Simla, a long poem

                                    by  Samartha Vashishtha


SIMLA, a long poem


A sleepy sun
shakes off the slumber
and rises
over the latent town.
An army of fallen snowflakes
and blows the beams
to smithereens.

Who says
only God is
omnipresent ?


A chir grips
its only cone
in a numb hand;
and I beneath wait
for it to fall.
On the cone perches
a ray.
Will it fall too ?


On a leaf rests
a drop
and from within peeps
the sun.

“So what!” says Mithhu,
“If Hanuman did,
so can I !”


Then suddenly
riding the two headed serpent
like Ivan the Tsar born,
you grab the sun
put it in a plate
uproot some chirs

and begin to eat –
only to realize
that chopsticks are not
Russians’ cup of tea.

On the bān
sits the ape
and wonders,
Who coloured the sky
and pinned it
to Jakhu peak?


Three days in a row
it rained hard.
The sun went missing.
Umbrellas, raincoats, waiting
all soaked.
Water gushed down the slopes.
Alone, all day, I sat
floating peace messages
mounted on paper-boats;
hoping they would reach / the Sutlej.
Some of them
you might find still
stuck in the bushes.

Next day the papers
talked of a missile test.

That was the last time I stepped out
in rain.


On the water tank
I stand
and ask,
”Whither dost Thou live ?”

If there is a heaven,
clouds are the only highways
I see.


Few dare to mess with it.
The brave or the desperate.

Like the hostel boys who probed
Deep into the woods
Searching for bhāng leaves each day;
And the foreign tourists
Looking for a forgotten waterfall
Named after a lord long dead –

To picnic;
“Which country?” we would ask,
“No coins!” they would reply.

And early mornings
Beasts’ hunting time still
The milkman who climbed
Four kilometres up the valley
To sell milk
Nine rupees a kilo;
Or women calling out at night
For their cattle lost in the dark.

Rauvolfias are threatening enough
To keep the rest home.


A moment dribbled
from the past
and clung to the rods
on which we played
all day.
A drop from my veins
met the ancient ones;
stigmata, you would say;
the ancestors shrieked,
A murder chamber
once was
where all night you do jāgran
on Māhāshivrātri;
and beneath the floor planks
a corpse still waits
for its last rites.

The building was old I knew
the day they demolished it
I went there again
and picked the orphan moment.
I still lies on the

silence too is a canvas

psalms keep ringing in the valley / we climb up the stairs to hell / treetops glinting green are too high to offer shelter / clouds hold pitifully their empty bladders / the land has conceived from their night discharge / scattered pieces of silence catch us unawares / time dangles at the edges of mechanics / aloud from the valley the river calls / at coffee house poets brood over their ruined harvest of poems / discuss why this year it snowed so late / the sky breaks into luminous orange streaks / night falls quietly like fresh snowflakes


grandfather sits on the edge of sleep / lingering bits of day dig into his heart / with all the strength he can gather he shakes me up / wake up he says there’s a windmill around here / le’me sleep i yell only god / could afford cutting the jungle to set up one / why don’t you put on your hearing aid / god needs not a windmill at this lonely place

at the breakfast table he looks straight in my face / eighty years are enough to tell reality from space / you’ll understand it all when you are my age

his face seems like a giant banyan to me

eighty wrinkles in all he has on his skin


tempting posters clutter the city walls / veeru and i bunk out to see tamil tits / they are shooting for a new film on the ridge these days / tents and sets everywhere we can’t identify the place / the crewmen won’t let us pass / we take the longer route round the mass

how easy it is to be a filmstar

                                        veeru says

i guess so

            i reply

and the most taxing of all to be students

                            fighting babar and pythagoras each day


    i shoot back firmly

                            worse is being pelted by silence

his eyes widen in surprise

leave it aside

                i say

                        i forgot just twelve we are!


Visiting the city again after a gap of five years

This dreamy old city of mine

will forget so easily my name

like it was pebbles I drew from its fame.

Have I, somewhere along knowing this student politics,

lost the sense of the sunlight receding from bare mountains?

Now younger than most, taller than many

when I walk again this crowded Mall road

these rocky hands stroking my pampered soles

seem colder and more hostile than ever

And when I show her my new MS of poems

my childhood friend replies

your book doesn’t reach our city of Simla.


Return to Samartha's Homepage

Hosted by