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Give me a Garden.

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The money plant hangs in a tangled mess

from a bottle above the Fridge.

the coleus, red, green and magenta

smug in a porcelain pot

near the television set,

baskets of ferns and some crotons too,

or the stout rubber plant

in the far end of the room.

All pretentious in the spaciousness

of my second floor flat

from where I look down on tops of buses

and bald pates of men.

Give me any day the majestic palm

and a neem tree or two dropping fruits

green or yellow, bitter and small.

The hibiscus at the gate

resplendent in red and glory

or the Bangalore roses

flourishing despite the Madras clime.

Give me a garden

where I can romp and play and let of steam

with the butterfly squirrel and crow,

with the gravel crunching below my feet

and the cool wind in my face.

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Published in Youthink-Indian Express. 26-3-1986.

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I’d like to…

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I have this burning desire

to do something in life

nothing too wonderful, mind you

like running the country

or being the first woman on the moon.

Just little things

which to you or her

is trivial and within easy reach.

I’d like to start a business

something small scale would do

just to show my successful brother

I can be as enterprising as you.

I’s like to drive a car in a rally

join a mountain trekking troupe

maybe take up cinema photography

I really love the hang of it.

I’d like to direct a stage play

and act in in too.

I know I can do justice

to any role I’m called on to do.

I’d like to do something

something besides being

wife, mother and nursery teacher.

So many options they say

are open to woman these days.

But sad to say

the closed doors of my old world home

are still

very hard to budge.

By: Gulsum Basheer

Published in Indian Express-Youthink. 3-9-1986.

Madras Summer

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Export quality cotton shirts

arrayed for sales, heralding Madras Summer.

Juicy water melons and tender coconuts,

coloured drinking water with a dash of lime

delicious and cold,

tempting weary wayfarers.

The sun beats down in

furiously.

Scuttling men into sanctity of homes.

Here the poor old man

presses his famished frame

into the narrow confines

of a shadow cast by concrete blocks.

There the opulent rich

comfortable with fan and cooler,

deciding on Ooty, Kodai, Barjeeling.

Tic Tac Toe.

The middleclass man

weighed down by duty

takes the early bus home

hoping for his spouse’s cooling smile,

confronts instead a shreiking nag.

“Is there no holiday school for your naughty brats?”

Tempers are frayed

as presipitation runs

and the Marina beckons knowingly,

with malai kulfi and mango slices

cut like teeth on Halloween masks.

The barometers soar and the papers proclaim:

“The hottest day in so many summers!”

Man and beast, burnt alive

squint at the sky.

If summer is here,

can the monsoons be far behind.

By: Gulsum Basheer. Published in youthink. The Indian Express.16-7-86.

Traffic Jam

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The motors pick their weary way

Slowly down the thronging roads.

Like ants, one behind another intent on their tasks.

Somewhere out of eye sight,

there is a mishap –

a scooter skidding

or a cow gone astray.

maybe the infernal autos

taking on more than is their right.

Somewhere a brake is applied

and the reaction bouncing backwards

freezing as with the wave of a wand.

The screech of tires on tar and gravel

and then the wait –

sullen and tiresome.

The maruti van, with homeward-bound children

sounds it’s horn.

Someone picks up the cue,

and others follow suit,

the sound rising and falling in agonizing blares.

The block is cleared soon enough.

The wheels begin to churn

making their onward turn,

presumably to reach

the safety of sought haven.

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By Gulsum Basheer.

Published in Youthink, Indian Express.14-5-86.

The boy.

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As I walked home one evening

sunk in thought,

I was broken from my reverie by a voice

like a guitar with broken strings.

I looked down and saw a boy

eyes sunk, skin parched like a dead cow’s.

I stopped and thought a while

of the food wasted at home

and the malai I use to soften my skin.

His voice was still pleading

his stance a begging.

I dropped a coin in his out-stretched palm.

His face now lit up.

clutching the coin I dropped

he hobbled away.

The poor lame boy.

 

By: Gulsum Basheer.

Published in Youthink-Indian Express. 7-5-81