Poet, Author, Editor, Creative Writing Consultant

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I am delighted to be hosting the LANGUAGE>PLACE>BLOG CARNIVAL # 15 , where the theme is Encountering the ‘OTHER’ in language/place. This is my contribution to the blog carnival’s theme.

 When contemplating this issue of the Other, so many thoughts surfaced, when I was suddenly drawn to this poem of mine.

Past Life

You talk of past life,
My Brahmin teacher.
With your broad forehead
Smeared with sandalwood.

I watch as you talk of Karma,
How we are reborn,
Time and again, connecting
With those we leave.

My bright eyes are lowered
Over the lessons to be learnt,
My pigtails tight on either side,
As tight as my upstart bosom.

Past life I was a courtesan who
Danced my way into your heart
Now I have only a chalk on the slate
To impress you with my thoughts.

I look up and see your exasperation
For my fingers are slow to write
Yet with my mind already
I have ensnared you in my life.

My past life I was a courtesan
You were my paramour in that world
This life I tug at your heart strings
You know the pull of my words.

Your eyes flicker just that instant
Enough for me to know
If there was a past life
I have surely held you before.

~Abha Iyengar

The idea of a past life or a previous life or a parallel life has always fascinated me. We in India talk of ‘sanskara’, something we are born with, our inherent nature, which no amount of nurturing can actually change. It is the curled tail of the dog that will never uncurl, the spots on the leopard that will never go. We are born to be who we are.

This life is just one version of the mutiple universes that we may belong to. There may be another Abha in another world, I do not know it but I can speculate about it.

In my poem, the young student has no doubt that in a past life, in another life, in the ‘other’ life, she has known her teacher. She is also sure of the nature of the relationship, where she was the courtesan who seduced him.

She feels the connect and knows that he too is trying to still the beatings of his suddenly awakened heart.

Who has not felt a connection with a stranger, even if it is just through a momentary meeting of the eyes: a link quite different from what we feel with the people we know, the people who belong with/to us. This connect with the ‘other’ part of one’s self, speak of a belonging whose origins may be of a past or ‘other’ life.

People come into our lives for various reasons. They may be quite different from us in so many ways, so ‘other’ that we cannot understand why they are there in the first place. They come and go but as a link to us, they stay forever and really never leave. There is a karmic reason for it which may or may not explain itself, which we may believe or not. It helps to realize that all that which seems strange, weird or ‘other’ does not need an explanation, only an understanding, an empathy of sorts.

All that is ‘other’ is just an extension of all that is the same within you and me. Another poem of mine now beckons to be heard:

The Dark of Another Land

Who says I cannot love him of another colour
All day I lie in the heat
of sun bronzed skin
His darkness holds the light of another land.

In this sand on my beach now I allow him,
The muscles rippling, telling of another time,
I trace them with a quivering hand.
While his is sure
With knowledge and insistence
That comes from the certainties
Of claiming what you want
from a childhood that failed to give long ago.

And I am led
Ablaze with passion
for another skin,
To another place with him,
So different from the given of a comfort world
The dead and dry I occupy.

Cracking like an eggshell
I let out all that I hold
Sticky and yellow the desire
for this man
Of another land, another skin,
Light of an unknown dark,
His sunlight on my bleached shore.

~Abha Iyengar

And another poem, this time I'm reading. :), "Side by Side, Not to Collide", on love and religion and the other.




  1. Wow ! they are amazing poems... simply beautiful !! love the theme ... thank you for sharing such fantastic pieces of work :)

  2. Dear Meg,
    Thank you! I visited your blog and find you are doing some good work. Connect on FB?

  3. The collection is wonderful. I am still reading them. And your poems bring out the idea of the other in us so well. Thanks for making me part of the Carnival :)

  4. Many thanks for the generosity of two poems and notes to help understand them in context. It can be difficult to understand and be understood by people from such varied backgrounds, so the notes are most welcome.
    Thanks for hosting >Language>Place this time. Its much enjoyed and appreciated.

  5. You are welcome, Martin. I loved your poem, and your notes did add a lot more to it.

  6. Lovely poems, both. Particularly liked the first one and the hint of a reversal - though he is the teacher, she already 'knows' (experiences) the theory he teaches. Thanks for the compilation and for thinking up this theme...

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