the hapless group,
every step, depleting their strength, bit by bit.

On one young man’s shoulders sat a tiny girl, lisping away,
excited at the prospect of once again going back
to her dadi in that remote village,
listening to stories and thrilling folk lore, once again ,
unbeknownst, that their journey was the stuff
of which folklore was made,

“Papa, it is morning, look the sun is shining”.
But the father knew that even
the dawn was dark; the dam had burst.

The emptiness howled, the silence screamed.
The afternoon sun blazed on.
But even the dawn was dark; the dam had burst.

The twenty year old walked from his factory in Unnao
to his village in Barabanki, eighty kilometers away.

But, in another gesture so heartwarming,
a housing society in Pune,
clapped and clanged their utensils
as a fifty one year old and his forty three year old wife
returned home from the hospital, fully cured,
a promise throbbing in their hearts
of the beginning of a new life.
Yes, a new life
where the dawn was bursting forth in light.

5 Spring

On my mental screen, a maestro raises his hand,
baton ready to strike the chord.
I listen to music, BB King sings, ah, so soulfully,
infusing some life in a comatose, petrified universe.

There is a message from a dear friend,
“please stay safe, don’t venture out”, she pleads,
love pouring out through every word.
Outside, a bird flutters a wing. A dog whelps.
“Don’t worry”, I message.

“I am happy you got to go on your whirlwind tour,
before the craziness got crazier.”
“Yes, indeed”, I say, jabbing away.
Jabbing away.
A bright picture flashes on the computer screen,
spring has sprung in Wuhan.
Cherry blossoms are all a riot,
and love besotted couples, walk hand in hand
admiring the bright hues.

6 Sometime soon

The trains will once again rush past through the fields
sometime soon.
The birds will not look around confused,
wondering what became of the chattering humanity
where have the joggers, the talkers,
the mockers vanished?
Which wicked wizard banished them from the earth?
The earth will once again, shake with relieved mirth.
Sometime soon.

Yes, sometime soon
those abominable masks will also fall.
Humanity will move around free and unmasked,
looking at the azure blue skies,
where aero planes cruise, free and unafraid.
Sometime soon.
Darkness will not perch on eyelids,
despair will not clutch the heart
Sometime soon.

Yes, sometime soon,
we will laugh wholeheartedly
Free of the virus, free of fear, and move around, fearlessly,
remembering the horrors unleashed in the corona -virus times
sometime soon.

Yes, sometime soon
that dark memory might once again scorch the mental screen
smoldering like a dying jungle fire
and we, the fighters will sit in our swings in the patio,
sipping tea or coffee, discussing how it tapered away
with that last shuddering rattle of death.

Sometime soon.
We will merrily bask in the hopeful hues of spring,
singing songs of hope,
sometime soon.
Yes, sometime soon.

Till then let me keep washing my hands,
dreaming of sylvan lands, seeing wisteria and
magnolias blooming,
piercing the overwhelming gloom,
and robins and sparrows,
doves and parakeets chirping up a storm-
the tiny hummingbirds hopping from branch to branch
in a happy frenzy , raising a crescendo of hope.
Let us not mope,
as something tells me,
that we will be unshackled of this fear,
sometime soon.
Yes, sometime soon.

Academic, poet, novelist, essayist, TEDx speaker, Dr. Santosh Bakaya, winner of the International Reuel Award for literature for her long poem, Oh Hark! [2014] has been critically acclaimed for her poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi, Ballad of Bapu [Vitasta, 2015 ] Winner of numerous awards-some being-Universal Inspirational Poet Award [ 2016, Pentasi B Friendship Poetry and Ghana Government] the Bharat Nirman Award for literary Excellence [ 2017,] Setu Award, 2018, [Pittsburgh, USA] ‘in recognition of a stellar contribution to world literature.’ the first Keshav Malik award 2019 ‘for her entire staggeringly prolific and quality conscious oeuvre’. Her TEDx talk on The Myth of Writers’ Block is very popular in creative writing classes and her oeuvre includes more than twelve books- novels, poetry, biographies, and essays.

Jaipur, India

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Life in Quarantine: Witnessing Global Pandemic is an initiative sponsored by the Poetic Media Lab and the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis at Stanford University.

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