Petrichor Poets and Poetry

Oxford Bookstore, Connaught Place, New Delhi hosted a poetry reading session on the evening of 9 February 2018. That was part of the run-up readings to Delhi Poetry Festival 5 (IIT, New Delhi, 23 – 25 February 2018). Over a score of poets gathered on that calm evening. The program was organized in collaboration with Petrichor, a creative writing society of over 120 members based in Venkateswara College of Delhi University.

Petrichor started as a club in the Department of English of the college to provide the students poets and writers with a consciously nurturing space for creativity, which was nonexistent there then. The society has collaborated with Oxford Bookstore, CP, New Delhi, and Delhi Poetry Festival.

Poets from Petrichor, including Arijit Roy, founder and President of the society, also read their poems. I photographed all of the poets while they were reading their poems. Some of them are below. These photographs may not be of all those Petrichor poets. If any poet is missing, I will add them here soon. As I don’t know anything about them yet, not even their names (except of a couple of them), I have left the photographs with no textual accompaniment. I will request Arijit to tell me at least their names. It would be a great idea to post a few poems each (including the ones they read that evening) along with the poets’ photographs.

Megha Sawhney

Rajeev Anand

Misk Khurana

Aditya Rao

Vridhi Arora

Sukeerat Channi

Arijit Roy, founder and President of Petrichor

There are various other versions of the photographs here. If the poets want any or all of the versions to be sent to them, write to Lake Bard here. It may take some time but Thoithoi O’Cottage replies. As he does this just in the interest of the poets and not for any commercial purposes, he entertains requests at his leisure.



Promila Manhas

A Dogri writer and poet with a beautiful voice living in Jammu. Literary translator translating from Dogri to Hindi and English, and vice versa. Lecturer of Botany in the School Education Department of the State Government of Jammu & Kashmir. Newscaster at Radio Kashmir and news anchor at Doordarshan Jammu.

She read some of her poems at the Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi’s annual Festival of Letters on 16 February 2018.

Manipuri Poet, Srilekhak

Manipuri poet and playwright, Srilekhak (born Ksh. Mohan) at the launch of Yengkhom Kengba’s Manipuri novel at ROLs in January 2017. Srilekhak is one of the most experimental poets in Manipur. Influenced much by the Japanese haiku tradition of the east and the imagist and modern poetry, his poetry is characteristically sharp and formal as its primary drive. His metaphors and similes are unusually powerful unlike any other Manipuri poets among his contemporaries or younger generations.

His once-famous Times Printers (late 1980s – 1997), located on the leirak across from the old post office building at Kakching Khunyai Leikai, was the center of literature in the town of Kakching. Besides printing almost every literature book and magazine published during that period here, he regularly hosted literary readings and critical sessions in his press office.

My translations of his two poetry collections will soon come out from LSC.

চোংশিন্নবা / Face to Face

Face to Face
by Tomas Tranströmer (1931–2015)
Nobel Prize in Literature (2011)

ৱাকচীংদা চপ লেপখি হিংবা৷
উচেক্না তন্না পাই অদুগা থৱায়না
তকই লমহাঙ লমজাউদা শুরু শুরু
তক্তুনা লৈবগুম হিনা হিথাঙফমগি পুনফমদা৷

উপালশিংনা লেপ্পী মনম ওনশিন্দুনা ঐঙোন্দা৷
থানা শীল্লবা উন মরেপ ওল্লী অশিবা চরূনা৷
মন্থরকই খোঙ্গুলশিংনা লৈমায়দা৷
ৱাজরে লোনদি তিরপাল মখাদা৷

নোংমদি লাকই কৈনো’মা থোঙনাউদা৷
খূৎকি থবক থা, লৈদুনা য়েংখৎলুই ঐ৷
মচু মমেন্না ইঙান! ঙম্নমক লৈদুনা য়েংলম্লে৷
মালেমগা ঐগা চোংশিন্নৈ৷


Roblin Fulton’s translation:

In February living stood still.
The birds flew unwillingly and the soul
chafed against the landscape as a boat
chafes against the pier it lies moored to.

The trees stood with their backs turned to me.
The deep snow was measured with dead straws.
The footprints grew old out on the crust.
Under a tarpaulin language pined.

One day something came to the window.
Work was dropped, I looked up.
The colors flared. Everything turned around.
The earth and I sprang toward each other.

মঙ্গারকপা / Back from a funeral

The poem came visually and aurally, quite in a pre-linguistic fashion. Yes, when I woke up from sleep in the middle of the black night. Then when I got down to writing, the visuals and audios crystalled themselves linguistically. This process is a subtle aesthetic orgasmic experience, and you don’t ever want to get over this. For this one, the linguistic crystallization occurred simultaneously in two languages–some parts in Manipuri, and some other parts in English, the two languages I straddle most comfortably. The blended nature of how I experienced the original bilingual poem has its own distinct, irreplaceable beauty; however, I have separated the strands for better presentation, translated parts from one language to another and vice versa, and have presented the two versions as below, the English and Manipuri lines kept abreast of each other.

Assuming some may find the line alignment of the English version in the ‘preformatted” juxtaposition with Manipuri uncomfortable, I have reproduced the English version at the bottom of the post again.

ঈশিংদা তাশিল্লে                      Fallen into the water.      
কদায়দগিনো খঙদনা--                God knows from where—
অরূবা ঈশিং                        clear water,
ত্রৎ ঈংবা ঈশিং,                     freezing cold
হকচাং কয়াৎ পূম্বা য়াথোকহনবা৷          getting around all organs.
হোই,                             Yes,
মখূৎতু ঙাইহাক্তি লাম্মী                 the hands grope awhile
মখোঙদু ঙাইহাক্তি কাওই৷               the legs kick awhile.
অদৈদি ঈশিংদু হঞ্জিল্লকই                 Then the water returns
করিশু খঙজদবা মতৌদা৷               to its placid innocence.
ফমজিনখ্রবা ঈমায়দা ফমদুনা             Crouched on the icy surface
উই মশাগি হোৎনবা পূম্বা               he sees all his own efforts
ঈশিংনা চূপশিনখিবা,                  being sucked up by the water,
মাগি ফিথোংদবা হকচাং                 his naked body
অঙৌবা গুলিগুমই                     a blueish-white tablet
অরূবা গ্লাসকি ঈশিংদা                 in a glass of clean water
তুমদ্রঙৈ ঙাইহাক্কি প্রীক প্রীক৷             noiselessly bubbling awhile
                                 before it dissolves.

অহিং নোংয়ায়দা মীৎকপ থোরকই৷         He wakes up at midnight.
মঙ্গারকপগুমই মদু                    It feels like back from a funeral
অঙকপা অমম্বা লমদম অমদগি৷           in a strange dark place

মুশিবা তেবল লেম্প নাকলদা              A glass of clean water
অরূবা ঈশিং গ্লাস৷                     beside the shaded table lamp.
অঙৌবা গুলি অমা থাদৈ৷                 He drops a blueish-white tablet in it.
কোঙ্গোল মচা খরা পৃক পৃক              A few tiny bubbles prick up
ঙাইহাক৷                            just awhile.

অমুক তূমথবা য়াদ্রে                     He can't bring himself
মহাক৷                              back to sleep.

The English version is reproduced below again:

Fallen into the water.
God knows from where—
clear water,
freezing cold
getting around all organs.
the hands grope awhile
the legs kick awhile.
Then the water returns
to its placid innocence.
Crouched on the icy surface
he sees all his own efforts
being sucked up by the water,
his naked body
a bluish-white tablet
in a glass of clean water
noiselessly bubbling awhile
before it dissolves.

He wakes up at midnight.
It feels like back from a funeral
in a strange dark place.

A glass of clean water
beside the shaded table lamp.
He drops a blueish-white tablet in it.
A few tiny bubbles prick up
just awhile.

He can’t bring himself
back to sleep.

তূম্বা য়াদবা অহিং (Insomniac Night)

Last night it rained here in this part of Delhi where I live. Its sound was so sweet. The sound of the rain is my crush. After sleepless nights, days and nights of sleep and wakefulness in fits and starts of about two weeks, finally sleep came heavily on me after 60 hours of sleeplessness at a stretch. The rain continued.

The alarm rang long before dawn. I could not remember setting it. The last time I went to Manipur (yes, recently), I was so busy that such basic things of life as food and sleep became secondary–I worked at the studio day and night, without sleeping for 48 hours or more. I must have set it then, not to miss the dawn run of the Kakching Runners. Things often slip off my mind. But back to Delhi, I have not once heard the alarm ringing. Strange.

When I woke up, it was still raining, though slow. In the dark. I could not go back to sleep. Then memory brought a lot of things back to me. My thought was set into motion. My emotions aroused.

ঙরাং অহিং দেলিগি ঐনা লৈবা মফমদা নোং খরা তাখি৷ মখোলদু য়াম্না নুংশি৷ নোংগি মখোলসি ঐগি ঙাওজবীনি৷ ইতৎ তত্তনা অহিং তূমদবা, খরা তূম্বা য়াও তূমদবা য়াও হপ্তা অনী লৈরকপনা মমৈদা অমুক্তদা পূং ৬০ চূপ্না তূম্লক্ত্রবা মতুংদা ঙরাং অহিংদি য়াম্না তুম্নীংবা ফাওখি৷ নোংদু অদুম তাহৌই৷

নোং ঙানগদবা ৱাৎলিঙৈদা অলার্ম খোংলকই৷ মদু থমখিবা ঐ নীংশিংদ্রে৷ ঐনা মনিপুরদা অকোনবা চৎলুবদা অহিং নুংথিল তূম্বা চাবা খঙদনা ষ্টুদিওদা থবক চিনখিবা, অহিং অনীকা তূমদনা থবক তৌখিবা, মদুদা ককচীং রন্নর্স কাঙবুগা নোং ঙাল্লমদাইদা লমজেল চেনশি হৌনখিবদু শোয়দনবা থমখিবা ওইরম্বা য়াই৷ ঐ খরা কাউগল্লী৷ অদুবু নহানমখৈদি ঐগি ফোনগি অলার্মসি অমুক্তসু খীংলকপা তাদে৷ করিনো খঙদে৷

হৌগৎলকপদা নোং খরা খরা চুরম্লি৷ অমম্বদা৷ অমুক তূম্মু য়াদ্রে। অদুদগিদি করি করিনো য়াম্না নীংশিংলক্লে৷ করি করিনো য়াম্না খল্লক্লে৷ করি করিনো য়াম্না ফাওরক্লে৷


অহিংগি ঈচীক হুনবদা
ঊৎমান মচুগি অনেম্বা অতিয়া মখাদা
কাঙলূপ কাঙলূপ ঊচানশিংদো
মুশুক মশুক
মুরূম মুরূম
অরোনবা অমা তানবগুম
কৈনোমা ৱানা ঙাইবগুম
মীৎশেন খাঙদুনা
(য়ৌরকহন্নীংদবা নুংশিবরা মদো?
কুইরবা অহিংদু নীংশিংলি
মমা মপানা পমদুনা পুরকখিবদু
অচীকপা ময়োম অমা য়ূমদা, অপীকপা মচলগি
তুমিন্না, ঈচীক চীক্না
অরাপ্পা লায়েংশঙদগি৷)
লেঙদবা অহিংবু চুরূপকুম চিংদুনা
নিংথমগি অৱাউবা মনিল কামদুনা৷
মখোয়গি ফি তক্নবগি মখোল
মখোয়গি শোরনা চঙবগি থোকপগি৷

নুংশীৎ শীৎলকপদা
মখোয়গি মশমশু মফিশু
মায়কৈ অমদা ফ্র-ফ্র৷
মখোয়না ঙাইরিবদু নুংশীৎনা চেনবীখ্রগুম
ঊনাগুম মরী মরী
হনুবগি মীৎনদি উদবা৷

তপ তপ!
অতিয়ানা থোঙ থীল্লক্লে
মীৎশেন খাঙলিঙৈ তূম্বা ঊনাগি৷
তূম্বা য়াদবা অহিংদা
অহিংনা ঈচীক হুনবদা
নাকোঙগি ঈখৌলাংবা মখূৎ মশা মরেং ঙম্নমক
মরেঙ মরেঙ লামথোরকই৷
খোঞ্জেল মরীক অমত্তশু!
লৈতাদবা ফমুংদা লোংনা৷

নোংগি অশাংবা মরীশিংদু চেন্থরক্লে
মুশুক মশুকপা ঊচান মরক্তা
মখোলদি ইথোক থোকহন্দ
অরোনবা থবক তৌরিবগুম
হোন্দোক হোঞ্জিন তৌরিবগুম অরোনবা খরা
মালেমগা অতিয়াগগি মরক্তা
তপ্না, য়াম্না তপ্না
অচীকপদা খোঞ্জেলদং থিবা
তূম্বা য়াদবা হনুবতনা তাগদবা মতৌদা৷

নুমীৎনা মমীৎ পাঙলকপদা
উচেক ৱায়া ঈরাঙ লাঙলে৷
অদুগা লৈমায়–মদু অশিবগি ইমুংগুম
ইহিং হিংই, তরু তরুই,
খোঙ্গুল অমত্তশু তাদে
ঊচানগি শম্না অমত্তসু
ঊনা খরা নত্তনা কদায়দগিনো খঙদবা
অকংবা, কংফাত্তবা, নাপু৷

অরোনববু অশুক লোনব্রনে?

Stranger in the Town

A formal experiment in epic poetry,
with sensibilities spanning whole stretch
of known time. To come in a series.

Fictional poetry
Epic poetry in a new form
This series will keep coming


When I pull into the tavern that is more a tool shed
with tables and benches like the one my grandfather had
where he taught me to wield tools as tools and weapons
a thousand years ago when the human face
was less evolved and more expressive of true emotions,
out of the long winding ways and the endless winter winds and snows,
steaming like my horse foaming at the mouth
and rubbing my unglobed hands together,
the one-eyed man taking black-blood bottles from the counter
shifts his what-should-have-been-the-left eye from me
and says in an unknown language accenting every syllable
equally as foreign tongues do and care, in a tone
that needs no language to get the message across to the mark:
“Ech dot kothari che ni det.”
Did he press a button or pull a string to soul a puppet show?
All the eyes there all at once shoot at me
like long shafts of light directed to me in an opera.

“We don’t serve sons of bitches here.” That’s from the left.
Another voice, deep as hell’s grumble under your feet, dry as a slough.
The bottle gurgles as the dry-blood wine jumps into a tall tumbler.
My steps freeze and my hands stop rubbing.
“I don’t say that.” He explains, as he turns holding the frothing tumbler by the ear
without looking at me but seeing, but revealing a face
with which evolution has stepped back—one-eyed, with the ball
protruding like an eyed probe, the left side where you would expect
another eye telling the story rather of a hole in the wall
mortared and troweled badly than something
that has anything to do with a human face, ugly though as can be.
A rather huge hagstone nose and a pair of fleshy lips under it
easily taking the shapes of the words pouring out of them.
His probably kind translation carries the breath
of an original hate and feels less like a translation,
and this and how he comes across seem to impress
on anybody who sees him the scripture of his life
whose sole commandment is to hate and hate around.

Do they have the same face? Oh! Do I look at them differently
from how they look at me? I have the same eyes?
Thoughts are invisible but they do concrete magic
like throwing yourself off the cliff or hole a breast
to traffic a soul across the border. I am often too numb
for a warrior, my war teacher told me I would better throw
my brains away to the dogs and pour wine into the skull
than momentarily stiffen in the middle of a battle
while I should be mowing heads like on a grassland.

He raises the restless crystal to his lips and empties it
in a gulp that makes a lot of noise down its course.
When the left-eyed tender walks to and stands on his left
they are more a single monster split in half on a jigsaw board.
“Tu-e pet siot kothari ata wang mal penture khrose,”1 the drinker barks
in his coolest voice as his half drops an oily leg on the table
and makes another crystal trilling with life
and chews his words like cud before he swallows the fluid,
“Ech wech khothari che det, et du pist wang.”2

The right half turns and looks at me with his well-deep eye
that would wrest the breath from a less hardy heart,
and says with a bad smile, “He says he takes sons of bitches
on a windy day.”
My two eyes ray into the only eye he has for a steady moment,
enough to roil its well and before long he blinks
and says with a less bad smile, “That’s not my word.”

My fat coins gong when they hit the hewn top
of the coarse unplaned pine counter, and that suspends
the disbelief of the one-eyed keeper for now, whose wine-stained
thinned-down fingers with the lines on the flats rubbed off
by handling coins too long falter in the drag of the emotion
before he has to gather himself to show me the way.


Unwanted notes:
These notes are not meant for reading.
[1] A left-eye can accept a son of a bitch at a high price on stormy days.
[2] I will accept a son of a bitch here, if you pay high.

Berry Picking

So you go on like history blasé
about the obsidian past black as your eyes
(set in a face crumpled from lack of sleep)
that, amid that sleepy creaky voice,
looked up from my “uncomfortable” arms
at my sleepless eyes from behind those
wispy locks tousled from rolling in the hay
we had just gathered from the sun,
the season’s last, that turned out a life’s.
And I will say the past is like your hair—
it’s dark and lost behind the absent wall,
though I often turn every speck of its dust
in the sunless time to scratch back up
the stains of my soul spilled all over
at a stumble—so ungraceful you’d wonder
how God makes things so slack!

I go on—a berry picker (when not dusting
dusty memory), a slow one, who loves berries
like the last thing left all in the world
too far and vast for tired eyes,
I am on my hands and knees in the soil
caring not to break the groping stems
or let the red-flesh fruits slip off
my crinkled hands with broad blunt fingers
or the basket when my used eyes comb
through the cold netty crouch of the lacy stems
and the serrate velvet leaves scratching
the black tightened soil that smells rawish sweet
under the green and yellow coiffure,
to look for spotty lady-bugs in meditation
and lovebugs set in bliss in the green
and semi-transparent worms measuring green miles,
while seeing the season breathing itself out,
and I would know I’ll have to prepare
the land for the next season—
carrot in the mulch, sunflowers in waves.
Seasons go on and on like history
that has nothing to do with the past.