Delhi’s Bandaged Heart – Neyaz Akhtar, Hotel Shalimar

Delhi’s Bandaged Heart – Neyaz Akhtar, Hotel Shalimar

Poetry in the city.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The Delhi Walla arranged to meet poet Neyaz Akhtar on the roof of Hotel Shalimar in Gali Murgan, a street in the Old Quarter. In his early 30s, Mr Akhtar is writing a novel; he makes his living by freelancing as a “ghost writer” for knowledge process outsourcing companies.

Mr Akhtar lives alone in a windowless room in Shalimar. He says, “I believe you are either a poet or you are not. You don’t become one. All you do is to try to find out if there is poetry in you. If it is there, it will come out by itself. At the right time… when you are ready for it. These days it is coming out of me by itself. But I’m still wondering if I’m really ready for it. Has the right time arrived for me?”

Mr Akhtar always writes the first draft of a new poem on his mobile phone. He shares a poem with us. He has also recited it on a YouTube video here.

The Dance of Truth

Last night
In my dream
I watched
I died
And when I died
My body split open
Into two parts
Which left people horribly shocked

When they could not solve
The mystery behind it
They went on
In search of a Buddha

Because they knew
Only a Buddha could see
What their worldly eyes couldn’t

So, they searched and searched
And searched and searched
And finally,
They found one

Right in the middle
Of their own crowded city
Right in the middle
Of their own chaos

The Buddha they found
Was dancing like a drunkard
In an Open and empty

People knew he was a Buddha
So, they weren’t surprised
They knew being crazy
Was necessary for being a Buddha
So, they weren’t surprised

When that dancing Buddha heard
The news about my dead body
He laughed

Buddha laughed

He laughed and laughed
And laughed and laughed
The laughing never stopped
But he began
And shrieked in ecstasy –

‘Oh man! Listen, listen to me!
Don’t you know
I dance like a drunkard
Wherever I see an open, empty grave’

Saying this,
He jumped and ran
And ran and jumped
And came to see
My dead body –
The body
That was split open into two parts

The laughing Buddha
Sat beside me
And saw in disbelief –

One part of my body
Held a grave
Another held
A drunkard

The grave was
Open and Empty
The drunkard
Was still in Dance

But ah, right at this point,
My dream broke
And I awoke

But, I could still feel
There was indeed
An open and empty
Grave inside me

But, a Buddha
Was yet to come
And dance
Like a drunkard

A Buddha was missing
And, it still is.

A poet’s world