Once in a rare while an editor comes across poignant verses that are unselfconscious about their own preoccupations. The pulse of such poems can appear incidental, perhaps even accidental to the author’s processes. Sandip Baidya’s poems of modern, urban angst — no, angst has become an ugly word these days — modern, urban fatigue, are disarming, perhaps because they do not try too hard.
His images are abundant, and abundantly tactile. We’re left in no doubt how the speaker’s ‘weak / city back lies strained on a bamboo bed’ and feel intensely his ‘body of skin and static hair / statued to the ground like rice stalk’. Baidya veers past the familiar — and easier — technique of visual or auditory images, and instead allows his poems to rest on the reader’s skin.
Three of the four poems in this sequence bear relationships to various pasts: the immediate past of a long, indulgent afternoon; the past of young adulthood and easy intimacies; and the past of childhood with an abandoned birthplace. Their accomplishment lies in how they steer clear of nostalgia. For instance, just when the ritual of eating an orange is about to turn sentimental, the wedges are compared to ‘the twitching eyes of newborn rats’. Read these poems for what they do, yes, but read them also for what they don’t.
— Pervin Saket
The Bombay Literary Magazine
The Unknown Corporate Citizen
Long afternoons of past–
where the sunlight climbs down through
the balcony, inches slowly indoors
like a newly hatched caterpillar, crawling
on soft-crunch legs, only to nest on my
shins—warm golden pool.
There’s a half-eaten apple on its way,
marked with the memory of sunken teeth,
and it’s all so lazy. Soon, there will be a curious
ant, and after, many of its family, marching
from unknown towards the chipped sweet monolith.
The friendless wasp returns to find
sockets on my walls, hides eggs, buzzes
and it is all so very lazy, as if this here
has become the resting place of bliss.
Everyone in the house is sleeping, their breaths
call out & in like smooth sinusoids & I’m
awake so I feel special. But
right now I sit hunched like a puppet between acts,
eyes dripping of aqueous humor over laptop
screens—not one, not two, but three screens—
applying aggregates on tiny rows of data
that make up humans.
In my spreadsheet, a person is many things
but never that, never one who longs to sit through
lazy afternoons, to eat apples, to watch
ants and wasps.
I have never liked an orange
enough to eat all of its sections
by myself. An orange must be
divided and only one of us must carry
only one orange in our bags.
The ritual is simple,
we must climb to where the sun
sits plentifully, let our feet dangle,
our brown skins marinate in
photon glaze, the orange then turns
inside its peel, the wedges nudge like
twitching eyes of newborn rats
And so it begins—
the sharing, the eating, the sucking,
the guzzling, the spitting, and the tease aftermath
of squeezing rinds into our eyes,
then aching fresh
with the adult realization of a lost childhood, that
for a moment has
come back in the form of this orange,
like a faded sun in our palms.
What Of Love, It’s Upon Us
The expensive corporate roof is made all
of glass, made to look
light but is probably heavy, lest it barrage down
in broken million, polygonic shards against crow
kiss, crow feet, beaks
gone mad with all the stratosphere heat.
My friend K nudges his head deeper
into the pit of my shoulder,
lulled with an afternoon sleep. Our stomachs
heavy with cheap burgers, and I can’t help but
look up, because people are
staring at us. The roof feels heavy too, as if held
against the large bosom of photons, ready
to spill over me, and K.
But they make them strong nowadays. We come
to this mall to feed our eyes with occasional
capitalist glitter, K’s too
busy looking at emaciated mannequins
through glass, and in watching him, I get another
vision; what if he leaves me
friendless, who will I mall with, who
will I go empty stomach with, convinced
we could just feed
on the lights
of this city alone:
street light, fairy light, corn light.
Sometimes he’s all I need. As I keep my head against his,
the metro hum vanishes,
the world blinks away. But
sometimes I need him
the farthest, my digits preferring the phantoms
that call me solitary
through Delhi streets. I like K because it’s easy,
he drags my visions by the tongue to
I’m less bogged, less confused, less moth
but he lets me stray like a cat, I love him this act.
I wait, the roof doesn’t melt,
he’s sound asleep, there’s a new batch of people buzzing.
I wait for the sun to set, and for him to wake up.
When I Visit My Birthplace
after many years, I am scared–
The night outside is a vocal sac
of a Tungara frog, held at knife point
by sharp screech of cricket songs. My weak
city back lies strained on a bamboo bed.
I have reason to believe there lurk
monsters outside. But with my bladder
almost brimming, I step out of the house.
I’m peeing by the marigolds, the night
is swallowing itself up in recursion, getting
darker. Here in Hrishyamukh, the fog drips
so thick, you’d think it’s raining.
I distract myself by looking at bamboo poles,
held upright by frozen fog. But I know
the ancestral deads have gathered behind me, to
peer at my back with hidden claws
and the winds are thrashing so hard,
my liver’s crawled in my mouth. Here in
Hrishyamukh, when I’m not scared
of these long moonless nights, I feel myself
to be, just a body of skin and static hair
statued to the ground like rice stalk on weak limbs,
feeding my bits to this abandoned home,
as due compensation.
Sandip Baidya is a poet and fiction writer. He graduated from G.B Pant Govt. Engg College, Delhi with a degree in engineering. His work can be found in Multitudes and Beyond The Panorama. He is an alumnus of the International Writing Program’s Summer Institute, 2019. He doodles a lot because he’s obsessed with shapes.