Daughter: Online

My daughter is always online
and I, offline!
She is the fresh stream
that has just burst out
of the mountain rocks;

And I, a resigned river-
lying exhausted, in the hope
of meeting the ocean.

My daughter and I,
we are restless, weary
of each other when together,
but eager to meet when apart.

My daughter is always online,
and I, offline!

Whenever I see her, I imagine
that she is the mirror
that reflects the slowly receding years
of my life.

Whenever she sees me,
she probably feels
that I am a red-light signal
that holds her train from departure,
putting her life in total disarray
for a while.

Sometimes she enters my city
of extinguished lights
with a torch light in her hand.

Sometimes, I sneak
into the city of her thoughts,
like a shadow of a nightmare.

At times, it seems
that we two are actually
one single city
where the lights
get switched on and off
forever, endlessly!


Life turns into dust
in our obsession
with the dust laden earth.

Bow down in reverence,
accept the curse of the Gods-
it helps push the boulder up the peak.
But boulders don’t remain
they roll down-
gravity wins.

This saga of deep, long sighs
continues beyond time-
from one life to another.

There’s a curse in man’s attachment
to this world,
and no way out of this

The earth is a path,
it becomes my body,
and what I long for.

Dust turns to dust,
on this unending journey of life.

The Driver Hasn’t Come Yet

The driver hasn’t come yet.
And I have been waiting for so long-
He’s mostly on time every day,
why he is so late today?

What if the driver doesn’t come?
who would drive me through this difficult road?
I don’t know the exact routes.

After all, I am the one who sits
in the back-
relaxing, with my legs stretched out,
while he drives.

There are many tasks pending today
but no sign of the driver yet.
What could have happened to him?
Did he quarrel with his wife, or
could it be due to his child’s illness?

maybe there was no water supply today
in his house, or may be
his bicycle tire got punctured
while on the road.

Where has he gone for so long!
So many jobs are lying
held up in wait for him.

The Bedroom

Go there
when summoned;
or else who cares,
to go to the bedroom?

A lifeless bed
draws the tired frame
or an aroused body
to drain it out of life

But is their time
for even this?

Before you become inert,
someone whispers-
A walking man dies,
only when asleep.

Taj Mahal

You can build a Taj Mahal,
without a crown on the head,
while sitting on a plain chair
and without money in your pocket.

Let all the marble be exhausted
let all the sculptors go absconding-
let all the money be robbed,
and let the chair leg be broken
by the hard kicking jealousy;
still, you can build a Taj Mahal

I confess, I’m not familiar with the art
of walking on burning embers-
Nor am I adept at sailing off
with a boat and wandering off
in the flowing waters of sweat.

I know just this one game,
of trying to hold my dreams
playing hide-and-seek,
staying just out of my reach.

I have been playing this game for years,
there’s a Taj Mahal standing
before me, as I open my eyes.

From within some darkroom of my heart,
a Shahjahan
writes me letters
I can’t read.
Sends messages on my mobile,
asking about the completion
of the Taj Mahal.

Are you surprised,
it is not a big deal to build a Taj Mahal-
All you need is a Shahjahan
within your heart.

Excerpted with permission from Claiming the Sky, Ratnamala Swain, translated from the Odia by Purabi Das and Durga Prasad Panda, Dhauli Books.