Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Saturday, January 26, 2013

All India Festival
Republic Day, January 26, 2013
Eye of the Needle Edition No. 5


Invocation by:  
Sarojini Naidu

Poetry by:
A.V. Koshy
Anna Maria
Madhumita Ghosh
Nalini Srivastava
Narendra Kumar Arya
Neelam Saxena Chandra
Panchajanya Banerjee
Rajeev Kumar Kunapra
Reena Prasad 
Sangeeta Suneja
Shyam Sunder Sharma
SK Iyer
Vinodkumar Edachery

Photography by:
Emil Varghese Abraham
Madhumita Ghosh
Nalini Srivastava
Nikita Saxena
Reena Prasad 
Ruhani Suneja
Shyam Sunder Sharma

Artwork by:
Poonam Bindal Dhandania
Sakina Minhaj Shikari

Benediction by:
Goswami Tulsidas

Harvest Hymn
by Sarojini Naidu

Men's Voices:

LORD of the lotus, lord of the harvest,
Bright and munificent lord of the morn!
Thine is the bounty that prospered our sowing,
Thine is the bounty that nurtured our corn.
We bring thee our songs and our garlands for tribute,
The gold of our fields and the gold of our fruit;
O giver of mellowing radiance, we hail thee,
We praise thee, O Surya, with cymbal and flute.

Lord of the rainbow, lord of the harvest,
Great and beneficent lord of the main!
Thine is the mercy that cherished our furrows,

Thine is the mercy that fostered our grain.
We bring thee our thanks and our garlands for tribute,
The wealth of our valleys, new-garnered and ripe;
O sender of rain and the dewfall, we hail thee,
We praise thee, Varuna, with cymbal and pipe.

Womens Voices:

Queen of the gourd-flower, queen of the har- vest,
Sweet and omnipotent mother, O Earth!
Thine is the plentiful bosom that feeds us,
Thine is the womb where our riches have birth.
We bring thee our love and our garlands for tribute,
With gifts of thy opulent giving we come;
O source of our manifold gladness, we hail thee,
We praise thee, O Prithvi, with cymbal and drum.

All Voices:

Lord of the Universe, Lord of our being,
Father eternal, ineffable Om!
Thou art the Seed and the Scythe of our harvests,
Thou art our Hands and our Heart and our Home.
We bring thee our lives and our labours for tribute,
Grant us thy succour, thy counsel, thy care.
O Life of all life and all blessing, we hail thee,
We praise thee, O Bramha, with cymbal and prayer

Golden Temple of Amritsar

Blossoms of Gulmohur
by Nalini Srivastava

Blossoming bunches everywhere, deep fiery red,
Spreading the fire of passion far and near.
Blooming bunches high, so high and so low
They incite strong emotions in me and for sure in you.
The morning dew and their sweet nectar,
The awesome combination of the two,
They shake themselves to beats of the wind, one or two.
They are the fore-runners of the trend-making of fashion
With their vibrant red, the colour of season and passion
And the shimmering dust, the reason to smile
They bloom and shine to last to full while they last
The blooming gulmohur… They set my heart on fire.
I long to be one like them,
Cheerful, blossoming without caring for the future a
Vibrant, spreading passionate fires with their inner fiery fire

Faceless Wolves
by Narendra Kumar Arya

Faceless faces hang like apples and berries
Robbed of identifies for cloudy rides
Boats that were sold for sand
Wander in the sea aimlessly
And islands intimidated commit suicides everyday
The stranger birds are welcome
Come flamingoes and albatross
Bipedalists without faces
We don’t expect.

Crowds of Cannibalisers
For the fiery fiesta of survival
Roam like wild wolves in very serenity of civilization
Let us not discard our facelessness
Our mortal lost is a persistent innerwear
The hollowness in the blood and cerebral wrinkles
Is vapour, smoke, fume and massive haze
Inside which are trapped our hard and soft versions

Snake Charmer
by Madhumita Ghosh

He trudges down the serpentine lanes
Coiled terror in a basket
Eager deep-set eyes
Looking for an afternoon morsel
Carrying a hungry god now famished
Timid and sleepy in a suspended bed.

The world rushes in a mad haste
Uncaring of his cares
Nudging pushing jostling
To win the race to ruse.

The holy man with a god
Sits cross-legged
On the steps to the river
As pilgrims join palms
Waist-deep in water
To wash their sins away.

The holy man pokes his god
Loose coins are scattered
As the coils uncoil
The hood spreads and sways
Hypnotised by the bulbous flute
Playing a mesmerising intoxicating tune.

The holy man in unholy clothes
Trudges back down serpentine lanes
And empties his rag full of coins
And returns with his god
To his unknown faraway home
With a few soiled notes
And his afternoon morsel.

His god-slave lies hungry coiled in the basket.

Snake Charmer in Varanasi
by Madhumita Ghosh

Oblique India:
A Tale of the Baital Pachisi 
by Panchajanya Banerjee 

I am tired of this burden bound
to my back like a beggar's wallet.
The time of riddles is past
and the last game of words
is lost and in my defeat I have won
my prize that I now carry back
across the windswept plains
to a sage drumming on a skull,
for a King must keep his promises.
And though my burden he whispers
of others less true to their words
I pay no attention to the
soft voice of the dead or to sudden
fires in the night or to distant
rumblings away to the east, for
I am aware of what is to come.
The lightning grin splits the red sky
in half and the miles seem to lengthen
with each weary step, and the
rolling thunder brings a deeper
sense of foreboding but I shall go on.
I know that I shall.
I remember when I answered
the first riddle and how I felt,
more alive than I have felt
since time farther back than I can
remember. And then the second
and a third and I answered
and my prize slipped away
every time but I persevered,
bringing him back, for more
questions asked in a cackling whisper,
choked for breath that he had not
possessed since before I met him
hanging upside down on the burning
tree. Twenty five stories in the restless night.
And then I was lost, momentarily eager
to rid myself of this endless task
and tired too, so tired I could not think.
And so I failed, and my royal pride
understood that winning was about
acknowledging defeat that one time
so I did, and my reward clung
to my back like a beggar's wallet
and he does so now, as I walk
back to the sage and his fires
and the shadows that crouch just
beyond the reach of the light.
I fear for myself and the death
that the last riddle has brought.
I am a King, and the sage he
does not frighten me. I will kill him
and I will grant myself the
dead man's boon and I will become
the greatest ruler and wanderer
this age has known.
But I am afraid, so very afraid
of how all the riddles have been
asked and nothing remains
to weigh lighter than a mere feather
against the feeling of those
few moments, words of flame
asked through cold lips
and answered in kind until
my overwrought mind stopped its
working ways and now I am afraid.
I am afraid that I have nothing left to lose

Dalhousie Shivalik Range
by Ruhani Suneja

by Shyam Sunder Sharma

Every time I see an old one
I bow in humility
Seeing it spread out wide
Always expanding

Expansively sharing
All its bearing
A landmark upholding history
Comforting even in its shadow

the abode of Moksha
Stooping but never leaning

Where the bulbuls rest
and sing
Such a fatherly lap
that nurtures,
giving all of itself

Not a thing wasted,
from fruit to root
or skin
Everything serves
other beings

I am in awe
every time I see an old one
admiring how it spreads

I wonder how it does,
branches stooping and
turning to roots

Firmly grounded
Ever growing roots
shoot stooped
but umbrella spread
such benign shade

Wondering how it can
Hmm, only a banyan can

From the Buddha
to the nomad's sojourn
only a banyan can!

So I add another to my wishes
For what I wish to be in next life

A string-less kite soaring high
A paper boat afloat
or a driftwood,
A wandering albatross
without settling for necks,
And yes a Banyan tree!

by Sakina Minhaj Shikari

Durga Puja
by Madhumita Ghosh

You dare not go round the idol

as at temples you do
paying obeisance
circling the deity
seeking blessings.
Bare, stripped, incomplete, they stand
with naked unclean behinds
glittering dazzling facades
mesmerising all
with their divine grace.

Mother smiles down at all

forgiving and assuring
as she kills the demon-asura.
Myopic asuras in us
save money and precious time
worshipping only faces
of Her or Him
who created us with love and care
complete, with perfect behinds.

The monument Imambara in Lucknow
by Nalini Srivastava

by Anna Maria

I could be a traitor 
could I  
if I say i am sad
about  Kasab's death?
I could be jailed 
tried  at court 
this poem taken as proof 
of my infidelity 
my lack of love for India 
more or less .
India ! my land  my love 
when will I hear you say 
Muslims you are mine?

When will I see 
Christians profess their faith
fearless  in   regions
saffron adorned?
When will the pledge that says 
All Indians are my brothers and sisters 
be read  in earnest 
not recited just for sake.

The questions remain unanswered
my mind is sad and silenced .

What do you do to Indians
who rape their mothers   sisters
massacre their brothers
commit infantoecide
female foeticide
burn and loot houses?

Kasab hangs
a question mark
the answer
I   realise
is  not death. 

by Reena Prasad

Ganga stood

beautifully poised
on the brink of heaven
and then she began
her free fall
upon Earth
accelerating towards the ground
her lithe, streamlined form
swaying silkily down
determined to make earth bear
the brunt
of her hurt arrogance.

Destructive force

of her descent
absorbed calmly by The Destroyer
without a lapse in concentration
she meandered, stunned by her inability
to sweep away the great God
losing her way instead
among his tangled locks,
till he showed her the path
gently bringing her down to earth
dissolving her ego by his move
her purity reinstated with a mission
to mitigate a universal thirst
till the end of Kalyug.

Earth rejoiced

in the arrival of the mountain daughter
turning green and blue
swirling around, teeming with joy
sprouting life wherever
the divine waters touched.
North and then east
in several streams, she flowed
turning into Bhageerathi
till the ocean beckoned.
will she too follow Saraswati
blackened by man’s sins?
dry and condemned
a lost spiritual flow.

Meditate not on her banks,’ O’ god men

touch her not with your sinful feet
immerse your soul in her pure flow
let go,
let go of all the maaya
in the lethargic smoke that spouts from you
wipe those wick-oil smeared shutters
and see through an inner frame
snip away those matted bird nests
wash away those flaky ash smears
sporting those half dead snakes
cannot make you Shiva.

Cleanse those guilty cavities

let your sins be the Guru
feel the rush, the roar and the force
as she lands on those coiled dreadlocks
entwined with serpent slaves of a mastered ego
see his forehead crescent
a glittering trophy of his timelessness.
as you drown in the inner knowledge
of your worthless existence,
pray it opens unto you
his third eye
to dispel the black miasma
to reduce to ash
the falseness of life on earth.

Washing the ashes of millions

more than the purported
sixty thousand sons,
she still sways,
the spiritual Ganga in our veins
suffering the same fate
as the throttled one
carrying moral corpses, poisoned
for a lost mind can no longer mimic
a lotus leaf.

Ganga leans

tired, ravished
waiting for the Bull,
standing on one leg
to stand on all fours again.

Bangles for Sale at Wayanad, Kerala 

by Reena Prasad

abstruse obtrusiveness 
by SK Iyer

sometimes poetry compels
words to bring in odd things
I stare at the dyslexically daft lines
missing a crucial word or thought

I let a flood of words
flow on paper, and wait
until the garishness is washed off
its lurid bad taste

then emerges a verse
as thin as a glowing filament
of an incandescent bulb
which I forgot to switch off
before sleep whispering through my nose
and is still on in my head


by Vinodkumar Edachery

There was an Ekalavya

A Nishada prince
To check the pride of Arjuna
The stark archer.

He saw a Guru in Drona

Practised archery before his statue
When genius found no access to his bosom
And dearly paid its price.

Drona fell from honour

Like Adam from heaven
So, too Arjuna
And the whole vain lot
That caste- pride had possessed.

Kiratha killed the boar

In a lightning speed
Before Arjuna’s arrow
And danced in a frenzy
Over the victory.

The all-knowing Chandala

Stood in the way of haughtiness
Before Sankara’s ego
To teach him the great lessons
Of Advaita.

Ezhuthachan was no Dalit

But the issue of a Brahmin-they cried
And crushed the rising heads in alarm
Poured molten lead in ear.

At Aruvippuram, Narayana Guru picked up

A stone from nearby river
Installed an idol of Siva
And silenced the caste-Hindus
Saying it was Ezhava Siva.

Ekalavya lost his thumb

Kiratha and Chandala were elevated
Into Siva’s disguise.

Kerala Beach 

by Emil Varghese Abraham

Proud To Be An Indian 
by Rajeev Kumar Kunapra

Sixty two summers have elapsed after you became a republic,
A cradle that yields all good to its public
A soil where four religions sprouted
Other major doctrines also you welcomed

Varied thoughts and different cultures,
Keep them united, pluralism you embraced.
Like a big banyan you stand
Giving shade and shelter to all kind!

Many a looters came disguised,
All your wealth they plundered.
Like the legendary vessel
Inexhaustible you still remain!

‘Ahimsa’ was the ‘manthra’
Chanted by the ‘netha’
Yoke of slavery thrown and flown
With a struggle till then unknown!

Like a bug on cattle’s back
Neighbor tried a lot to poke
Phlegmatic you stand never provoked
Sin of fratricide you never preferred.

Worries are many; wounds still bleed
Wars from outside, wars within
Mammoth size corruption- all pervasive
Yet you propel yourself forth!

Ordeals are short lived
Bygone glories sure regained.
Blessed I’m born in your soil
Legacy inherited no one can spoil!

  Oh! Mother India!

Lulled by the sacred waters
Guarded by the majestic Himalayas
Let the tricolor fly in its full glory!
Unbeaten you are, born to win!

        Jai Hind!

This Very Day Today, 20 Years Back

by Shyam Sunder Sharma

This very day today, twenty years back

I was honoured with the Shaurya Chakra
And my name was eternally added
To the sagas of bravery

Today, it must be rotting in some random box
That blood stained Shaurya Chakra
The very same one, I proudly wore for years
Over my proud chest

Somewhere in my battalion’s motivation hall
My photograph must be wrapped in dust
Someone passing by; may notice and turn
Dusted off, my photograph would wait patiently
For the next layers of dust

The tag of Shaurya Chakra
 Is eternally etched to my name
It is not as if
I was lacking in bravery before the medal

Today, why is it that I am just wearied
The storm in my eyes is missing
Where is my enemy in this damned lonesomeness?

Tell the enemy,
To no more hide inside of me
Tell him, I am well versed
In the art of ambush and counter ambush
Why does my enemy not emerge out in the open?
Deeper and deeper like a termite within
He turns hollow
My very being!

The Shaurya Chakra (Third Highest Gallantry award of India).  
Photograph courtesy of the author.

Chamba Hills:  Ferns, Mosses and Pines
by Sangeeta Suneja

Ferns and mosses, on the rocks,
Dress up the Chamba hills,
Laced  with the frilly Pine frocks,
Pieces of slates
and the greenest, brightest grass,
Tiled rocks embedded
Grey and silver,
Neatly cut square and rectangular,
Rocks hold up the soil and my spirit,
Like the playful clayey sand,
Ready to ooze,
To be washed away,
With wild winds,
Which, musically plays and pokes
Sometimes angry, demanding love,
so with thunderous strokes!

Green mosses shield and hold,
The mountains and its multifarious folds,
Ferns, like green curly ribbons,
Shine and embellish,
The romantic wraps for the rocky terrains,
Small wild white and yellow flowers
Randomly grow, spraying up, the colorful rain,
Mosses and ferns behold and hold,
The tall green Pines, preserving,
the pristine beauty and 
married to the mushy, the mountains!!

by Nikita Saxena

by A.V. Koshy

love is a mistake
shrunk to fit into your palm
like a snug, gold coin
inside, chocolate and silver tin foil -
close your fist over it 
it is not there
it's gone
butterflies that flitted

from inside your stomach
leaving you feeling even more
gazing at the inside of your hand
that once you had thought could
enfold the whole world
but now has nothing but the criss-cross of lines
that only go to show that your life line will end

India In My Heart 
by Neelam Saxena Chandra

There was India in my heart

Or so I felt
As I read the newspapers and magazines
And brushed through the T.V. channels
All reporting the day-today incidents
Encircling, encompassing and encasing me…

I could feel the scare

On the face of the petrified kid
Who had just been kidnapped…
I could sense the hunger
Of those poverty struck millions
Who were starved and famished …
I could recognize the pain
Of a shocked girl
Who had been the victim
Of lustful eyes of a damned politician…

I felt that was India

Shattered, broken and devastated
India in my heart…

However, one fine day,

I decided to leave the comforts 
Of my air conditioned home
And the luxuries of television and newspapers
And try to understand and comprehend
Minutiae and facets
Of the India in my heart…

As I roamed
Through the slums,
On the Railway stations,
In the trains and buses
And met innumerable people
During the course of my journey
I realized that
There were pains
There were kidnappings
There was loot and arson
There was hunger
There was rape and molestation
But still
The erstwhile picture of my India 
Was incomplete…

For more than the grief, the sorrow and the anguish

There was that feeling of love
Which bounded my dear India
Which had no equal…

Everyone had a different identity

But the uniqueness merged into one
When they travelled together
Ate together
Worshipped together
Worked together
Just as there are different stars
And other celestial objects in the sky
But they together beautify the milieu
My India was one…

And this oneness

Cannot be shown on television
Does not become a front page news item
One can only feel it
In the hearts…
And this is the real India
India in my heart…

by Poonam Bindal Dhandania

Tiger Astray
by Shyam Sunder Sharma

A tiger had got away from Ranthambore sanctuary couple of years back. Spotted across states, he was on the run evading villagers & wild-life officials, sadly injuring people that came in his way. Then he disappeared, unseen, unknown, no one knows what became of him. There is a strong personal undercurrent apart from the crying need to give much needed space to this amazing beast.

Stop following my pugmarks,
I am not sure, myself
Where I am headed!

It has been a long dusty trail

Across your well-marked states
I regret the bloodshed enroute
But I never stalk you.
Just stop tumbling in on my way!

Sorry, if you get mauled

I am not on the prowl
For me, it has been a long haul
So just stay out of my way!

Ranthambore was a bore!

Why chase me now
With your 12 bores!

You can’t impose

Boundaries on me
When you blatantly
Violate my inner space!

How do you care?

What led me
To leave your sanctuary
I do not wish to explain
My lost love tales!

All I know is that

I carry my tail upright
And still wear my stripes

Don’t be sacred of me,

I am no man-eater
I prefer fresh meat
On hooves!
And a liver
That does not stink
I do not know or care about you
But I care about what I chew
And the after taste

I just wish to explore

If there is a jungle
Beyond your concrete.
A jungle, that I can call home

Stop stalking me,

Stop laying traps,
I can beat you
In these fancy games

Just stay away from me

I don’t fancy your meat
Or your concrete
Just don’t intrude into my space

Give me my passage

Or I’ll carve my own!

Blue Tent 
by Nikita Saxena

by Anna Maria

I am the wife 
who walks into the flames 
my husband's sins to atone.

Does it make me the sacrificial lamb 
the one who sins can atone.? 
Do the flames burn me, my sins 
or just his I am not sure.
Yet I walk in  "bhanged" 
a  great leap into the skies . 

Let the flames burn 

the curse of being born 
the girl within the womb 
the curse of chromosomes. 

To the flames  I consign 

the maturity rites
the rights  of the nuptial bed 
the opening of my thighs.

The waters  that flowed

mingled with  blood
as in child birth as I cried. 

To the flames I consign

the agony of being mother wife 
whore  slave  all  sadness  wrought.

Dreams I never had any 

i never knew what it meant . 

Joy to me the bangles gold 

the sindhoor on my forehead
at the tender age of twelve.  

Joy  to me 

the suckling breasts 
rapture to me as well. 

Amidst the chants my spirit soar

my  body  i leave behind
my skeleton  for them to make 
shrine for garlands and  time.   

Above the clouds of smoke I rise 

 a   freedom chorus in my ear  ...
freedom to thee
I am bethrothed   now  
 freedom   for ever more.

Sound Celestial 
by Goswami Tulsidas

Listen, O friend, to the thunderous roar of Shabd,

Which reverberates throughout the firmament.
Water, which becomes turbid by relishing the earth,
Gets cleansed of its impurities when filtered.
Waves of pure bliss emanate from the heart
When the moss that covers it is removed.

Hold the arrow, be still, stretch the bow taut,

Fix your aim sharp at the target, pierce the firmament.
The invisible world is contained within the human eye,
So say and describe all men of inner knowledge.
Behold the Brahmand within, through your astral eye.
When that eye is opened, everything stands revealed.

The soul in Sunn will hear resounding peals of Sound,

She will uncover and know the essence of Shabd.

They alone, O Tulsi, will know that perfect state,

Who have seen and experienced it themselves.


Harvest Hymn by Sarojini Naidu and Sound Celestial by Goswami Tulsidas are in the public domain.  Photographs Golden Temple of Amritsar and Allahabad are  in the public domain.  All other works copyright by the authors and artists.


  1. am so glad to share space with somany writers friends..and especially Emil my nephew..his first exposure in photography.... Congratulations to all..Russel thank you so much.. much love :) @ Anna Maria ( Dr.MAry Annie A.V.

  2. What a great treat of poems and pictures on India's 64th Republic Day!Thank you Russell Streur and congratulations to all my friends and poets featured here!This Saloon rocks.