Ink on paper by DHIRAJ CHOWDHURY
Go to current issue
Go to current issue
  Two poems  

  Vol I : issue 5

  Nirmal Verma
  N.S. Madhavan
  Lal Singh Dil
  Betty LaDuke
Arun Kolatkar
  Ashis Nandy

  Only in Print

Subscribe to The Little Magazine
Order the print edition of this issue
Browse our bookstore
Browse back issues

   Recommend this article
   Enter recipient's e-mail:

Arun Kolatkar

Watercolour by AMIT AMBALAL

A game of tigers and sheep

Who has the tigers and who the sheep

never seems to make any difference.

The result is always the same:

She wins,

I lose.

But sometimes when her tigers

are on the rampage,

and I've lost half my herd of sheep,

help comes from unexpected quarters:


The Rusty Shield Bearer,

neutral till then,

para-drops a winning flower


and irrelevant

on the checkerboard

drawn on the pavement in charcoal,

cutting off the retreat

of one tiger,

and giving a check to the other;

and quickly follows it up

with another flower

just as yellow

and just as irrelevant except

that it comes down even more slowly;

a flower without a search warrant

that brushes past her earlobe,

grazes her cheek,

and disappears down the front

of her low-cut blouse

where she usually keeps

her stash of hash

to confuse her even further, with its mildly


but very distracting fragrance.

Traffic lights

Fifty phantom motorcyclists

all in black

crash-helmeted outriders

faceless behind tinted visors

come thundering from one end of the road

and go roaring down the other

shattering the petrified silence of the night

like a delirium of rock-drills

preceded by a wailing cherry-top

and followed by a faceless president

in a deathly white Mercedes

coming from the airport and going downtown

raising a storm of protest in its wake

from angry scraps of paper and dry leaves

but unobserved by traffic lights

that seem to have eyes only for each other

and who like ill-starred lovers

fated never to meet

but condemned to live forever and ever

in each other's sight

continue to send signals to each other

throughout the night

and burn with the cold passion of rubies

separated by an empty street.


Arun Kolatkar won the Commonwealth Prize for poetry in the late Seventies. One of India's most reclusive poets, he writes in Marathi and English and lives, without a telephone, in Bombay