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Harbour Line - WAKING IN DECEMBER, By Anand Thakore

Publication Year : 2001​

ISBN-13 : 9788190298100
ISBN-10 :

Some responses :



‘Anand Thakore’s poems talk of two kinds of voyages. The first is a local grimy one, across our own Bombay Harbour, and he speaks of it with forgiveness and tenderness. The other is a projected voyage, never made, across the pristine blue seas of the Greek islands. This bold venturing forth and hesitation to start is repeated in poems where he talks of a singular room which has housed his life so far, and which must now be left behind.
               Between voyages, Thakore has several poems which are addressed to and are about friends and relations; and there are remarkable meditations on a kaleidoscope and a piece of coal.This excellent first book earns for the poet a place among important writers in this country.’
- Gieve Patel, 2001’



'That Thakore is a Hindustani Classical singer shows in his imagery and complex patterns of sound, and in the texture of his verse. There is a song-like quality about his verse and I am reminded at times of Caroline songs and German Lieder……. I cannot imagine such delicate and musical poems being written in London or New York'
-Bruce King, World Literature Today, 2001
' Here is a gifted poet, of the caliber of Dom Moraes, who paints landscapes and seascapes with their flora and fauna in memorable lines while strictly observing rules of metre and rhyme which most modern poets tend to ignore. I cannot claim to have understood all his poems but mean to read them again and again till I have got a hang of them'
- Khushwant Singh, Hindustan Times, 2005

A Note About The Author :

Anand Thakore was born in Mumbai in 1971. He spent a part of his childhood in Britain and has lived in India since then. Waking in December (2001) , Elephant Bathing (2012) and Mughal Sequence (2012) are his three collections of poetry.  A Hindustani classical vocalist by profession, he trained for many years with Pandit Satyasheel Deshpande and has given concerts in various parts of the country. He is the founder of Harbour Line, a publishing collective, and runs Kshitij, an interactive forum for musicians. He is the recipient of the National Scholarship for music from the Ministry of Human resource Development, a grant from the Charles Wallace India trust for experimental work in the UK and the Sur-Mani award for excellence in musical performance. Thakore describes his work as 'having arisen from a fortuitous confluence of seemingly disparate cultural Histories'. He lives in Mumbai, where he teaches Hindustani vocal music in the Guru-shishya tradition

Selected Poems From ‘Waking In December’:



I see them across the rim of  a fogged lens,
Amidst the swivelling  glare of party lights-
Too bright now, now too dark, to do
What they have asked me to; these two-
Arm in arm, their eyes aslant with sculptural poise,
Awaiting the brief redemption of a flash-
Now?- perhaps, but I am a poor photographer,

And  prefer to see what open eye and shutter
Conspire so closely to conceal;
Her, fastening her seat-belt three nights hence,
Content to believe, as she leans to the left
To watch grey buildings grow tiny below her,                           
That  her flight home is also a journey out;                                  
She is not  thinking of the man who wades

Through the familiar spaces of her absence,
Into the exquisite hovel  of  his  home;
Floundering, lip-deep, in the gravy of speech,
As he reaches out for the lost island of the flesh-
Words  that may conjure the ghost of a caged green bird,
Who never answered back, even when alive- Quick,
My fingers say, as they tighten, and click.






Three months now, creeping up this door,
Half-open, between myself and the garden-yard;
I wonder, why at times, it is so hard
To reach the wide world across the narrow floor.

Space must have its bounds, I suppose,
Though the heart’s first impulse be to leap;
The creeper does not wish to move- it simply grows;
It is the eye that makes these broad leaves creep.

But  see how tight each tendril grips the grill,
Where the highest  leaves, transluscence-shy, peep inside-
I can tell what makes them want to hide;
Could they hear, I would tell them- looking in can kill.




Beyond the bay- about half a mile of surf and wind-
The last bus awaits us at ferry wharf.
The island is a cyclops about to sleep; behind,
The hunched mainland shrinks into a dwarf.


So, to put it bluntly, we are neither here nor there.
The moon seems to understand this, pretending once again
To be young, rolling herself into an orange flare
As you speak of Greece and a bluer sea; then

Dark flags, mastheads and green meshes drift between,
And over the sea her  charred beams are sparse;
You do not ask what this worn-out scenery might yet mean-
Let this remain- you say, and watch them pass,

Till slowly over the docks the moon returns to grey,
Salvages from time a minute- then anchors us to Bombay.



Here, at the heart of time’s highest mountain,
Buried alive, at birth, amidst roots of stone-
Pale stalactites grow coldly towards me
Like portents of an imminent weight
I thought myself born to bear;
The sudden crashing thud of it- then the slow
Pounding of all I am into little bright bits of me-
But I have dreamt too often now,
Of the passing lure of the miner’s hand,
The craftsman’s keen eye looking right through me
As his scalpel rids me of what he thinks
I do not need;
There is a certain thrill in it, of course-
The sheer giddiness of being filled with light,
And the pride one might take
In hardening oneself slowly-
Yet leave me where I am, Earth;
And leave outside where it may be-
For I wish no more to see myself
Than I desire to scatter light-
Only to be at ease in my own opacity;
I, who am the darkest of the dark,
And want to keep what is mine.



Behold....... I have done it again-
Neither miracle nor accident,
Merely an old trick played in an entirely new way;
You who believe you have been watching me change,
Unwatched by me,
As I turn in strange palms around nothingness-
Vain eye, deluded seer,
Seeking trite symmetries in a flux of light,
Rummaging through this boundless rage of shape
For the faintest semblance of an order-
Will you ever finally come to terms with me?

Catch me if you can- but I am too quick for you-
Wide hairy lid, tardy onlooker,
You I hold still, suspended in the space
Between a glance and a blink,
Hurling colour like dust at your neat white curves,
As I assume, at your will, a form you cannot geuss-

No, don’t get me wrong, not even for a second-
I am neither God nor an image of him;
A mere contraption put together to fulfil
The pitiful pettiness of a human necessity;
Wishful eye, rash believer,
You in whom love seeks a form,
I will never quite become what you want me to be-
Nor will you suffer to leave me as I am;

But put me down if you dare-
Come on, I defy you to do it, once and for all-
let go of infinity with a final shake,
And never ask yourself again
What may have become of me;
How round or pointed or straight I may have turned-
Or how purple or green or blue or brown-
Just put me down.



Now scattered on the heap in the playing-yard,
Some of these leaves still look like leaves;
But these old playing-cards are already half-charred,
And these scarred cartons for whom nobody grieves,


Now begin slowly to lose their shapes.
Soon nobody will ever be able to tell,
Rag, weed, skin or shell,
From this broken box once packed with grapes;

Nor will this slow smouldering cease, till each loose
Worn sack and used paper cup ,and these torn shoes,
Mango stones and magazine scraps, are alike unmade
By kerosene, darkly gathered and laid

In a shared celebration of ash;
These bruised orange-skins will not question what they lose,
When along with all the rest of the trash,
They turn as black as yesterday’s news,

Now charred and darkened to a heap-
And like everything else one no longer wished to keep,
These leaves, when they have shed their shapes  in flame,
Will leave me still quite the same.



The heart’s a glass jar with an air-lock-
Wine ferments slowly.......

At first the bubbles rise,
Frothing furiously to get out-
Then slowly,
Till you cannot see,
Only hear them-
If you press an ear close to the rim;

And then you can’t even hear them-
And you can drink the wine.



Technique hardly mattered once you got started- your only guide          
Was what you had to say- your fingers grown so old,
Each note slipped by before you could unfold
It; and yet, I thought it bold- the way you tried


To sound, proud as ever, still unsatisfied
By those purer tones you will never reach again;
Only once shame caught hold of you- and even then,
I loved the way your fingers cried;

You, turning your face away from me, longing to hide,
Till between two strokes your eyes meet mine- friend-
They say- neither love nor music will ever end,
So long as time is busy changing things outside-

Dawn- and I wonder if your fingers lied;
An early bus-ride through dimly moving streets, then
Bright sun gilding the morning tide. All night,
Time had been busy changing things outside.



Unveil the mirror and begin to see
What visions deny before the eye laid bare-
Or if the mirror be a veil, let it be.

Were these the eyes that woke at noon to see
White wings leap free from a winding stair?
Unveil the mirror and begin to see-

Now dark comes down on what I have longed to be-
A thing at home in its own despair;
If the mirror be a veil, let it be.

-But climb if you dare; flight takes the free,
The spirit too light for the flesh to bear;
Unveil the mirror and begin to see

If  love arise where all images flee
A self dismantled beyond repair-
Or if the mirror be a veil, let it be.

Now pluck from the heart the poison-tree,
And watch unmoved what is moving there;
Unveil the mirror and begin to see-
Or if the mirror be a veil, let it be.






So you persist, I see, in  being  wilfully rash-
In paying with pages of unbridled balderdash
For a drag of hashish and the afterscent of ash

Shared by no stranger at the end of a line.
Personally, though I admit, your verse sounds fine,
I’d settle for a glass of home-made wine;
Just enough to make surfaces more bearable,
A lost face more tender, a wooden table
Less rough, and dying slowly more endurable;

You have good reason, perhaps, to somnambulate
In sonorous oblivion past the self you hate-
Yet what the dark brings to light may not wait


Till you outlive your delight in danger;
What is likely to last does more than linger-
And the bones of verse, my friend, are stronger

Than the  half-burnt nerves of speech peeled bare-
Or that vague final image which is never quite there;
Your verse, like you, needs looking after- take care.




                     -For Ranjit


-No hope of redemption beyond bone and flesh,
Or benediction from the  blue vaults
Of the compassionate dead; nothing
That does not lie here, naked, before the eye,
Nor even the thought of it- they said,
The yellow monks in red- just 
Sunlight on a tree obscured by dust.

What meets the pure eye is as nameless as you are,
As little concerned with the vastness of things,
A wordless thing that has nothing to say;
At once- they said - take it in as it is,
While being is fluid, lest the self take shape,
And stiffen, like wet clay, into a crust;
Sunlight on a tree obscured by dust.-

Sight ends with seeing- only vision survives, to screen
The hurt eye from the hard stare of the visible;
Yet is that peace- to live and look and long for
No meaning in what the eye sees- the random
Delight of a selfless eye? I live amongst words,
For they are friendlier, and easier to trust
Than the light on a tree obscured by dust.

Light sways with the tree- a shimmering chiaroscuro;
I feel the haze quiver, yet take this as a sign,
And rejoice to be where I have chosen to be-
For here, in the half-dark of words, like any man in love,
I desire to believe what I love my own-
And care no more to be cured of that lust
Than the light on a tree obscured by dust.



This glass I lift to you, my friend,
Though you have been less of a friend to me
Than a mentor, and would not care to hear me
If you could- nor would it concern you in the least,
Being at home wherever you are,
That where you now are was once home for me-
Or as close to home as I have come.;
Your indifference to the act of love was admirable-
And our petty human antics didn’t impress you one bit;
Us taking turns turning turtle on the couch;
Briefly becoming one-another’s shells,
Yet neither quite losing nor finding ourselves,
As we crawled gaspingly in and out of each other’s grasp,
Half-hoping you would pop out your head and watch;
For what we shared, was at its most intense,
Still something of a performance-
A love cold yet comfortable,
Timed as immaculately as a neoclassical duet,
And all the more homely for its dispassion;
I remember those sultry cloudless monsoon nights-
When the rain, by not falling,
Saved me from a sense of my own vacancy-
The need to fill it with a little wisp of longing
For things to be otherwise than they were;                               
Clear, loveless nights on which-
My lover fast asleep and hardly still there-
I had only you and the moon for company,
And could not tell which of you was the more distant;
Her, brandishing herself across taut leagues of darkness,
Anxious to be seen;
Or you, tucked up as usual inside yourself,
Three feet from where I lay-
And I remember also the wild, black stormy nights,
When the rain, hammering impetuously upon the fibreglass roof
Would not leave me even briefly alone-
Me, longing at once to fall asleep and shake my lover awake,
But doing neither-
How hopelessly I tried then to study
The ponderousness of your slow moves across the balcony,
Wondering, when you flexed a muscle,
How much thought must have gone into it;
Envying the swiftness of your retreat into yourself,
And your unlaboured skill at staying put-
For watching you, rock-still, by the moss-covered parapet,
I could suppose  contentment was more than a well-played pose-
That below the firm curves of your hard home,
There lay a repose that made longevity desirable-
Yet how impossible it was to tell when you were just about to move;
For you always did it when my thoughts had gone astray-
Though I  think I almost caught you at it once-
Peering warily through a pair of wet lettuce leaves
As you put out a limb- then gazing lazily
Across a floor of glazed tiles, as if there were miles between you
And the bedroom door, and no real need to go;
And I might have seen things then as I thought you did-
But long nights of lying awake and an unwelcome morning light
Had brought me to believe it was time to be leaving;
And I have been studying hard since then,
The quiet wisdom of your ways-
Taking tutelage from you, long-distance,
In the wordless craft of self-containment; learning better,
Perhaps, in your absence, what closeness could not teach- 
Though I have also been secreting slowly
A secret carapace of sentences in which to live;
And have taken lately to flinging words at things,
Spider-like, hoping they will cling somewhere,
Bringing us, however briefly, together.
This one’s still for you, chum- though I wonder,
As I crawl from one shell into another,
Never quite at home in my homelessness,
My tongue licking itself dry
Of the sticky home-spun gossamer of speech
As it veers towards the taste of home-made wine-
If all this while, you have been not wise, but simply frightened.

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