cover3-1It has been way too long!  But I do have the best excuse. I was busy writing…and a few other things! So much has happened this past one year and I feel much gratitude. I turned into Alice and fell down the poetry-filled rabbit hole. I founded a literary press with two other fabulous poets, organized poetry events, conducted a poetry internship, participated in  litfests and other literary events (as an author), conducted a panel, did a workshop and along the way made so many wonderful friends. My book, Geography of Tongues, came out in December 2013 and this has enriched my life in so many ways. Thank you one and all for being part of this journey in one way or another! More journeys beckon. Those wishing to explore my verse, can order it from: Amazon.in (India) and Amazon.com (USA).  

Happy reading!


The other day a friend remarked that I could cross TEDx talk off my bucket list. I don’t have a bucket list, but I smiled and said ‘Yep.’ As a child I was very social and had absolutely no fear of meeting and talking to people. Once, when I was a pre-teen, my aunt asked me to sing a Hindi song while we were riding a crowded bus in London… and I did. ‘Imagine you are auditioning for a part in a Hindi film,’ she said. ‘Pretend you are sad and disillusioned with your life.’ I pretended, staring into space, past puzzled British citizens, as I belted out ‘Mere Zindigi Ne Mujh Pe (ehsaan kya kiya hai)’. How naive children are! Fast forward almost thirty years later and I still love meeting and being with people. But a talk? That too a TEDx talk? I don’t think so. TEDx speakers were innovators, changers, and inventors, whereas I was just a poet. ‘We want to hear more about poetry,’ I was told.  And so there I was, on a lovely spring March evening, on a stage marked with a big red dot, a giant bindi, if you will, and a carefully curated crowd, as the bindi on my own forehead pulsated.  I was nervous, my legs ready to become one with the ground, and yet I managed to talk for almost 18 minutes. I wanted people to fall in love with poetry the way I had, to embrace its power and feel its strength in encapsulating human experience within a few lines.

Did I succeed? You be the judge. The talk just became available on youtube this week. I’m just grateful for the experience to share what I love. Enjoy!

The (Great) Indian Poetry Project-An Update

The (Great) Indian Poetry Project

All good things take time. As many of you know, the (Great) Indian poetry project is very ambitious in scope, with a big online component. With hundreds of modern Indian poets come thousands of poems, and through those poems,  a powerful, multi-hued history of Modern India and its people. We are painstakingly collecting all the information of these wonderful poets and promise you an online archive like no other. We thank all of you for your support and patience so far. From June onwards, we will be introducing profiles, reviews, and interviews.

Another component of The (Great) Indian Poetry Project is a specialized press that will introduce new poetic voices through the publication of their first books. With two other talented poets, Minal Hajratwala and Ellen Kombiyil, we have formed The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective and our first offering will be out later this summer.

We are also collaborating with another poet…

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I know it’s a little to late to say happy new year. Instead, I wish you all a life in full bloom! I can’t believe this is my first post in 2013, but there you have it. My life in poetry/writing has taken such a fantastic turn and I have been busy discovering, learning and implementing. In many ways, 2013 is turning out to be a landmark year and I am so grateful for those that are part of this journey. There is so much to do and to read and to learn. Where do I begin…

Right before the advent of the new New Year, I finished my first poetry collection, ‘Geography of Tongues.’ It feels fantastic. In many ways, it is a synthesis of the past twenty years of my journey as a poet. Twenty years? Yep, you read right. I’m not that old, and yet I don’t think I was ready to bring my words out into the world any sooner. Completing a manuscript and getting it ready for publishing really puts things into perspective. Once it is front of you: edited, formatted and all set to print, you realize that your body of work is an entity of its own. It is so much like pregnancy and birth. You plant the seed, then feed and nurture it, but once you release it into the world, it no longer belongs to you fully. Once my book is out there, a little droplet, in this universe of words, it will merge with the words and experience of others and morph into something else.

I would love to share my process and will do so in another post, as it deserves its own space. Geography of Tongues is slated to come out by the end of this summer. Will keep you all updated.

I have also been redesigning/redefining THE (GREAT) INDIAN POETRY PROJECT. After doing a small test launch, I realized how extensive this project is.  We are in the process of building a strong team and an online platform that is easy to use. The question of how to archive poetry is definitely not an easy one. However, asking this very question has set me on a journey that is nothing less than thrilling. It has turned me into an excavator of words, and through that the unearthing of histories and lives 🙂

In the midst of all of this, I have joined forces with two more talented poets, Minal Hajratwala and Ellen Kombiyil, to form a poetry collective, where we will be primarily publishing the first books of Indian poets. This has been a dream of mine for so long and I am really excited about opening a bigger dialogue on Indian poetry, through the introduction of new/fresh voices. We have aptly named it,’ THE (GREAT) INDIAN POETRY COLLECTIVE.’

I also had the honor of giving a TEDx talk on Why Poetry Matters, this March, in Bangalore, and was thrilled to be able to share my love for poetry, while being part of a greater dialogue on innovation in India, with some incredible people. Links to follow soon!

There’s more brewing on the back burner (all things poetry), which I hope to share with you all soon. Will be blogging more regularly and hope to hear from others.

Until then, keep writing till your fingers turn blue!


THE BOOKWALLAH Travelling Library

What happens when six talented writers journey 2000 Km across India by train? Check out THE BOOKWALLAH  to find out.  As part of a pre-event sponsored by The Bangalore Literary Festival, THE BOOKWALLAH brings to namma Bengaluru three Indian writers-poet Sudeep Sen, literary critic and novelist Chandrahas Choudhury and poet & writer Annie Zaidi, along with Australian novelists Michelle De Kretser, Kirsty Murray and journalist/media personality Benjamin Law.

These writers bring with them a unique travelling library, housed in handmade Kangaroo leather trunks that convert into bookcases, aiming to forge connections and glean/share stories.

The first day’s events, at the Bangalore International Centre, Domlur, were a marriage of poetry and prose, with Chandrahas Choudhury illustrating “Ten Ways the Novel Can Change Your Life” with beautiful excerpts from the novels of Chekov, Mo Yan, Orhan Pamuk and more. Next, poet Sudeep Sen, in his lilting voice, read from his newly launched anthology, ‘The Harper Collin Book of English Poetry’ as well as other poems of his. Add to this the commentary of one of Bangalore’s first Rockstars, the endearing Ranjon Ghoshal, whose colorful words, clothes and beard, made the night a most lovely one!

Also check out the bookshop, set up by Comma365. How many books did I buy? Don’t ask, don’t tell!

To learn about THE BOOKWALLAH’s upcoming events, visit THE BOOKWALLAH events page.



100 TPC Cairo

Art presents the opportunity to influence change in the global social, environmental and political landscape. Poetry, very specifically, can gather people together for issues affecting the world. As a genre it forms an ideal creative outlet while allowing room for expression without the limits of overly rigid rules.”

Am very excited about how the 100 Thousand Poets for Change event is shaping up here in Bangalore. In the process, I have come across so many talented and warm-hearted people, committed to the arts.  Apart from the conventional poetry reading, we will have poetry enacted in the style of image theatre, a reading of a lyric essay and some music too. Check out our line up at:


We’ve been getting some press coverage too:
An article in yesterday’s issue of The Hindu, by Jessu John, explains how 100 Thousand Poets for Change is creating ripples all over the world. In India, events are being held in BangaloreNew Delhi and Pune.


Just got The Collected Poems of Arun Kolatkar in English, published by Bloodaxe Books (UK),  and what a treasure chest of poetry it is! I love Kolatkar’s poems just as much as I love Neruda’s and Lorca’s. Actually even more, because I can relate to their Indianness. His poems are like arrows that hit the heart straight. There is reverence for the mundane, humor and irony of how the lives of man, animal and landscape collide, and irony in how things come together and fall apart. Kolatkar is the real deal.

Can there ever be poets like him and his Clearinghouse gang in our generation? Now that I’ve thrown myself back in the poetry ring, I’ve come to realize how fickle the business of poetry has become, with more poets focused on image and publicity, rather than the power of their words and the inspiration that propelled the whole process. Kolatkar, Chitre,  and other poets of that generation knew that their words, once put down on paper, became avatars of their own and they respected that. Call me an idealist, but I long for those endless cups of chai, wrinkled manuscript in hand, type of meetings with poets and writers, where the laptop and cellphone are absent and our minds are focused on the craft and its numinousity (this should be a real word, an extension of numinous).

P.S.  If nothing else, one should read Kolatkar’s poem BREAKFAST TIME at KALA GHODA (p. 125), to see how beautifully this maestro of poetry conducts his orchestra of words. The poem in itself is an opera of Indian street life. How I wish I could have met him.


Folks in Bangalore,

Mark your calendars for SEPTEMBER 29, for an evening of poetry, music and awareness. I am so very excited to be involved in this event. 100 Thousand Poets for Change (www.100tpc.org) is spearheaded by an American poet, Michael Rothenberg, to bring writers, musicians and artists together, all on one day, in different parts of the world, to raise awareness on issues that affect our society and greater world. To learn more about the Bangalore event, visit the FB page: https://www.facebook.com/100TPCBangalore

I have always been a believer in the power of words to create/promote social change. Mahatma Gandhi, through words and action, was able to arouse a whole nation to fight for their freedom. Martin Luther King through his famous speech, I have a Dream, was able to inspire African Americans to fight for their civil rights. And singers like John Lennon, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, through their songs, have been able to help us ‘Imagine all the people, living life in peace.’

Poets like June Jordan, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Gloria Anzaldua and Carolyn Forche`, have moved me with their commitment to embrace social change though their writing. I remember cracking open Adrienne Rich’s What is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics and being flabbergasted  that one could be so honest in exploring activism through art. Indian poets like Namdeo Dhasal and Meena Kandasamy have blasted through stereotypes with their powerful poetry, exploring issues of caste, class and religion.  There are so many writers and artists, who through their words, have touched our lives, and will continue to do so.

What can you and I do? We can believe that nothing is too small or insignificant. Every word, every notion, every emotion counts. Drops do form an ocean. A simple poem can touch us and move us to action. Maybe a poem about a school under a tree, will make us want to volunteer once a week at a government school or help fund a new school. Maybe hearing a poem on domestic violence will give you the courage to approach your friend who’s been hiding her bruises We have the opportunity to put belief into action. And while I am not sure how things will evolve, I will be there to see the power of words bring us all together. Hope to see you there too.


(Cross-posted in T(G)IPP)


Wrote a little ditty for T(G)IPP on India’s diplomat-poets. You can read it here. In the past two weeks, I kept coming across small snippets on the internet, featuring Indian diplomats who are inspired by their travels to write poems. Obviously, their diplomatic status has helped bring their work to light. And that’s fine by me, if it brings people’s attention to Indian poetry. But are their poems any good? Maybe this is a good time for me to flash the poet’s ‘poetic immunity’ card. Ah, if there were such a thing. It’s not all that bad, really. But after Pablo Neruda’s contributions to the poetry world, diplomat-poets and plain old poets for that matter, have their work cut out for them.