100 Great Indian Poems

// how many paise for each brown glass bottle, how much for each tin can //

I’m delighted that my poem Kabariwala features in “100 Great Indian Poems”, now available to order. This anthology is unique for its selected translations of Indian poetry in 27 languages spanning 3000 years of literature.

Kabariwala is one of the few poems written originally in English.

The book is edited by Abhay K and published by Bloomsbury India.

Order 100 Great Indian Poems.

Kabariwala and a few other poems from the book can be read at Asia Literary Review here.

You can read an extremely well-researched and well-written review of the book at DesiBlitz. The article includes an interview with me about the story behind this poem: https://www.desiblitz.com/content/100-great-indian-poems-poetic-feat-feast.


One of the ‘firsts’ for me this year was the commercial installation of my short poem Optimism.
It has had the most amazing reactions. That’s made me look at the poem in a new light and read it to boost myself after disappointments. Considering I’d ignored this poem since it was first published in Raincheck Renewed in 2004, this installation has provided a new beginning in many ways.

An example of the response I’ve had:
A few days after the installation a neighbour knocked on my door. ‘Your poem!’ she exclaimed.
‘What?’ I wasn’t sure what she meant.
It transpired she’s been to the hairdresser to have her highlights done. ‘There I was, sitting at the shampoo basin, when I look up at the wall in front of me. Your poem! There. I read it – it was wonderful’.

Yes, my poem had ambushed her.

A view from the basin

Kavita with Thomas

This was the brilliant idea of the owner of the hair salon, Thomas Gaughan, who selected this poem as artwork for his wall. Thomas said he’d wanted something inspirational. He’s really pleased with the effect and says that his clients love it. “Great words from Kavita that lift you up when you need it most.’

I’m proud too, because as my first commercial poem installation, it’s sited where you least expect it. Where the words come to you when you’re not in a ‘reading’ frame of mind. The context is surprising, just the way I like things to be!
I’m really glad that so many people are having their spirits lifted at the shampoo basin.

Pictures are of the installation at the William Thomas Gaughan hairdresser in London.

Graphic design by Tim Barnes of Chicken Print Design
Installation by Danillo Cooper
Vinyl cut wall transfer produced by Omni Colour

And a note about the project in the shape of a happy tweet or ‘life-sentence’ published in Mslexia December 2017:

From Mslexia Issue 76, December 2017

FAUCET – My Poem for National Poetry Day 2017

Theme this year: Freedom

Breaking News: Women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive in 2018.

Here’s a poem I published back in 2013 that referenced this struggle, among other things.


A woman
may buy a tool-kit and know how to use it
may change the washer, adjust the stopcock
swap the ball bearings
fix the leaky spigot with a spanner.

A woman may suggest to Nature
that for the next millennia
men become pregnant
a facetious fractious suggestion;
the woman knows her pleas
are just venting, as ineffectual
as hammering water.

A woman may not drive in Saudi Arabia
may not bike unless in a ladies’ only park
may not be seen in public without a male protector.
A woman must also be fertile
dribbling out male heirs;
she may spout songs in private
and dance in full Dior, smeared with make up
for her mirror and other ladies to see.

A village panchayat in Punjab declares
that mobile phones given to girls
leads them to pre-marital sex;
boys can have cell phones and call for help
when they’re in trouble, but females,
young things, must take it on the chin,
remaining on the drip-drip of advancement.

A woman there thinks: what if instead of aborting
female foetuses, the nozzle was turned off
as if by a spell, a sorcery; no babies were born
to the women of this village, then the new elders
all men, would die out without replacement
and further afield too the taps would be fixed just so
by the women who knew how.

(After ‘Woman’ by Arun Kolatkar)

First published: ‘Feminist Times’ | November 2013

Love Across A Broken Map eBook Release

The many permutations of love from girl-crushes to gigolos, spanning Manchester to Mumbai.

Get Your Free Download This Weekend: September 16 and 17.  

Kindle Edition
(available in the UK, US, India, and worldwide)

The Whole Kahani’s anthology was published one year ago in June 2016.

Love Across A Broken Map has had great reviews, some of them wonderfully detailed, and the ‘The Whole Kahani’ collective has been invited to read and hold workshops at several literary festivals.

To celebrate one year of success, Dahlia Publishing has now released an eBook edition.

If you haven’t yet read this “engaging volume that eschews stereotypical stories about the experience of the South Asian diaspora in Britain”* then now is the time to download it.

Love Across A Broken Map is available for free downloads this month:
on September 16 and 17, 2017.

Write to me with your comments on the book, it’s always good to hear your views.

More on The Whole Kahani here: http://www.thewholekahani.com/

Reviews of the anthology:
The Short Story
Byte The Book
Desi Lekh
The Book Review India
Confluence Magazine

Read a Group Interview with members of The Whole Kahani at:

*from James Holden’s review in The Short Story

‘By the Old Airport’

‘By the Old Airport’ shortlisted for inaugural Milestones poetry competition.
A poem I wrote about living near Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong will appear in the Milestones anthology later this year.
It was among shortlisted poems. The ‘milestone’ in the poem is figurative not literal.
There were some great poems about actual milestones (see the winning poem) but the theme was also broadly interpreted.