Thursday, 31 May 2012


Today is a very special anniversary. And there are people out there who made it possible. People who made such a difference, and so casually, almost unthinkingly - though what they did, and achieved, was the very opposite of thoughtlessness. Some kinds of generosity are formidable in their absoluteness. I wrote this poem for another set of people, just as precious, but it holds good for the ones I am thinking of today - for very different reasons. All that might be just a bit too elliptical but I don't think I have the words for clarity right now.


It takes little to change
a life.
In the whisper of a breath,
in the echo of a smile;
tectonic plates, ocean currents,
cosmic forces that could
drive our destinies,
swing, bow and let through,
newness, transformation.
A spring of fresh clear water,
or a lee of verdant growth.
Maybe even a landmass, a continent.
Or disappearance: of arid wastelands,
swamps of dismay, even over-run
thickets of uncertainty?

They call it a catalyst.
A nimble spirit they seek everywhere,
in alchemy not the least.

And how would you greet that unsettling
tremor, the slight trigger etching out
glistening - unknown, unknowable, scary
but so desired -  fresh lines on the palms
of fate's domineering hand ?

Would it vanish in fear
if I turned around, and hailed
it with two puny words;
tried to convey all the beauty,
the glory, the pain of new-
found quests, of goals
emboldened, paths chosen
(not sprung, nor borne) with just
thank you?

Should I watch it cross these
thresholds with muted tread
from the curves of eyes,
and assume sightlessness
so it continues the spell?

Or polish the floor with rose-petals,
leave bowls of silent,
fragrant saffron – reward
and tempt at once in the hope
of regular returns?

Often though, I only learn
of a visit from damp footprints
outside my door, and a stir
in the air, spring unplanned
and unplugged.

Karthika Naïr, 01/01/2008

* Catalysts was first published in Bearings (HarperCollins India, 2009)

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