c) Anita Desai, August 2017

स्वतंत्रता की नित नई वर्षगाँठ
फिर गूँजतें हार्दिक बधाई
और सुमंगल गौरव गान
प्राचीरों से लहराता तिरंगा
तिरंगी पोशाकें और पकवान !

चल पड़े भारत माँ के नौ निहाल
बन सभी नट सम्राट
लिए खोखले स्वर और भाव
कोई है गाँधी कोई सरदार
कहीं झांसी की रानी, और
सरोजिनी भिकाईजी कामा !

पावन नदियां सींचती जिसका मरुस्थल
ज्ञान की धाराएं बहती जहाँ कल कल
गुरु ही धंस गए वहां गहन पाताल समतल
कहें जो वन्दे मातरम और वंदना
रौंदें बंकिम टैगोर की अर्चना
भड़के हिंसा, मचे कोलाहल की स्पंदना !

बनो वज्र प्राचीर राष्ट्र की, वीर युवकगण
हम विचरेंगे देश-देश के बीच मिलन का सेतु
हम ऐसे आज़ाद हमारा झंडा है बादल
जहाँ शीश नवा गए पंत दिनकर और हरिवंश
“भारत तेरे टुकड़े होंगे”
अपशब्दों से वही धरा हलाहल !

विकसित देश की भीड़ को चीरते
यहाँ बालक दिन रात हैं जूझते
मुरझाई आस भूखे प्यासे
निर्मम धुप में जलते भुनते
गली कूचों में बेचते फिरते
वही हमारा तिरंगा प्यारा !

घृणा की बाढ़ में डूबी वसुंधरा
वीरगति को प्राप्त रण में
पिता पौत्र या वीर हमारा
उजड़े चमन में सोने की चिड़िया
खड़ी नवयुग के प्रांगण में निर्वस्त्र
सीता द्रौपदी और निर्भया !

क्यों ना फिर हो जाएँ स्वतंत्र
कोई बालक ना रहे छोटू
ना ही बालिका कोई हो आया
हर नारी पूज्य रहे
मानवता और सभ्यता का परचम
सदा रहे लहराया !

क्यों ना फिर हो जाएँ परतंत्र
लांघे ख़ैबर करे चढ़ाई
कोई ईरानी अफ़ग़ानी या अंग्रेज़
और कहीं हो जाएँ हृदयस्थ
सुर से सुर मिलाए अनायास
भगत बिस्मिल और अशफ़ाक़ !

क्या दूँ आशीष तुझे ऐ भारत माता
ला रंग दूँ तेरा बसंती फिर चोला
इक माँ से जन्में हम सारे
मैं भगवा तू चंद्र और तारा
लाठी से ना टूटे ना बिछड़े पानी
बांधे हमें उसी तिरंगे की धारा !

c) Anita Desai, August 2017


‘Sutradhar’ Celebrates Manto!


On the 105th birth anniversary of noted Indo-Pakistani writer, Sa’adat Hasan Manto, Hyderabad based theatre group ‘Sutradhar‘ presented ‘Afsaney’, a biographical screening and reading of the colorful life of the acclaimed author. The reading was held on a cool, moonlit Thursday evening at Lamakaan.

Sa’adat Hasan Manto, a much celebrated, unconventional and controversial writer of his time, he was hugely influenced by the turbulent times of India’s independence and partition thereafter. His writings deeply reflected human emotions and stark realities of life. Women characters found prominence in his short stories. ‘Kali Shalwar’ and ‘Baarish’ are two of his haunting tales, among many others, that revolve around the soulful lives of prostitutes. In his short life, he authored short stories, a novel, essays and radio plays. Manto migrated to Pakistan after India’s partition with his wife and three daughters.

(Pic.Courtesy http://epaper.deccanchronicle.com/articledetailpage.aspx?id=8088943)

Vinay Varma, Founder Director of Sutradhar, read out ‘Pari Chehra Naseem Bano’, a delightful chapter from ‘Manto Dastavej’ that chronicles light and rib-tickling anecdotes from Manto’s stint as a writer in the Hindi film industry in Bombay. The author dedicated an entire chapter to ‘fairy faced’ erstwhile actor Naseem Bano, mother of Hindi film actor Saira Bano. The audience was captivated by Vinay’s narration that brought to life Manto’s infatuation with the beautiful actress and her lifestyle. Fascinating tales and trivia from the pre-independence era enthralled the audience. Language was no impediment as Manto’s sophisticated Urdu was complemented by Vinay’s impeccable narration and translation.

The event was also a successful attempt to introduce a classic Indian writer to contemporary readers. A theatre actor by profession, Vinay stressed on the need to inculcate the habit of ‘Reading from Books’ among the present day generation hooked to Kindle and other digital media. ‘Abhivyakti‘, yet another Sutradhar initiative, held monthly at the G.P. Birla Auditorium in Hyderabad, encourages reading from old Indian classiscs, that in turn abridge the barriers of language & emotions between the bygone and the current.



In memory of Indian soldiers beheaded by a coward and inhuman Pakistani army, and a salute to those who rise above tragedies to help humanity.

नफरत और बर्बरता से परे
है ये भी एक जहान
प्रेम के फरिश्तों नें
इंसानियत के मरहम से
उजड़े ख्वाबों को सींचा है जहाँ!

(c) Anita Desai May 2017


Review: Writers’ Bloc Showcase – A specially curated season of original plays by Indian playwrights from Writers’ Bloc.

Theater enthusiasts of Hyderabad witnessed readings of two exceptional plays at the British Council Library in Jubilee Hills on 21st and 22nd January 2017. As part of the Writers’ Bloc Showcase, a specially curated season of original plays by Indian Playwrights from Writers’ Bloc, Farhad Sorabjee and Annie Zaidi presented readings of their plays.

‘Hard Places’, written by Farhad Sorabjee and Directed by Nadir Khan, was a staged, sit-down reading in entirety with brilliant dialogue, expressions and sound effects. Nadir Khan and Faezeh Jalali as siblings, Shernaz Patel as the mother were eloquent and expressive that brought out the chemistry between their characters. The interplay of conversations and emotions between siblings, and mother & children was far-reaching. Farhad’s narrative interventions were interesting and added to the mood of the play.

For a play that first premiered in 2004 in Mumbai and presented multiple times across theaters in India and abroad, the script and narration were gripping and fresh. After 80 minutes of uninterrupted narration, the Playwright and the cast engaged in a q&a round with a much enthralled audience.

I was intrigued by the inclusion of expletives in a staged play and did not hesitate to question the playwright. It was in place to reflect aggression in the character, or so I was told. Not that I objected or had any reservations about the use of those words, I was more interested in understanding the mood of playwright at the time of scripting. On being asked, “if you were to write the play today, would you change anything in the script”, Farhad said, “No. And anyway, the play is already out there and presented several times, so…”

The actors of ‘Jaal’ (Pic source Vinay Varma)

‘Jaal’, written by Annie Zaidi, Journalist & Author, Directed by acclaimed actor/director, Vinay Varma. The core theme of the play being ‘Displacement for Development’, the story is set in a fishing village called Mohagaon. The villagers are up-in-arms with the governing authorities over the construction of a dam on the river in their village, which serves as a major source of their livelihood.

Annie’s writing has depth and that comes from her empathy for rural population and their critical issues. When asked about its (the Play) impact, Annie said, “The authorities know the issues. The play was written so to reach the urban masses. Dams are built to benefit urban population and deeply impacts the livelihood of rural population.”

Well, for me the impact was huge as I was instantly reminded of the turbulent times of Narmada Bachao Andolan and Medha Patkar’s agitations for the inhabitants along the river.

Though, Jaal too was a staged reading with constricted space for movement, the cast of Sutradhar Theater Group gave an outstanding performance. With each character, I could visualize a Chacha, Mama, Kaaki, Gopal or Sangeeta in some distant village, struggling with myriad emotions. My personal favorite of the evening was Prathyusha Madapathi in the pivotal role of Jharna, the fisher woman and romantic interest of the lead protagonist, Gopal. Prathyusha delivered a stellar performance. She lived the character with her costume, diction, expressions, body language and rustic mannerisms.

The Direction of the play was impressive with an eye-for-detail. The pace was steady and engrossing. I had heard a lot about Mr. Vinay Varma from common friends, Director of Sutradhar Casting Agency, but what better way to be introduced than watching him in action.

The theater elite of the city was present in the audience and differed in their opinion pertaining to ‘reading’ of Jaal. Some found it distracting and felt it took away from the play. On the contrary, I felt the actors did a marvelous job and never once floundered; enacting and emoting while reading from a bound script. An aberration perhaps, from the set standards of the theater world.

Efficient management of logistics was by British Council in collaboration with Eventbrite, an events information portal.

Hyderabad is not just about Biryani & Haleem, nor does its magnificence end at the thresholds of Charminar. The twin cities have a rich history seeped in glorious theater & performing arts, and the writers & poets guilds as well, that offer a fantastic communion of art & culture.



(A short poem dedicated to Mr. Anshu Gupta of GOONJ. The Poem ‘Echo’ was awarded first place at the World Union of Poets – Telangana on 15th August 2016)


In the lull of the bewitching hour

a shadow veiled

like a Santa coeval

moves swift and spry

bearing salve of humanity.

The Samaritan apperceives

wealth & treasures a trivia

rallies & hollow speech a farce

for all a pauperized seeks

is a garb, a gulp & a morsel.

As the waters retreat

earth fall perch & fires ebb

the Knight comes a galloping

wagons of provender in tow

& resonating hooves of hope.

Seraph of the maidens

shielding their honor

for it is not just a piece of cloth

banishing the obsolete

his bugle of war echoes.

(c) Anita Desai August 2016



Clouds thunder & showers

Dot my sky

Rains drizzle

Then halt, and ponder

Glabrous terra, Lakes athirst

Ebbing brooks

Yet the soil moist

Who concours its deluge

They wonder


A solitary mortal

Whose tears flood the plains

Praying hands

Beseeching eyes

Cries of atonement

Rent the air

For it is him, and

His like that pillaged

The terrene

Clouds thunder & showers

Dot my sky

& mull, To absolve bless or

Let it suffer in dearth

Razed cliffs, Beheaded stumps

A lull in buzz n chirps

Bleak contours of the sphere

Harden their will to abjure

Its thunder

No more a promise of lush, but

A cry of bereavement.

(c) Anita Desai May 2016.


They were learned
high born & pure.
The path they tread is holy
so was the decree.
Howbeit their abode
barren & devoid.

As a sacred soul mourned
the depraved mocked.
He embraced
They disgraced.
He loved, cared, cherished
they jabbed, jeered & spurned.
He labored, fostered, nourished
But its grains they shunned.
He nursed the enfeebled
Where your blossoms pricked.
It was more his

What you claim yours.

A finger was raised at thee

but three to thyself.

Behold its fair heart

against your murky white rind.

For it is he, the benignant sage

to be revered by all.

(c) Anita Desai September 2016