‘Ten Sentences about Surat for a 5-year-old to Read, Remember and Recite in School’ and other poems

Vishnu Bagdawala

2022

Introduction

As I was reading for this last issue of 2022, I realized that over a thousand poems had landed in — and flown past — my inbox this year. With so many poets trying so hard to do something important, perhaps Vishnu Bagdawala’s work stood out because of the ease with which it wore itself. The poems do not try; they simply are. They are comfortable in their skin, content in their enoughness.

In poetry circles, it is routine, perhaps mandatory to discuss what makes a good poem. We might be better off first discussing what makes a poem. This selection reminded me of Virginia Woolf’s letter to Vita Sackville-West in which she asks: If you happen to know, do wire what’s the essential difference between prose and poetry—It cracks my poor brain to consider.

Vishnu Bagdawala’s suite does not answer this question as much as it transcends it. The form is integral, which is why the form does not matter. From the school-recital format to the Kaveh Akbar-esque staccato style in ‘God is Great’ [think ‘Pilgrim Bell’], the poems remind us that poetry is not determined by the outfit that language wears.

— Pervin Saket
The Bombay Literary Magazine

Ten Sentences about Surat for a 5-year-old to Read, Remember and Recite in School

I live in Surat city.
It is situated on the bank of River Tapi.
Surat was called Suryanagari.
It is an old city with a rich history.
Now it is a hub of textile and diamond industry.
Surat has pleasant weather.
The winter is not too cold. The summer is not too hot.
It rains but not too much during the monsoon.
The people here are nice and helpful, mostly.
All in all, it is a good enough place to live in.

 


 

twilight

it is possible
in the evenings
on the terrace of our house

may be around
six o’clock
the sun still high

in the sky
or later still
if it is during the summer

we sit on the floor
after laying out
the shatranji

carrying on
a little conversation
about little nothings

we bend our knees
and hold them together
with our two hands

putting our heads
on our knees sometimes
with our voices

mingling with the sand
blowing across
the land

sometimes we take a fruit
with us
a banana or an apple

or if they are in season
oranges or jamun or
mangoes

we carry them on
our plates
each to his own

and we take a bite
at our own pace
though mostly synced together

and every now and then
when we go onto the terrace
there comes a time when

our legs
start cramping up from sitting
too long on the floor

when one of us begins
to lie down followed by
the other without

a great deal of thought
or resistance
or desire

and we sleep
on our back and then
move onto a side

facing the west facing the sun
between two distant buildings
and above the upper margins

of a banyan tree a
semicircle a bracket
sleeping on its belly

we take the sun in clearly
and look at it
till we no longer watch it

and let it
go down and down
the horizon till

there is nothing
but the little grey
of the twilight

it is when this
light gets back to us
that we know

it is time
to lift ourselves up
fold the shatranji

and go back
with the remains
of the fruit we have with us

we follow each other
down the stairs
wipe the dust

off our feet
on a mat
placed at the perfect place

on a landing from where
our feet cannot take
the dust from the terrace ahead

we get to talking
about important things
once in the kitchen

and finish our chores
which brings us
to the night.

 


 

God is Great

I am not going to be serious.
Not serious. Not serious.
I will make a joke.
About arses exchanging. Poop.
And the incidental constipation.
Leading. To a lack thereof.
Of exchange of poops.

All of it intended.
To be a metaphor.
For cultural exchange.
Or lack thereof.
At Global summits.
At inter-galactic level.

I will laugh and laugh.
Draw line drawings.
Of astronomically-scatological.
Scenarios. Quit harping on.
About Jesus Christ and Kanye West.
6 pegs down.

I will just sleep peacefully.
And will not dream.
I will cause no trouble.
And I will get free.
Soon. Soon enough.

For me to gather all the love.
I can offer.
And I will find.
Ultimately. A reason to give.

All that I have taken.
Historically.
Philosophically.
And spiritually.

Till the end of day.

I promise I will.
Give it all back.
And only retain.
Those jokes.
Because.
God is Great.
And I am not.

Acknowledgements

Image credits: Rahul Badane, Wikimedia Commons.

Contributor

Vishnu Bagdawala

Vishnu is a published writer and a poet, in multiple magazines. An avid reader, his interest lies in negotiating and understanding the historical and contemporary context (of his birth) in a specific time and place via the medium of written words and he hopes to publish his first novel soon. Vishnu Bagdawala is also a Senior Programming Coordinator for Viewing Room and Work-in-Progress Lab at NFDC Film Bazaar. He has been a part of the Viewing Room team since the past four editions and joined right after completing his PG Diploma in Mass Communication from Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai in 2019. He has also been a freelance writer for films and content in development for various production houses and OTT platforms.

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