‘Waiting for Kolatkar Mia’ and Other Poems

Kapil Kachru

2022

Introduction

Tributes to poets in the form of poetry are tricky things. Especially when the poet weaves in something of the mood or style of another artist. Can such a poem stand as its own thing, in its own voice? Reading Kapil Kachru’s work dedicated to Arun Kolatkar and Mario Miranda is delightfully affirming. An exercise in enchantment and humour, the pieces simultaneously belong to both worlds.

But what really caught my eye with Kachru’s set of poems was ‘Nav Sheen’, a poem holding such pain, it insists on the absence of all feeling. The opening image ‘heart is hollow / feet are bare’ is all the reader needs to experience a looming, all-consuming absence. A family’s journey ‘to scatter father’s ashes’ through forests and tiger reserves brings up some unexpected, even darkly humourous insights. The poem though, is made by its title. Nav Sheen, or first snow in Kashmiri, is a time of celebration, with food, family and warmth. Kachru’s movement, from death and ashes to snow and beginnings, is the kind of shift worth that initial ache.

— Pervin Saket
The Bombay Literary Magazine

Waiting for Kolatkar Mia

Chaitanya would smile at his sun-bleached likeness
publicly displayed on the pale blue wall

An image liberated from an old book
by a new safety razor this morning

Somebody should straighten the frame
while we’re waiting for Kolatkar Mia

He said he’d come by mid-afternoon, must be on his way
What do you mean, it’s past five, already?

He loses track of time when he’s visualizing
Turn up the radio, the prime minister’s trying to say something

No need to spill every last drop of your blood, madam
just fix some corruption & a few potholes

We’re not bleeders, we’ll just say, no sweat was spared
making Try Luck Kafe look better than the day we opened

Walls were scrubbed, floors mopped with wet rags, twice
wooden counters wiped up & down, ceiling fans dusted

We know how much he likes keeping an eye on life in the street
we prepared a table specially for him by the window

So to speak, we had the glass removed some time back
it was fatally attracted to bricks, you see

Particularly during riots, which have become awfully
popular, these days

A vintage box of matches, from the year of his birth, awaits
on his table, next to an exotic ashtray of unknown origin

Nothing but the best for our Commonwealth Prize winning Kolhapuri
the drooping moustache, we must say, deserves a prize of its own

We know Kolatkar Mia is no stranger to the colorful corners of his
beloved Bombay, still, nothing compares to our Kafe

Take our samosa, for example, don’t be startled, it looks unfriendly
at first, rest assured, it won’t bite, even after you do

A secret application of special forces presses it into shapes
that defy rational thought & bend the laws of geometry

Not to get technical, take a bite & you’ll understand
why Cafe is spelled with a K in Hyderabad

Come, come, the chai’s not going to make itself
let’s read a page or two while we’re waiting for Kolatkar Mia

So what if he doesn’t show up today, maybe he’ll stop by tomorrow
what did Chaitanya say about the sweetness of stones?

 
*Note – ‘Kafe’ is pronounced ‘Kaif’ in Hyderabadi street slang, as in Katrina Kaif.

 


 

Nav Sheen

(for Alya Kachru Mikkelson)

Aum Namah Shivaya

heart is hollow, feet are bare
as we set off to scatter Father’s ashes

earth’s an unsentimental smear of red ochre
under an unforgiving sun

even the iron is dehydrated
Mother says without irony

Brother chuckles in the car
Father liked to drive on weekends
wolf-sized German Shepherd
by his side

presently, Narasimha, half-man-half-lion
has his full-grown paws on the wheel
now shifting gear, now speeding up
to reach the Lord of Meeting Rivers
before sundown

almost five hundred square-miles
of forest between us still, in which
democratically protected tigers
roam without regret

Big Cat Very Danger
an oversized sign declares

half-man-half-lion growls
half-heartedly
he’s never been this far out
of his habitat & he’s not sure
he likes it

rooted in native soil
indigenous ant hills wrap
around tree trunks & rise
to the stature of seated sages

forest grows thicker for a patch
foliage shields the sun’s melting eyes

hills stretch wrinkled, folded arms
& pry open primordial chests
bent quartzite ribs expose unclaimed caves
mouths flash frozen mid-expression

half-man-half-lion purrs
at the frequency of a finely tuned engine

Brother recites bitter truths from backseat
& reignites the searing perception of fiery
Seekers

the earthen urn with Father’s ashes feels lighter
in my lap as we approach the meeting rivers
it’s almost weightless when heaved over
prescribed shoulder

it greets the water with a dull slap
tips on its side & takes its time submerging

on the bank
i balance river stones against their wishes
feels like the only rational thing to do

elsewhere
in a time-zone ten and a half hours away
a Granddaughter is born into this
bewildered world

she unfolds a clenched fist
& grabs the Lord of Meeting Rivers
by the locket

wrought in soft silver
the luster of full moon
on fresh snow

Aum Namah Shivaya

 
* Note – The first snow of winter is called ‘Nav Sheen’ in Kashmiri.

 


 

Reis Magos

(for Mario Miranda)

You can’t swing any serious artillery in this space
don’t bust your cannonballs trying

a laid back American thinks out loud, a jazz man
no less, from the sleepless city of New York

atop a small colonial fort, hugging the side of a
modest hill, over a narrow stretch of Mandovi river

Behind you, a bright, spacious hall crammed with
an eccentric army of fictional characters from books

& magazines, calendars & murals, most of whom you
don’t recognize, all of whom have gathered to celebrate

their creator, a native son of these coastal parts
with a stomach for hunger & a hunger for life

invigorated by an insatiable appetite for the delicious foibles
& idiosyncrasies that make us remarkably human

Speaking of which, Miss Rajani Nimbupani, the ageless diva
over there, in the limelight, is probably chafed

about not being late enough for an event this spectacular
offering her opinion, caution be damned, on every item

on the social agenda, to her principal confidant
& if she’s not careful, potential worst enemy

gossip monger extra-ordinary, Jaundice D’Mello,
the yellowest of yellow journalists, hanging on her every word

like his livelihood depends on it, which it does, literally
scribbling it all down in his fictional notebook with his fictional pen

for the real love of fictional currency, mention of which
makes hairy ambition twitch in Bundaldass’ political ears

Renewed purpose pumps through his congested arteries
His faithful assistant, Godbole, tries to stay

as close as possible to his imaginary boss
without bumping into the wide eyed kid

& bushy tailed puppy that leapt out
of your third grade textbook

in hot pursuit of a bouncy beach ball
painted by hand, in many shades of laughter

Bundaldass beholds the large, framed prints
on the wall, with expressionless, unblinking eyes

Bloody bullshit, men, he says, after careful
consideration of the available facts

What’s for lunch?
I’m starving.

Contributor

Kapil Kachru
Kapil Kachru is a writer based in Boston. His poems and stories have appeared in journals, magazines and an anthology in India, The Netherlands and the United States. Most recently in Inverse Journal. Negligible Inertia, his debut collection of poems, was published by Writers Workshop.

Links

Inverse Journal
https://www.inversejournal.com/2022/01/20/radio-kashmira-a-six-part-poem-by-kapil-kachru/

Negligible Inertia
https://www.behance.net/gallery/35376443/Negligible-Inertia

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