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PANKTI IN FIVE PADAS
So you remember Superman,
Not Shaktimaan, veal not enthu
cutlets in Ramarajan pants
turning up half hour early
to help the host host his party? 
 
So you’ve scarfed cheesy gorditas
at Taco Bell, but no greasy
papads at a roadside dhaaba?
Never watched Barrister Vinod
or serials on Doordarshan?
 
So you’ve never used IST,
or Indian Stretchable Time,
as genuinely plausible
excuse for your perpetual
lateness or said za as a kid –
 
three one za three, three two za six 
to help in practicing learning
your multiplication tables. 
Don’t fret. Been wrung dry by tightwads?
Then you know well kanjus, possessed
 
with fear of losing a rupee
to such crazy degree they’d suck
ghee from a just alighted flea.
And if your mobile lost charge,
you’d burn for an STD booth!
 
Remember the Vedas are Late
Bronze Age scriptures ancient enough
to turn gayatrification
into slang verb for embellish,
Mahabharat, euphemism
 
for an epic confrontation
with a sad power pakora
bladu bore of a co-worker
wagging her thumb shame shame puppy
shame over a missing cool drink,
 
like Thums Up, Limca or Mango
Maaza, from the call center fridge.
A tale to mockingly relate 
to your chaddi buddies, your boys
from childhood. Your bros. Your bum chums.
 
Or say the alphabet with me.
Say A-B-C-D-E-F-G-
H-I-J, for American
Born Confused Desi Escaped From
Gujarat Hiding In Jersey.
 
You don’t have to be Indian
to be Indian, just possess
a sense of Hindu rate of growth:
the economy spluttering
along at 3.5%
 
while the population explodes
at nearly 25% 
during much of the latter half
of the 20th century.
Forget the Raj. The crisps-loving
 
Brits. The tish-pash starlets
From Tollywood or Indiepop.
The sofa sadhu sipping chai,
toking bhang smoke from a chillum
still trills janaganamana.

 
Poet's Note: *Pankti (associated with food and the god of rain) is a Vedic metre found in one of the later books (Book V) of the Rig Veda. Also known as the fifth horse pulling the golden chariot of the sun god, the metre is said to be derived from bone marrow. The pankti metre is stanzaic with 40 syllables, written in any number of quintains, five padas, or feet, of 8 syllables.