Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Dileep Jhaveri


There is one poem that may be considered as part of this search for peace. However, I have difficulty in responding to the immediate present and current topics. The monster within merely changes attire or just a gesture and we feel that we are facing a new devil. Being old fashioned I know that one cannot defeat the devil but one should not give up hope and must keep loving.



War For An Autobiography


When I was born the War was on, with its outcome uncertain

and the fate of the nations decided

There will be scarcity all over

The meadows will not have grass for sheep

The trees will not have leaves for shade

The oceans will not have fish for catch

The fields will be fallow and the clouds will be callous

Starving children will be blind

and the blind will go deaf

The blood will thirst for poison

and the lungs will be full of ash

Coughing amputees will crowd for alms

and people will spit in their palms

Temples will deny orphans of dead soldiers

whose pregnant wives will whore at the entrance

All histories become one when in ruins

where saints are honoured with bullets


I knew this when I turned four

when covering our bleeding heart with barbed wire

we lost the father of our new born nation



For more than two years after my birth I had a pot belly

and could not walk

But could talk

The curse to be a paralysed poet was on

Still like a wish granted to the condemned

I knew the taste of dark chocolate

and fragrance of imported soaps

and dresses sprinkled with rosewater

before being sentenced to visit the common loo

and wade through overflowing cesspools to the kindergarten school 


The first thing I remember of the school

was my love for the teacher in dark glasses

and long plaits with chocolate smelling oil 


The dark passages of the tenement

were full of tigers and snakes

My panting fear was proof of their hissing presence

They disappeared as mother opened the door

and I became a prince again under the yellow light of electric bulb


Ghosts and witches came later

when my reluctant and devout grandmother visited us

Scratching her shaved head

she told  stories of child Krishna’s marvels

I knew of mightier fears than snakes and tigers

Every animal was a potential devil

and every household item turned into a monster

that only Krishna could destroy

What he did later, on growing up, I came to know

after fifty years while reading Mahabharat, the great epic of war



At the age of five my long locks were sheared

for an offering to Mother Goddess

In a hot and humid room full of smoke of sacred fire

my gaudily dressed maternal aunts sang and danced

while I cried

and the cruel hexes laughed

each showing me a mirror that echoed my sobs

Even before I learned to write

it was decided

No lyrics No songs No worship



The hell for unfaithful was everyday life

Shivering before dawn in a long queue for a bottle of milk

with bleary eyes

the blue stripes on the foil of cold glass

looked like the rainbow of the covenant


Hours of toil at school and chores at home

were pledged to repay the sins of ancestors

who wasted life in wars

In rent clothes and smeared with damp dust of flaking plaster

chanting arithmetic tables and conventional prayers

the pilgrimage of the repentant continued

to nations drawn clumsily on textbook maps

paying tribute to the victors burnishing golden eras

with the ashes of the vanquished



Visiting temples surrounded with florists, fruit sellers, future tellers and beggars

one day I saw a vendor selling hell

On a large poster, in small 4”x4” squares

were painted naked men and women

in garish red and brilliant yellow

being punished for their sins in a hundred ways

in titillating postures

At an age when hair

under armpits and loin

had not erupted

the temptation to see the underworld

compelled frequent sojourns to God



Not one year passed without war

in the house, neighbourhood, town, nation or the world

The reasons were copious 

Florescent language of someone was a shadow cast on neighbour’s wall

Caste was sweat turning stink for some flaring nostrils

Vermilion of religion rushed to run with blood

Cry of freedom peeled bark off the tree

Hunger was desert sand in envy of dew

Atom was for explosion


War is an immortal monster

that cannot be drowned or blown away or burnt down

Every drop of blood breeds tiny monsters that grow again

like a forest re-emerging after floods and fires

No volcano is ever dead

There is no death for the paralysed poet

who repeats the same verse

in varying words and rhythms and rhymes


Unable to change anything

he weeps with dust and flowers and birds and stars



Although the poem is not about peace, war as an immortal monster can only be perceived out of the perspective of peace. It is like Nietzsche staying alive as long as he could reflect his sickness out of a healthy condition and vice versa. Once that dialetic vanishes, it means life faces death as sickness like Kierkegaard described it. This would be the case if there was war permanently and people having forgotten completely what peace is all about. The poem goes in its entirety through the stretch of a child growing up, and still war is there, everywhere! The poem lets you imagine how any child can be puzzled by such a world and feel the pain of the child once the curls in the hair are cut off. There is one striking scene when the child returns home and is again a prince after the mother has opened the door. There can be seen something thanks to the electric light bulb. The latter signals progress despite all the prevailing poor conditions standing for the war which is always there, everywhere.

Hatto Fischer


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