Debjani Chatterjee

Debjani Chatterjee
Yama and Nachiketa

‘Three days and three nights 
you awaited my return, 
with no food or drink,’ 
said Yama, filled with remorse. 
‘Name three boons – they shall be yours.’ 

Nachiketa asked 
for his father’s peace and his. 
And the fire mantra 
that carries sacred prayers. 
The Lord of Death granted these. 

‘Teach now the secret,’ 
begged Nachiketa, ‘what comes 
after death?’ Yama 
said this was a secret lore 
not even the gods may know. 

‘Nothing is hidden 
from you,’ persisted the boy, 
‘you are Death itself.’ 
No material gains could tempt 
him from his final request. 

‘Long life will not last, 
nor all the wealth in the world. 
Power is nothing. 
All come knocking on Death’s door. 
Is it the end? Is there more?’ 

Yama blessed his guest 
and taught him the truth of life 
beyond death: ‘The soul 
lives on for it is deathless.’ 
The boy learnt to know himself. 

Then Nachiketa, 
returned from Death, shared with us 
a roadmap through life 
to guide us safe through death’s gate. 
In self-knowledge lies our fate.  

The Hundredth Name 

Of Allah’s hundred names we can only 
recite ninety-nine on the rosary. 
The camel smirks superiority 
for it has sole access to the mystery 
safely locked in its repository. 

Radha’s Bliss 

Each night the serpent sheds its skin 
to reveal the lost king-to-be. 

Each night my love removes his mask, 
we dance the dance of the carefree. 

This soil is sacred Vrindavan 
where sprouts tulsi and peepal tree. 

In night’s splendour, the air sings joy. 
Moon and stars shower down their glee. 

Diurnal time stands still for us; 
both night and day are same to me. 

The avatar’s descent by day  
is romance, by night revelry. 

All is His leela, eternal
like the hope-flecked waves of the sea.

An Answer Unheard 

Pontius Pilate 
asked ‘what’s truth?’ but would not wait
to hear the answer.  
For Pilate, hearing too late 
was his proverbial fate. 


Shiva cried to see 
humanity’s cruelty. 
Rudraksha trees grew 
from his tears. We need not cry 
when God Himself cries for us. 

Note: A Rudraksha tree is an evergreen whose seeds are used as beads in rosaries by Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs. ‘Rudraksha’ means ‘Shiva’s teardrop’ and ‘Shiva’s eye’. 

About Debjani Chatterjee, MBE, FRSL  

Debjani Chatterjee is a Delhi-born poet, writer and arts psychotherapist. Awarded an MBE for services to Literature in 2008, and an honorary doctorate by Sheffield Hallam University, she has had over 75 books published, including eight poetry collections, most recently Laughing with Angels (2022). She is an honorary Fellow of the Royal Society for Literature and a Royal Literary Fund Associate Fellow. She has been called ‘Britain’s best-known Asian poet’ (Elisabetta Marino) and ‘a national treasure’ (Barry Tebb). 

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