Vignettes of a South African Township called Mdantsane

Thursday, December 8, 2011



many aeons back
when rock changed faces
many a times and clan men
resisted irrefutably
the sky always gave way
to unhindered horizons
to newer lives
in dust torn
each time we passed the long
languorous tunnels of
each time we found
ourselves on ledges
of looming betrayal
the fort grew taller and higher
overlapping many a skin
many a shadow
many a summers
and i thought
perhaps one day
you would tell me a secret
of holding the lizard
in my grip
of a moment
knee deep in a drying river
of your breath
navigating a stronghold
of refute
you told me
the ruddy earth would also change
the peacocks would be no more
fungus and fern would darken
such agreements
such love
and we would remain torn
answerable only to the wind.

why did we run away each time the
sun changed surfaces
why did we cross eye storms
ensnared long hidden stars
why did we eclipse in patterns
of lip talk on your neck
why did we turn one and only one
burnt one single night
why did we then never die
why did the fort
keep silent

beneath us
deep down
stayed the dargah
the mad man danced
looked at us
in sightless eyes
we had seen him before
much before
when the hot wind
blew away advancing
and departing reasons
a maratha willingness to melt away
at each nightend
we saw him still
shaking his head
his hands sang the song
of the next blitz
the dead around in cavernous
holes never slept
we knew
the rainriver
would storm down
in crypts and crevices
in sultry memory lanes
weather broken thickets
on to those
living and buried
we knew then
it was the moment
of a quiet dismissal
of unhastened departures.

families left for far shores
and houses sprung up on
rusty dreams
a dishevelled robe dragging
a far innocence
hands sought to hold a
and eyes stored tears
on your lips i saw a murmur
loves disparity rootless in
undefined times
i told you the stillness of the fort
stillness of our drifting
stillness of the riversong
stillness of an everydaysky
we lived
shattering long drawn thoughts
in strange dawns
old gwalior.

Poem and Ink Drawing by Amitabh Mitra

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mdantsane Shebeen


in a strangerlight
frequenting the lament
blues and greens stare in an orb
glass, skin and breath
touch quite ruthlessly
seizing proximity
darkness is a sworn
myths enter an orbit
of unsung desires

Poem and Watercolor by Amitabh Mitra

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mdantsane Again



and in some coral nights
i see you through panes
in an unblinking sky
stare thoughts in a traveling
outside a mad man lurches
demands to be seen
his thoughts are purple
his voice guttural enduring
the window glass disappears
echoes again
in some afterthoughts
of such coral nights.

Poem and Watercolor by Amitabh Mitra

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Goran Bregovic


A howling wind is whistling in the night
My dog is growling in the dark
Something's pulling me outside
To ride around in circles
I know that you have got the time
'coz anything I want, you do
You'll take a ride through the strangers
Who don't understand how to feel
In the death car, we're alive
In the death car, we're alive

I'll let some air come in the window
Kind of wakes me up a little
I don't turn on the radio
'coz they play sh*t, like... you know
When your hand was down on my dick
It felt quite amazing
And now that, that is all over
All we've got is the silence
In the death car, we're alive
In the death car, we're alive
So come on mandolins, play

When I touched you
I felt that you still had your baby fat
And a little taste of baby's breath
Makes me forget about death
At your age you're still joking
It ain't time yet for the choking
So now we can see the movie, and know each other truly
In the death car, we're alive
In the death car, we're alive
I want to hear some mandolins

Listen to Goran Bregovic singing, In the death car, We are alive

Pen Drawing by Amitabh Mitra

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Poetry of Chris Mann


Where is the freedom for which we died?

Whenever I dream during these violent times
I meet up with the martyrs for freedom.

I see Steve Biko again,
And Achmad Timol,
And David Webster,
all, all of them murdered by deeds of hatred.

I also see Nelson Mandela again,
A man buried alive in prison
who stepped from the tomb still living
and is the Lazarus of our times.

These are the heroes I think of often,
who knock at the doors of our memory,
who travel around our country
talking together as they look about them
like ancestral spirits of the new South Africa.

Going into the home of a drunkard
they see him beating his wife and children.
“Look at that!” says one of the heroes,
“Is this the freedom for which we died?”

Entering the township
they find the skies full of flames
and people running confusedly round the streets
like termites whose home has been kicked over.
“And look at that!” says another of the heroes,
“Is this the freedom for which we died?”

Going into a school
they see pupils bickering with the teachers
and two boys stabbing each other.
“And look at that!” says another of the heroes,
“Is this the freedom for which we died?”

Walking the streets at night
they find the homes locked and barred
as if the people had built their own prisons
and lived inside them huddled in fear.
“I can’t believe it!” another of them says,
“Is this the freedom for which we died?”

These are the heroes I think of often,
these are the shades of the new South Africa,
and this is the question they ask of the living,
“Where is the freedom for which we died?”

Chris Mann's formal education includes a BA from Wits majoring in English and Philosophy, an MA from the School of Oriental and African Languages (London) in African Oral Literature and an MA from Oxford in English Language and Literature. Now based at the Institute for the Study of English in Africa at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, he is the founder and convenor of Wordfest, a national multilingual festival of South African languages and literatures with a developmental emphasis. We are grateful to him for assisting South African Poets in showcasing their work at the Grahamstown International Festival.

Pen Drawing by Amitabh Mitra

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

In Detention - Poetry of Chris Van Wyk


He fell from the ninth floor
He hanged himself
He slipped on a piece of soap while washing
He hanged himself
He slipped on a piece of soap while washing
He fell from the ninth floor
He hanged himself while washing
He slipped from the ninth floor
He hung from the ninth floor
He slipped on the ninth floor while washing
He fell from a piece of soap while slipping
He hung from the ninth floor
He washed from the ninth floor while slipping
He hung from a piece of soap while washing.

Pen Drawing by Amitabh Mitra
This famous poem which brought international attention to apartheid era atrocities appeared again in the recently held matric trial question papers at Eastern Cape

Friday, September 9, 2011

Poetry of Keorapetse Kgositsile


mirror of my pain and purpose
this blood we demand
is the flow of life
we must bleed yes
there is no birth without blood
if they call us insane let them
words will not kill us
if they say we are not poets let them
our poetry will be the simple act
the blood we bleed
moulded by pain and purpose
into a simple
do not fuck with me
your shit is going up in flames
here and now.

Kgositsile has worked in various African National Congress departments and structures both above and underground. This poem is from his collection, If I could Sing. Keorapetse Kgositsile remains one of the most prominent South African poets whose protest poetry has achieved national and international recognition.
Pastel Drawing by Amitabh Mitra

Friday, September 2, 2011

Poetry of Arvind Krishna Mehrotra


i wish you had asked me earlier
the paintings have been bought
by a broken mirror
but i think i can lead you
to a crack in the wall
i have a skeleton too
its full of butterflies
who at dawn will carry away
the crown
i have also a wheelchair to show you
it belonged to my uncle
and one day the hook
that hangs from the sky
touched him. if you open the cupboard
you will see his memory
on the upper shelf and two books
now yours
ruskin's lectures on art
and a short history of english literature by legouis.

From Oxford's Ten Twentieth Century Indian Poets
Pen Drawing by Amitabh Mitra

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Poetry of Keshav Malik


Art Critic and Poet, Keshav Malik received Padma Shri for his contribution to Literature and Arts by the Government of India in 1991. I have known Keshav Malik from the seventies when his poems were published in international anthologies but primarily in anthologies edited by Pritish Nandy. I remember him from Anees Jung’s Youth Times. I also remember his poem published in Strangertime edited by Nandy during that same period –

To sense what is and what is not of importance
Is of some importance.
Your double in the mirror, for instance
Has little substance
Except a double double in a doting eye’s transparence
And there rediscover self anew in a taking tense(As distinct from the mere mimicking presence).
And be broken your long sleep or trance
In your body’s ambience,
A double gives offence.

Pen Drawing of Keshav Malik by Amitabh Mitra

Monday, July 25, 2011

Welcome to Royal Gwalior Wines



Limited Edition Signed Royal Gwalior Wines with the slightest hint of Muscat, now available on order.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Poems from Makiwane


two blind men
at makiwane
held each other and screamed at
a broken sky
asking for alms
they wanted to smell
they wanted to taste light
they asked for a reason
and the unforgiving long years
of silence
of fettered undergrowth
a sun remained quiet
a wall grew taller
we only heard them shuffling
two blind men
at makiwane

Poem and Pastel Drawing by Amitabh Mitra

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Poetry of Liu Xiaobo 2


Longing to Escape

for my wife

abandon the imagined martyrs
I long to lie at your feet, besides
being tied to death this is
my one duty
when the heart’s mirror-
clear, an enduring happiness

your toes will not break
a cat closes in behind
you, I want to shoo him away
as he turns his head, extends
a sharp claw toward me
deep within his blue eyes
there seems to be a prison
if I blindly step out
of with even the slightest
step I’d turn into a fish.

Published in Pen American Centre
Pen Drawing by Amitabh Mitra

Friday, May 6, 2011

the poetry of doctor/poet Agostinho Neto

There on the horizon
the fire
and the dark silhouettes of the imbondeiro trees
with their arms raised 1 in the air the green smell of burnt palm trees

On the road
the line of Bailundo porters
groaning under their loads of crueira

In the room
the sweet sweet-eyed mulatress retouching her face with rouge and rice-powder the woman under her many clothes moving her hips on the bed the sleepless man thinking of buying knives and forks to eat with at a table

On the sky the reflections
of the fire
and the silhouettes of the blacks at the drums with their arms raised in the air the warm tune of marimbas

On the road the porters
in the room the mulatress
in the bed the sleepless man

The burning coals consuming consuming with fire the warm country of the horizons.

Agostinho Neto , Medical Doctor and a Poet, he was the first President of Angola.

Pastel Drawing by Amitabh Mitra

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Poetry of Liu Xiaobo 1


A Small Rat in Prison

for Little Xia

a small rat passes through the iron bars
paces back and forth on the window ledge
the peeling walls are watching him
the blood-filled mosquitoes are watching him
he even draws the moon from the sky, silver
shadow casts down
beauty, as if in flight.

a very gentryman the rat tonight
doesn’t eat nor drink nor grind his teeth
as he stares with his sly bright eyes
strolling in the moonlight.

5. 26. 1999

Published by Pen American Centre
Watercolor Drawing by Amitabh Mitra

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Poetry of Liu Xiaobo


One Letter Is Enough

for Xia

one letter is enough
for me to transcend and face
you to speak

as the wind blows past
the night
uses its own blood
to write a secret verse
that reminds me each
word is the last word

the ice in your body
melts into a myth of fire
in the eyes of the executioner
fury turns to stone

two sets of iron rails
unexpectedly overlap
moths flap toward lamp
light, an eternal sign
that traces your shadow.

Published in PEN America
Watercolor Drawing by Amitabh Mitra

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Poetry and Art - Exhibiting at Medical School, Warwick, UK


International Symposium on Poetry and Medicine, 7 May 2011
Warwick UK

Medicine, Art and Poetry has been together since the time of Hippocrates and the History of Medicine is abundantly endowed with examples of Art, Literature and Poetry.

Renowned medical journals like Lancet and the British Medical Journal (BMJ ) have published scholarly articles on Medicine and Poetry.The 2011 International Symposium on Medicine and Poetry to be held at the Medical School at Warwick, organized by the University of Warwick would be focusing on the role of Poetry in the field of Medicine with a special mention on HIV.

I have 6 published poetry books to my credit and have been involved in Art and Poetry since last 20 years.

My Art and Poetry dealing with my trauma work in the Cecilia Makiwane Hospital, Mdantsane has been accepted for viewing at this conference.

The same art on the township of Mdantsane has been published as a coffee table book titled Mdantsane Breathing and has been reviewed by Daily Dispatch.

This is the first time that Art and Poetry from a township hospital of South Africa would be exhibited at a Medical School in UK.

Mdantsane goes to Warwick, UK.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mxolisi Nyezwa


For days I looked for my poems
for days I looked for my poems in the streets,
and since I could not find them,
light fell like a flower on the lonely square.
the light sounded the drum of a thud.
beauty came groveling forward
and children went for days
without food.

Mxolisi Nyezwa

Pastel Drawing by Amitabh Mitra

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Jiwaji Club, Gwalior


Jiwaji Club, Gwalior is situated close to the Palace and the Medical College. The area is called as Katora Tal I believe it should be one of the numerous mansions and palaces gifted to the community by the royal family of Gwalior. I was not a member of the club but I did happen to visit as a guest a number of times. This club reminds me of the Saturday Club in Kolkata and the Planters Club in Darjeeling, all having the same colonial architecture.

According to the club web site, it was named as the Elgin Club and was established by the former British Regent in 1898. The Late Jiwaji Rao Scindia gave the club to the people of Gwalior in 1936. Since then it has been known as Jiwaji Club.

Watercolor and Ink Drawing by Amitabh Mitra

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Shinde Ki Chawni, Gwalior


shinde ki chaawni
buffalos sleep opposite haridwar’s sweet shop
oblivious of people, traffic....
in a summer when tar looks different
and rivers of people slackened
to beating khus songs
somewhere there
in that river unheard of
we had looked up
to a sky often
where we lost our
once sudden breath
in a summer
on another night
when a skin wrapped the floor
we found resilience
in our tongues
waking to another
or did we ever
wake up.

Poem and Watercolor on a polished paper by Amitabh Mitra

Art and poem inspired from the music of Gustavo Santaolalla in the movie Dhobi Ghat

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Suddenly Manjit Bawa


And colors fell silent today
A sun struck with
Anecdotes and animals
Screamed somewhere
Narrow yellows merged in
Thick orb of orange
Streets were blown
In a dupatta of white
A smile tinged in ravishing
Blue suddenly looked back
I had seen them all at Garhi
In the seventies
The eye had then staged
Plays of a turntable
Twice even thrice
In a single day
Violence was the afternoon
Manjit drew in rude
Delhi summers
Riding words of a chiasma
Violence is the afternoon
We saw him in flames
Of years and layers
Untold by a dark
Violence he left
Is you and me
And a coherence of
Irrefutable days
He chose to give

Manjit Bawa passed away today at his home in Delhi. He had been in a coma for three years. One of the first painters to break out of the dominant grays and browns of the western art and opt for more Indian colours like red and violet, the maestro was influenced by nature, Sufi mysticism and Indian mythology. Renowned Poet Pritish Nandy who had given shows of his poetry and art with him was one of his closest friends.
29 December 2008

Poem and Watercolor by Amitabh Mitra

Monday, March 14, 2011

Vijay Singh Mohite's Palace, Gwalior



Watercolor by Amitabh Mitra

One day suddenly


one day suddenly
we meet again
on another road
in an evening rain
pelting thoughts
there would be nothing
just like before
neither an umbrella
nor any people around
the shops too would be closed
the rain on our heads and feet
the smell of wet earth in our hearts
and i think of you again
our promises
our lost hurts
our marriage graffiti on another wall
a rain turns blue
and the sky ashen
one day
just on that day
nobody can see tears in this rain
the road still remains the same
only there are no more people
one day
in an evening rain
the smell of wet earth in our hearts...
did u marry somebody
did we ever grow older
did we turn to our strangerselves

one day...

Inspired from a song of Anjan Dutta, Ekdin Brishti

Watercolor by Amitabh Mitra

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Vijay Singh Mohite



Vijay Singh Mohite Sahab was one of the finest artist India ever had. A product of JJ School of Art, Bombay, he was one royal who indulged in true creativity and the one that Gwalior remains proud of. His huge canvases adorn many a collection all over the world. He was also an ornithologist. Vijay Singh Sahab was a wild life photographer.
This view is from the first floor of his palace overlooking the fort. I might not have done justice to the view in watercolors but that was the way it nearly looked.
This is reminiscent of memories that remain, ever fresh and blooming

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Buffalo Flats


buffalo flats enters a salient draft
winds of a change
and the same old suffering respite
i have nearly forgotten caring
many years after the election
a sun remains indifferent here
an afterspirit of dancing
colors of a twinkle
like all those shades of years
since i left
buffalo flats is a thought
in these mermaid nights
long after they fall in
adjacent grey patterns
long after the girl sang of unforeseen
holding you
in lips
would also be
a thought
so far from you.

Buffalo Flats is a colored area of East London

Poem and Watercolor by Amitabh Mitra

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Old Delhi Cafe


this happened again
on a strangecafenoon
river days flew where a distance
left a crooked wind
a lone fort gaunt
daring again to remember
memories stuck to mirrors
we had seen each other so
often then
cups, glasses and lips
all together

and in the midst of a forest
our eyes
once again rode
many a writhing
voices staged suddenly
where i had once touched you


Poem and Watercolor by Amitabh Mitra

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

St. David Road, Selborne, East London

St. David Road, Selborne, East London

St. David Road, Selborne, East London on a cloudy day

Watercolor by Amitabh Mitra

Monday, January 24, 2011

Reddits, Grahamstown


Harry Owen, renowned poet from Grahamstown organises a poetry evening every Friday at a restaurant there called Reddits. Monks, students, artists and poets find themselves sipping sherry and listening to many such wordsmiths.
I had the pleasure of being there during the launch of Harry Owen's poetry collection, Non Dog.
This rough watercolor on a hand made paper of the venue is dedicated to Harry Owen and his merry friends at Grahamstown.

Watercolor by Amitabh Mitra

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In Exile - Stephen Watson


Even now, years later when at night the longing comes
nothing matters anymore – nor his memory of the people
the vile, pretentious rich, corrupted poor, those politics
that beggar all description, that all but beggared him-
nothing matters now but his desire, but this mad longing
to know that there is still a place, that it still exists,
that you can come on that same road round Devil’s Peak
and there will be, as there was before, almost an evening,
that softness in the summer dark, the same warmth rising,
breathing from an earth long out of reach of its sunset.

All the rest is irrelevant......

Stephen Watson teaches English at the University of Cape Town
This part of a poem is from his book, In This City published in 1986 one of those few rare books that I have

Watercolor by Amitabh Mitra

Friday, January 21, 2011

Balwant Bhaiyya ki Kothi, Gwalior

This is a watercolour of Balwant Bhaiyya Ki Kothi at Gwalior. People living in Gwalior know about this mansion as it is perched at the top of a hill. The place is in ruins, shrubs, wild grass and creepers have taken over all around the property. Smell of bats pervades everywhere and empty cartridges are scattered here and there. We use to visit frequently with my friends, Suresh Khandekar and Rajshekhar Iyer during our Science College days. As per Wikimapia, this was a palace of Sardar Balwantrao Scindia. He was the brother of Maharaja Madhavrao Scindia. However, he was not considered royal being a son of a dancing girl. My friend Prithviraj Chouhan adds that Balwantrao was known for his deep religious belief and closeness to the common people of Gwalior. The people of Gwalior lovingly called him as Balwant Bhaiyya or Brother Balwant.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bow Barracks, Calcutta

Bow Barracks, Kolkata, India, A Watercolor by Amitabh Mitra

This is a watercolour of one of the oldest buildings in Calcutta going back to an era of the World War 1. This building in Central Calcutta houses the last few members of the Anglo-Indian community. This community which was conveniently forgotten by our politicians gave India the best generals, teachers and musicians. Bow Barracks Forever is a film made by Pritish Nandy and directed by Anjan Dutta. It highlights the problems faced by these wonderful people, the building itself in disrepair is in the verge of collapse. The film moved me to an extent that I thought of making this watercolour. I dedicate this watercolour to Pritish Nandy, Anjan Dutta and obviously the Anglo-Indian community who live there.

Waiting for you in Calcutta
Waiting for you my love
Come dance, dance, dance at the Barracks...
Come dance, dance, dance to the end of love
Come dance with me at the Barracks....

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Eucalyptus Dreams


these are eucalyptus dreams
growing in suburban trains
sometimes in the hub
when connaught place turns a zero
and a sky stays behind
we always managed to move out
summer surprises
an old delhi rickshawallah
remembers himself
in his last ganja smoke
shadows don’t adhere here
the edge is just
another place
we stayed
and faintly
you are still with me.

Poem and Watercolor by Amitabh Mitra