Ashwani Kumar (Voices Within 2023)

Ashwani Kumar is a poet, author and professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences-Mumbai. Widely published, anthologized and translated into several Indian and foreign languages, his major poetry volumes include ‘My Grandfather’s Imaginary Typewriter’, ‘Banaras and the Other’,‘Architecture of Alphabets’ .  Recently he has published Rivers Going Home, a major anthology of poetry from Indian languages. He is author of the acclaimed non-fiction ‘Community Warriors”( Anthem Press; London), and one of the chief editors of ‘ Global Civil Society’ at  London School of Economics.  He has served on the jury of fiction for Tata Literature Live 2020 and co-founded Indian Novels Collective, an initiative to popularize translation of classic novels of Indian languages.  He is also a visiting fellow at leading global universities and think tanks including London School of Economics, German Development Institute, Korea Development Institute, University of Sussex. In leisure, he writes for several newspapers including a regular book column in Financial Express.


The Death of Pluto


No body is in doubt.

No body is sad.

No body is grieving.


Parts of body descend into oblivion.

Parts of universe slip into some strange customs.

Somewhere in the burning tunnel thousand Astronomers conspire

Against spiritual corridors in our existence.

The inventory clerk of celestial bodies

 Writes with the left hand; “We can’t live together,

We must free our children from a cosmic mistake”.

I am not sure heavens believe in humility but they pretend as if arrogance does not exist

I am not sure dog bites are tasty But I often chase senile animals…


The end of a long poem is always a relief

But the untimely death of a small verse is media hype.

Do you know?

The woman we love accidentally explode randomly?

Do you know why?

All fixed stars in the solar system go for circumcision?

Oh, how blind is naked truth?

How dangerous is underground literature?

Can I exchange my trivial explanation for a profound lie?

Comets are in wrong places, Married grooms are waiting for wrong brides

What is present today may not become your horoscope tomorrow?

Still you, I and my children love fresh juice, garlic bread and footloose planets…


@ In 2006 the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto from its position as the ninth planet from the Sun to one of ‘ dwarf planets’.


Without Friends


The uncivilized cackles of children playing in the park disfigure my

Window glass beyond recognition.


Peace hackles me like a beggar…

War batters me like a debauch…

The past haunts me like an unsung hero…

Once again, I am outrageously helpless.

Once again, I quarrel with my family doctor.

Once again, I bury friends into the shallow waters of ambition.


Rejoicing in the vanishing freedom, they dance without any footwork or art.

Her nose-stud frowns at my petty complaints and I hide behind stammering whimpers.


A loud thud…

And the lonely river stops flowing.

Busy deciphering secret scripts coded in the marigold flowers in my lawn

I stand looking dazed at the

Sudden fury on the freckled face of my ageing mother…

Like ugly black magic

She persuades me to come home…


I see moons dangling from the corners of her cataract eyes.

I see a silent fear planted on her forehead.

I dream of caterpillars singing noisily.

It is time I return home.


It is time I get angry! It is time I get angry!


O Kunti’s Sons



O Kunti’s Sons!

I smell the blood of an Englishman.

I hear warbles of the mangled dragons.

I see Colonial Queens giving birth to unwanted progenies.

Nothing is more divine than the Magna Carta

Fluttering across sterile continents like pornographic calendar.


O Kunti’s Sons!

I still feel the ancient arthritic pain in my knees

 I still fear the moist bayonets of alien soldiers

I still dance in the acid rains on the foothills of Shivalik.

Nothing is more revolutionary than eunuchs destroying all famous men and women.


O Kunti’s Sons!

Sanskrit is high scoring, French is fashionable,

Memory is a birthday gift and

Land is ultimately a chocolate factory.

Yet you fear losing the Berlin Wall…


@ Kunti, mother of Karna and Pandavas is a prominent figure in the Hindu epic Mahabharata.

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