“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Loco Pilot

“In the last thirty years,

Three hundred and sixty kills-

Mind you, kills, and I don’t keep track

Of the mutilated, the disabled, the living dead

Who fell before me on the tracks.”

He takes a sip of the whiskey,

A deep drag of the cigarette

Looks out through the window -

I see the glimmer of tears in his eyes.

Outside, the river roared as it gushed

The birds sang as they flew

Wind ran helter-skelter among the trees

The setting sun scattered golden light as it sank.

We were old friends, meeting after forty or more years,

This boyhood friend of mine

Who tagged behind me all the time

In awe of my bungalow, dogs and my little deer.

How sharply does he remember!

My metal school box he had envied

The goodies I had shared with him,

Apples and chocolates -

My father, the big officer of Forests!

“There are many ways they do it, you know,” he said

“Some jump head-on, some would be lying down

Their necks neatly nestling on the rail,

Some would be walking, facing away from the train.”

“But one image that even my deadened mind

Cannot wipe off

Is that of the one who stood in the headlight,

Arms raised, palms joined,

A last and final bow to me, her killer.”

“Women dragging their screaming children

Up on to the rails, young girls and boys -

In the rumble of the diesels

I strain my ears for that soft thud, like a loving pat

As I usher them into the netherworld”.

“We are old hands, we know it all

The bends, the blind curves

The favourite haunts of the wanting-to-be-dead.

We dread the day, the next after

The public exam results come.”

“We have to move on, you see,

Cannot bring the big diesels to a sudden stop.

Every time, I watch them, their final moments

Helpless, with a heavy heart

Not even a silent prayer.”

The cigarette burns down to his fingertips.

“This is what I have done with my life -

All I know is to drive trains –

And to kill people.”

************* Balachandran V, Trivandrum 01.08.2009


  1. u have an interesting read here..first time visitor.

  2. Oh Balan, your narratives bring me to many places. Places where emotional rumblings rise to the top of my being. This work is astounding in every way. You really should publish a book. Your work is brilliant, awesome, realistic and so cleverly draws your audience in with every word.

  3. stunning balan. struck dumb...
    and to sandy with the comment above: balan's first collection of poems has just been published. ask him for details.

  4. Congrats on your first publication!!! Would love to read the collection of verses. This poem brings to mind the incident of the young man from Calcutta - Najibur Rehman and his death on the tracks after a controversial marriage to the daughter of a famous businessman. As usual brilliant work and very lucid, always keeping the reader with you.

  5. @Sujata: There is a Calcutta ( I don't like Kolkota) connection - The collection is published by Prof.Lal, Writers' Workshop. I don't know if you have seen their publications, but they date back to 1958. Many famous indo-anglian poets - Kamala Das, Nissim Ezekeil etc etc have had their first collection published with them. I will be receiving the copies after Aug 10th. Will send one to you.

    I am presently looking at the form of narrative poetry - i am just the observer, the listener and the narrator - just a conduit...the reader has to visualize the scenes and reflect on them - and reach, if there is any, their own conclusions...

    @ Sandy: Did you forget I told you about the first collection coming out, 'Signs of Love'? Am in no hurry to bring out the second! :)

    @Rush/Reshmi: Thats a lovely blog you have! I felt like a starving man standing before a 5-star buffet! Such grand design and so much to choose from! Thank you for visiting...

    @Venu : Am still haunted by my friend's tale...

  6. I did indeed forget this info about your book Balan. Too much going on in my life... Can it be ordered online?

  7. Even I was dumb struck Balanji...

    By the way when is the poetry workshop.. I was wondering that your collection must be out by this time. Great! heartiest Congratulations in advance.

  8. Hey.. this one was absolutely beautiful . Every line was in place and the sentiment so tangible.

    And wow...i just gathered from the comments that a collection of your poems are out already.



  9. @sandy: I just received an advance copy of the book and it looks beautiful! Rest of my copies would be delivered in a couple of weeks. I don't know if it can be bought online. will have to check the Writers Workshop website. I will send one to you personally, would it be alright?

    @Imagination: Thanks, K. Will give your copy when I come to ND! Would Paryavaran pay the fare if the docu wins an award? ;D

    @Gymnast: Thanks! Like I said before, I am experimenting with this prose/narrative kind of poetry. There is a kind of baring, a kind of shearing of all pretensions of aesthetics, a kind of starkness, a dispassionate, impassivity that I like. I will let you know when I get the copies of the collection.

  10. finally managed to comment..
    and this one is so haunting :(
    u made me to think the trauma of these drivers.its ever haunting.feeling sorry for your friend


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