For a while, death has been on my mind. What does it mean to die? Do we enter another dimension, where all those we regrettably or gladly let go are waiting for us, saying, “See, it’s not goodbye after all!”  Or do we join one of those long, never-ending lines of people waiting to board a bus to Hell or Heaven? And never realise which is which? And what if what we thought was the ultimate solution to all problems was just the beginning of a whole new set of unimaginable conundrums? Sometimes I feel death must be like slipping into a sensory deprivation tank. A black sea of silence where stillness prevails. A detached body floating in a sea that becomes its whole existence, till slowly, slowly, dissolving, the body becomes the ocean. Perhaps, death is being forgotten and forgetting. All those rituals and prayers for the departed performed by the descendants who in turn teach their offspring are the promise to remember the dead year after year.  All of this stems from the fear and the hope of the living- the fear that they might one day be forgotten and the hope that they won’t be forgotten. I suppose it is a tad difficult for humans to believe that after all the things they have accomplished on Earth, they just end up evaporating. No. I suppose for life to have meaning, death must have significance, gravity, sorrow. Why else the mourning? The guard of honour, the flags at half-mast? Children too are our guard-rails against being forgotten. People we see ourselves in, our quirks, our habits- they who shall inherit our name, our assets/liabilities and the task of remembering us.

Writing names in books, promissory notes on trees, on walls- Madhu ♥ Mohan, on those mausoleums of eternal love that kings built, is all a hope that one day someone will remember and thus all that was supposed to be dead, supposed to be lost to the sands of time or to the drudgery of life will still live on. And then one day, when the books are burnt and the trees cut, when the walls are pulled down, when mausoleums are demolished, when there are no children, we are truly, truly dead.

And Gods are not immune to this form of mortality either.

The Gods come into our lives as those to be feared, those who love us, those who must be appeased. They form silent, all-knowing, all-seeing presences and remain in their shrines in our homes, in our places of worship, their name taken in vain, wine or whine several times a day. They stay alive thus; blooded by our memory, travelling with us on every journey, witnessing our every transaction, our every action. Till one day, the shrine is jostled as we dust our home, or when children play a game of ball. The God falls from their pedestal. And forms a crack. And suddenly, just like that, the God is no longer a God. They become not-God. They did a not-Godly thing by falling down and breaking. They must be sent away. In Hinduism especially, it is believed that a broken idol must not be kept in the house. It must be either dispersed in a river, a sea or placed at the foot of a tree in an open space, where the energy it gained from the devotion it received before breaking, can dissipate.

So then, thus, God becomes a no longer-God. No one remembers them. No one worships them, they remain a figure under a tree. During a journey to Hyderabad, I came across the shrine of Kattamaisamma- at a place called Tank Bund. Kattamaisamma is a local goddess who has the power to avert floods and she has been doing exactly that for the people of Tank Bund for many decades now. Across the shrine, bang in the middle of a very busy road, stands a tree. It was possibly a shrine. I happened to notice this tree and went across the road to take a look. At the foot of the tree, a parallel shrine of broken gods sat. Presided over by Ganesha- the elephant-headed God, sat a veritable array of Gods- Shiva, Nagaraja or Snake gods, Sai Baba of Shirdi, Devi in her many manifestations, Ganesha who was obviously prised off a panel at the entrance of some house when they remodeled, some panel of gods given as house warming gift, the vermilion finger-dot on them still intact, Gods peering out of broken frames, gods presiding over calendar sheets of years gone by. Gods stacked, stashed, left behind. Gods- many handed, decked in finery, some already fled, leaving just frames behind, while others sit, patient, having witnessed the frenzy of devotion and the calm reasoning of desertion that humans are capable of.

It was Kapil Kachru’s poem that we carry here today that made me think of the no longer -Gods of Tank Bund after all these years. Kapil’s poem has a very vivid memory of a temple he visited some decades ago in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, which is also my hometown. I know the place he talks of and the temple too. When I read his work, it made me smile. His eye has missed nothing.

That is his blessing. And perhaps his bane too. Kachru has a very personal, lucid eye that he trains on the universe around him. He seems to carry his history- real, imagined, political, personal- in the pocket of his coat. Like raisins. Or like a sea anemone. A case in point are these lines:
Who will feed the crows
when we are gone?

Mother’s mother asked
leaving for the last time
the house her husband built
in the Garden of Turnips

Ever since then, the question
addressed to nobody in particular
gets raised, like a threatening sickle

Eighteen years later, heading to Anantnag
you miss seeing or hearing crows
miss the turn for the place
Father insists on visiting

By a slender shoulder of road
you ask a passerby
taking his bicycle for a walk

Much easier finding an old grave
than a new one, 
he says, with a smile
drier than day old bread and points the way

(Radio Kashmira, )

The sardonic, sly humour that sheaths biting satire and political angst makes it difficult to pin-point the discomfort that he manages to release.

We know how much he likes keeping an eye on life in the street we prepared a table specially for him by the window

So to speak, we had the glass removed some time back it was fatally attracted to bricks, you see

Particularly during riots, which have become awfully popular, these days

(Waiting for Kolatkar Mia, ( )

Kachru presents an important voice in poetry today. One, that is capable of treating language with reverence. Of being able to reveal the prismatic impact of language and through it, articulating the polyphonic modern body. A body where memories, nations, languages, cultures, syntax and registers collide and where much that is valuable stands in danger of being lost. Kachru’s verses are astringent as they look to cut through the noise to reveal the layers of eternal journeys beneath who he is today. The journeys he undertook or those that others went on before him, or for him.

Reading the verses of Kachru, following him as he unfurls memory after memory, is like watching an act of prayer. Its personal, but it also includes you. It remembers you, names you and invites you into its circle of remembrance.

It is an act of immortality.

The four-part poem, Kochulloor Calling is a very philosophical, impish take on a very old temple. The many colours we brushstroke faith with, is potently narrated. Kapil Kachru looks at the many parallel lives lived on a single morning on the premises of a temple. And in the midst of it all, there is a God who might possibly need a quick getaway. It’s a delightful, contemplative idea!

This is why, though it is well within reach, I am not posting a current picture of the temple Kachru talks about. Let it remain in our memories as he remembers it. I would like to think that Kapil Kachru once passed this way and picked up a temple in the once-sleepy village of Kochulloor, put it in his pocket along with the raisins and the sea anemones and quietly walked away. He took with him, the Gods, the not-Gods and the no-longer Gods.

Sonya J. Nair

Kochulloor Calling

a four-part poem
for Samyukta Poetry
Kapil Kachru

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Kochulloor Calling


Sleepy village in the deep
south of God’s Own Country
yawns at moody December sky

seven thirty in the morning
an ungodly hour for night owls
all across this vast blue-green
pebble of a planet

on a cement plinth
below a woven cane roof
braced by bamboo

it occurs to you
none too soon
what your old man
was talking about

that disc of stone
hole in the middle
beneath your
overgrown beak

that’s what lingas looked like
in the old days, marking
propitious places to cross
ones legs & close ones eyes

the scrawny excuse for a tiger
in the corner of this makeshift shelter
receives the new-found wisdom
tail curled in comic horror

native hunches pinned down
by Plaster of Paris, hanging on
with declawed paws & an un-
healthy complexion

that’s not going
to get any better
any time

Kochulloor Calling


A veteran horn blasts
breakfast calm to bits
an elephant trumpets

in acknowledgement
your attention hijacked
ears on end

you follow the sonic
invasion through the
blast & trumpet lane

over broad, smooth steps
down to what looks like
it might be a pagoda

on one blast & trumpet side
stone wall, painted white
bleeds from cynical pores

graphic brushstrokes ooze
the symbolic red blast &
trumpet substance of belief

Skanda comes face to face
with his furious nature
& feeds it to the fire

almost new, red Kawasaki
blast & trumpet, parked side-
ways, right there, to the left

by the main entrance, don’t
you know, even God needs
a getaway vehicle, these days


perched in the thick, green
canopy above, an owl rests
her sleepy, telescopic eyes

Kochulloor Calling


It’s a big step
you take, so casually
over the threshold

no owl would dare
not in this blinding

best not look back
too soon for that
sort of thing

up ahead, a young bull
elephant, feet bound
with linked metal chain

trots along a paved
rectangular path
around the central shrine

straddling his neck
man armed with
carved ivory horn

curved like crescent
moon, which he blasts
every chance he gets

the elephant trumpets
obediently with his trunk
devotion is slavery

he bellows, wake up
you sleepy slaves
wake up

after sufficient laps
clockwise, around
the shrine

he catches a break & rests
anticipating a well-earned
offering of morning fruit

on a covered platform
behind the compound, you bow
to the magnificent being

with gratitude
you haven’t felt before
thanking him

for abducting your attention
for luring you here, barefoot
in this temple courtyard

all the way in the deep
south of God’s Own Country
close to Kanyakumari

the elephant eyes you with
the suspicion you deserve
& keeps his holy distance

Kochulloor Calling


Not old, the young villager replies
about a hundred years or so
the small, weathered statues
of Nagarajas, guarding the immense

time-honored tree, shielded by
hoods of cosmic serpents
speak of older memories, still
nothing stops wind & water

gnawing at the agonizing work
of mortal hands, the sea doesn’t
deliberate, only scrubs the features
off your face

with salt, scrapes away
all trace of who you think
you might be, wipes it clean
without second thought

late last night, while you imbibed
the wine & olive soaked fantasies
of Hellenic seafarers, Athena sent you
one of her own

a white barn owl, gold freckles
across breast & belly, arrived at the
windowsill to behold you as one would
a curious specimen

in an expensive glass box
at the world-famous zoo of a foreign city
imploring you with the silent miracle
of telescopic eyes & you were scheming

to take a picture with your phone
how else would anybody believe?
startled, the owl flew off into the night
never to be seen again, until earlier

this morning, you caught sight of her
in slivers of sky, slender blue ribbons
cut by translucent glass slats, saw her
turn upward

in a desperate last-minute
maneuver, escape an eagle’s
bloodthirsty grip by the width
of a tail feather

cheered on by a savage
chorus of crows, fluttering
in noisy formation around
the predators

you couldn’t tell if they were
cheering eagle or owl, or placing
bets on both, you couldn’t deny
how maniacal it was

the eagle gave up chase
the crows settled down, eventually
you spotted a couple, hours later
on a low boundary wall

taking turns pecking a cat’s tail
from either side, harassing
the little hunter till he hopped off
& went hissing into the overgrown

Kapil was born in Lucknow and lives in Boston. His poems and stories have appeared in journals, magazines and an anthology in India, The Netherlands and the US. Including Inverse Journal, The Bangalore Review and The Bombay Literary Magazine. Negligible Inertia, his debut collection of poems, was published by Writers Workshop.