Cobblestone Years

Spring cleaning. Throwing all the junk out from the basement. Deleting things from the hard disk. And then you come across little nuggets from the past that you had not quite forgotten, but which weren’t on top of your mid either. It must have been around 2002. Our friend Uttam Mukhopadhyay from Michigan then had written a bunch of glowing poems, though his day job was to nurture a star-up ‘Deep View’ that he had set up after leaving GM. We thought we should publish it. We kind of took the name of our agency- Mareech – a tad too seriously, and thought we could be anything we liked – ad agency, art gallery, events impresario, and yes, a publishing house too. I wrote an introduction, noted illustrator Samir Sarkar did the cover design and some exquisite illustrations for the inside pages, Naveen Kishore of Seagull Books took charge of the production ; and soon the printed copies were ready.. But hang on. Mareech didn’t do ordinary. If it had to be a deer, it had to be a golden deer. So we got friend and theatre person Mahesh Dattani to read the poems and a full-fledged orchestra to back him with musical interpretations and mood underlines.

In Bangalore it was at the Alliance Francaise, in Kolkata it was at the Seagull Books; and at Mumbai it was at the Prithvi. Friend and colleague Enakshi broke her back to make the Mumbai gig a stellar success. I remember sitting at Pritish Nandy’s office as he was embroiled in all kind of challenges with his first big-budget production, Kaante; pleading with him to take a half-day off and read just one poem. (He read a beautiful poem called ‘ Banalata’ with full passion.) There was Shashi Kapoor himself in the audience. I was in the row behind him and I still remember him chuckling loudly at the lines from a poem called ‘Coffee Chekerboard’: Coffee comes in six flavours I customers in far many more.

with shashi kapoor

On stage

Uttam and the directorFriends have divested me all my printed copies, but I read the poems from the typed manuscript every now and then, and you know what, I genuinely like them. I will share a couple of them here, without the poet’s permission, just to give you the flavour. And through some strange quirk of fate, one used copy the book is available at the American site of Amazon, though the image does not show our original design. But if you are interested, look it up at:…/…/B0014LAJE6


Foggy days and moon-bathed nights
cloak the forest in a gossamer web
not a bird, beast, or man in sight
a crystal steam in muted haste

This is the purple corner of my world
light years from paralyzing constrictions
Urvashi, here no one can spoil your dance
blow out the flame when you are done


Earlier today
at half past nine
I turned forty-four
in the twinkling of an eye

The papers proclaim
a massacre of sorts
of man woman and child
in ravaged Kosovo

The politician in suits
on Capitol Hill
hurl impeachment sound-bites
ready for the kill

The Asian markets
still in a swoon
threaten Europe and America
and modest Cameroon

But I can’t be troubled
by the world beyond my door
‘tis a very grave thing
this matter of forty-four

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