Vignettes of a South African Township called Mdantsane

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Slow Train to Gwalior, Poetry CD, Listen to this East London Gem - Jan Hennop


The Poetry of 'A Slow Train to Gwalior' was recorded in 2000 by Harp Studio, Johannesburg.

The CD has my poetry recitation with a backdrop of African and Indian traditional music. The music is of Louis Viljoen

The CD was launched in New Delhi by Shree Jyotiraditya Scindia, Member of Parliament.


I had the pleasure to give a performance poetry session accompanied by Louis Viljoen at the Grahamstown Festival 2009. It was a Poetry Jazz Yatra.

Jan Hennop, Senior Journalist from Daily Dispatch, premier news daily of South Africa has compared my poetry to sweet lassi in his Dispatch blog. He listens to it in his car while going and coming back from the office.

This is his writeup about the music of 'A Slow Train to Gwalior'

Every year, artists, musicians and poets from East London contribute generously to the Grahamstown Arts Festival – and this year is no exception. One of the must-see shows from our shores is a collection of love poems by renowned writer and physician Dr Amitabh Mitra. This is what he has in mind for you…

A seasoned writer, Mitra will perform poems from his DVD and CD entitled “A Slow Train to Gwalior”. It’s a collection of love poems, which takes you on a sentimental journey back in time to Mitra’s childhood in India, filled with old family homes, forts and palaces and places where he grew up.

His poetry will be accompanied by the guitar of Louis Viljoen.

Listening to Mitra’s gentle lines and voice is the artistic equivalent of slowly savouring a sweet lassi – a favourite traditional Indian milkshake… It’s highly recommended.

Or, if you’re just having a stressed out day, listen to one of Mitra’s soothing poems here.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Konnagar in Leaping the Lilac Sun


dreams resplendent with green

i walk up the trees reaching the sky

i didn’t find any gashes or bleeding wounds

on its back

nobody has yet stabbed it

birds swim through an easy breast stroke

and flowers bloom as usual after the day closes its shutters

a voice of the baul plays on the strings

of a handloom river

night comes reverently

unleashing its warmth

i sleep unlikely

in the crypt and cradle of your stars.

Poem and Drawing on a hand made paper by Amitabh Mitra

Baul - A traditional folk singer of Bengal

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mdantsane Trains


mdantsane trains goes to east london
and comes back
between streets shacks and a solitary sky
people go to work
people come back home
their loneliness blossoms
within the train
amidst daily familiarity
there is nothing beyond
each other’s eyes
there is nothing
when we reach home.

Poem and Watercolor by Amitabh Mitra

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mdantsane Stabbed


nobody knew
who stabbed him at his back
he came to the hospital
with a knife protruding
the mdantsane sky was lashed in two
its anger held the knife
while it rained outside
in shame
as usual.

Poem and Drawing by Amitabh Mitra

Friday, October 16, 2009

Yellow Sky


tiny houses peep
through a veil of a yellow sky
mdantsane joins with everybody
a sea not far away rushes
and goes back
a sun clamours out of tardiness
shines again.

Poem and Watercolor by Amitabh Mitra

Monday, October 12, 2009

Daytime Mdantsane


daytime drags its feet
reeling under a broken sun
mdantsane moves
on its streets and paths
in shacks and houses
sharing secret truce with
an emaciated river sky
last night tumbled
onto a today
not quite understanding its reason
of another existence.

Poem and Pastel Drawing by Amitabh Mitra

Saturday, October 10, 2009



its not friday today
yet summers have changed
replacing with laughter
striking paint flaking walls
the smell of decay
and the black label
sickly lungs and hollow eyes
scream a welcome onslaught
of such seasons
women dance to the fury of
every friday
in mdantsane

Poem and Drawing by Amitabh Mitra

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nonzamo's Shebeen


nonzamo’s shebeen
shutters down at nine
i am very strict here
says nonzamo
swinging her ample bottom
darkness turns to light
alcohol paints the sky
after nine at night
demons take back
lost territory.

Poem and Drawing by Amitabh Mitra

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

One legged man, Poems from Mdantsane

and the one legged man dreamt at
his prosthesis may perhaps be repaired
he probably wont get pressure sores anymore
some socks …
come winter
he remembers a phantom leg
and the excruciating pain
more than that day
shot by
apla members
he still doesn’t understand
why they didn’t kill him
why they shot him, a black pastor
why they laughed at the end
why is liberation so precious now.

Poem and Drawing by Amitabh Mitra
APLA was the armed wing of Pan African Congress

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


earthy constrictions
and a wheeze
a river stopped
and a sky topples

Poem and Watercolour by Amitabh Mitra

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mdantsane Breathing

Mdantsane is the second biggest township after Soweto in South Africa. This series of watercolour and poems are made possible due to my close encounters on a daily basis to the township life here. Mdantsane like many other South African townships is a glowing example of survival against all odds, its people who refuse to bow down to disparity and extreme distress till this day.

they come early in the morning
waiting long hours to be seen
till another evening
night shadows reach the long corridor at the end
where healing is yet another drought
a surface scarred of multiple incisions
like the hospital floor
when will the woman sing again
when would the child stop fearing the sun
when would the baby learn to smile
when would the man break the liquor bottle on his head one night
i look beyond the same corridors.

Poem and Watercolour on a handmade paper by Amitabh Mitra

Leaping the Lilac Sun Launched


After a successful launch of poetry / art book, ‘A Slow Train to Gwalior’, Amitabh Mitra brings you yet another extravaganza of art and poetry in his latest book, ‘Leaping the Lilac Sun’. The book was simultaneously launched at New Delhi and East London today. A coffee table book printed on premium paper, this book is a reflection of contemporary South African Poetry and is a proof of Amitabh Mitra’s close interest in fusion of art with poetry. This book is priced at Rand 700 including postage. Any enquiry to Amitabh at

drawing suns near her breast
where the lilacs are the word
of strange blind men
Pritish Nandy
Riding the Midnight River