Sabu Francis

Catch the glint

Old sparks hardly glow
in today's faint embers.
A child's dreamy gasp
is now a 49 year wheeze.
A frayed dawn may come
with the morning mist
Yet whispers waft through
telling me not to let go,
Don't dare go out
into the night lightly.
Tonight, the Diwali lights
will bring back all the hopes.
Once again I will know
where I'll have to go, boldly,
where no pessimism goes.
I have to teach me, myself
to catch those sparks
which I once thought
were mere fireflies
but were actually glints in
someone's beautiful eyes
Sabu Francis

Bated Breath

In this crowded world of ours
Let us not lose each other
So leave us some crumbs
Of memories
That we can follow back
To that one place we call home
Where we can actually get lost
in each other's arms

When will you come home
And hang up your worries?
The hearth is warm
And so is the heart;
both waiting; bated breath
Sabu Francis


Just as I was getting comfortable
in my own skin
they asked me to undress
and try me another one in.
Well, I can't get any more bare
If I can, I would really be thin
And then I will reach a point
at which I will be just that.

With a no-win
Sabu Francis

Search and Find

I was searching the other day...
To let my mind vent
(perchance this poem?)
I needed a pen.

I opened a drawer
and there in the clutter
peeked a faint glitter;
and then the search did end.

I then thought of
what people often said;
how the lost is found
at the last place sought.

But the contrarian in me
said that it needn't be.
I continued my search
and kept rummaging happily.

What did I find?
Yet another pen?
perhaps another poem?
perhaps another end?

I did find memories
And old thoughts
The differences 'tween
what was; and what was not.

I found wisps of sadness
mixed with seeds gay
Leftovers of madness
Things coloured and gray

My daughter then asked:
"A pen-ny for your thoughts?"
I said I have got the pen
It is the rest that I have not.

On this, she laughed
and I silently sighed:
hoping she can be taught
to differentiate
a search from a find
Sabu Francis

Taj Mahal

“Shift it to the left,” the old man shouted. I muttered to myself under my breath, “the old man has not changed a bit … even when he has half a leg in the grave”

He wanted an air-conditioner fitted into his bedroom. I had got the call after so many years, I was taken aback. I thought the tyrant had forgotten me. The way he treated me after that old project … but never mind, I told myself. I took the call anyway and here I was trying to decide where the air-conditioner should go.

“How on earth can you think of blocking that window?,” he screamed at me. “You MUST make a new opening for the air-conditioner. Don’t you have any sense?”

“No, I don’t… and I probably shouldn’t be here. Not after what you had done to me,” I thought to myself. If I had said that aloud, he may have crucified me. I remember that project very well. In fact, it was spread out just outside his bedroom window. A magnificent piece of work. Or so they say. People still come to the city to see that work.

The old man was known as the “emperor” those days. Nothing could be built in the city without his consent. He had that kind of power.

I was distracted by old memories. Wisps of sadness came back onto me from my past, and I brushed them off. I needed to focus on the small errand at hand. I don’t know what made me drop all my work for the day; to spend my time in this old tyrant’s bedroom. That too, to do something as trivial as deciding where the air-conditioner had to go.

There was so much work to be done back at the office.. After the set-back I received after that project I did for the “emperor”; I almost did not recover my career. I eventually did limp back but it had taken many years. Nowadays, I was more content earning for my family. Nobody knew I was the architect for that project. But I am beyond care. I am no longer worried whether I was known. I know that there is one project of mine has been recognized; and that is a good enough satisfaction for any architect. India is still a developing place with much to be done. Sometime; I am hoping, my story would be told instead of just that of the project.

It is quaint how coincidences happen in one’s lives. Here we are; two of us, the old emperor who was responsible for a very notable project and the architect who carried out the commission. Two of us, together in this lovely bedroom…and that project …that project … that project which took me onto a different road; just outside the window.

I again tried to brush off my memories, but I couldn’t. I was now marking out the new opening on the wall, which will be broken open to receive the air-conditioner. It wasn’t much of a problem for me. I can detect whether a line has gone off plumb a mile off.

I remember that project being made… when I used to walk into the construction site with the emperor, there used to be this hushed awe behind me. There were many rumours too… on how I could draw a straight line without using a rule, and how I could create optical illusions… Some of them were based on reality: I did have a good grasp of architecture, and I had used that whole heartedly in that project.

The view of the project from the window was specially magnificent. The memories of the project came all rushing back in a flood. Everything in full clarity and sadness: After the project was commissioned, the quarrels over fees, the litigations over the copyrights for various techniques that I had specifically invented for the project, the finger-pointing. And mostly, the lack of acknowledgement. At one moment, I was the central to the project. And the moment it was over, I was a nobody.

My colleagues mocked me: “Oh, the ‘emperor‘ has cut off your thumb”. Surely, that was the right analogy. He was so very riled with me, for reasons unknown. He went out of his way to ensure that I didn’t get any similar commissions. It hurt. It really hurt. The money was not the issue. I’ve always considered money to be a bye-product of one’s hard work. But my soul hurt and I was inconsolable for many years. Till the callouses of life covered them all.

I forced myself to stop my train of thoughts. I told him, “Fine. I am done for now. I’ll send in some people to break open the wall, finish it and put in your air-conditioner. Don’t worry. I’ll be there to ensure it all gets done right”

Suddenly, it struck me…

That house was not his original place. After all, why would the emperor want an air-conditioner fitted now? He was influential enough to take an air-conditioned bedroom for granted. Though his career also took a big plunge, he was still wealthy as hell. I was puzzled, and I started looking around the spacious room, not knowing what to find.

He was reclining on his bed. Frail and a quarter of the imposing personality he used to be. The servant who had ushered me in had told me, “Saheb is mostly bed-ridden. He does not move about much”. Even the bed was placed in an unusual position in the room. I soaked in the details… and next to his bed was a side-table where I found a picture frame, in an odd-position. It was kept face down.

He saw me look at it and spoke to me. This time quietly. “Oh, yes. It is her photograph all right. She’s there, you know that…,” and trailed off; pointing to the project outside the window. He did not have to say the rest. The tyrant didn’t like outsiders looking at his women, even if it was just a photograph. When that project was being made, this old tyrant was a man who had just lost his wife. To say that he was deeply love with her was an understatement. That love showed in him when that project was going on. He was an odd fellow, prone to extreme emotions … people said he had even got his brothers ‘fixed’ so that they didn’t get into his business. But he was also one who was deeply in love. And when his wife died he was in deep sorrow. The only way he was able to come out of it was when he could put his heart and soul into a project that was started when she was alive. Despite all his tyranny, his love had propelled him to give me the freedom to do exactly what I wanted in that project. When we used to discuss its architecture, he used to often slip into a nostalgic mood and recount his happier times with her. I can say that the project was inspired by her hidden presence. It almost made him human.

The sun was setting as I stepped out of his bedroom. I caught a glimpse of the project thorough his window shrouded in a breathtaking silhouette. I almost forgave him for not allowing me to do similar projects. I now knew why he shifted his residence on the last leg of his journey. I now knew why he did not want to block that window. He simply had to see his pet project through that opening as his twilight faded away. His heart was in that project.

When I stepped out of his house, I realized that this story of architecture has been going on for so many centuries. Clients who are tyrants, architects who keep trying … all forgotten. Only architecture will survive. And the emperor’s story will be repeated over and over again. That story is eternal.

Sabu Francis

The Shortest Distance

Between the end points called birth and death
I got involved in the infinity called life
Some called it mathematics
Some called it tripe

Between the end points of mathematics
I tried to discover life
some said it's possible
some said it's all lies

Between the end points of a truth and a lie
I tried to discover what's plausible
some said it is impossible
some said you can still try

Sabu Francis


All these footwear
in front of my door;
they all tell stories.

The pair over there
Has football mud
speaking of the fun
enjoyed by my son.

The dainty set,
shiny and red
with heels that
quietly rise;
making my daughter
seem wise
over her mother.

My elder daughter;
practical, bless her;
is simple from head
to toe, forever...
as can be seen
in her quiet slippers.

My wife's footwear
is often missing
just as she is;
in her busy hurrying
in and out to keep
our fire burning

One day at my door
One'll see some more
little footwear
here and there;
and stories every where

And where is that
left sandal of mine?

It has got me felled,
I'm down on my knees;
saying "there's still
one more story
left to tell..."
Sabu Francis

Rightly Said

We all trooped into the conference room on the third floor. The workshop was around a table; where some fifteen chairs were arranged, more than what was required for our group.
I was grappling with my chair when in walked Mr. Rightly Said.
He was leaning politely towards Madam Um Ha and I heard him say "As you had rightly said the last time, madam; we definitely do need to proceed in that direction" I couldn't clearly catch what was being rightly said but I noticed Madam Um Ha going in the right direction; towards the conference table. "Ummmm...ha", she said and nodded her head gravely and gave one of those subtle
Remember-I-Did-Tell-You-To-Go-In-The-Right-Direction smiles.
At the table an excited Mr. Bhat Butt was already seated with the gleam in his eyes that I have oh seen so many times. He leaned forward and I braced myself for the attack. Its a bit unfortunate that often his butting does not prevent the steady stream of wisdom that goes around in these meets. He had something to say about whatever the direction Madam Um Ha and Mr. Rightly Said were saying. He interjected; "But ... but... but... I think..." Nobody was interested in what he thought, and the conversations went further ahead.
Mr. Sex Henna was twiddling with a thick marker; rigorously pushing it in and out within his closed fist. He was quite engrossed in the activity. He was hunched up on his chair, and had a nice wise furrow on his forehead which could convince anyone that it was the bed to germinate a keen idea. He was also the most senior among all of us and so the furrow helped. He was some years beyond fifty and wore his hair; whatever little was left of it, all nicely henna dyed and spread around efficiently on an otherwise barren plate. "We need to mate one approach with the other" he finally said, looking up; pleased with himself.
Mr. Rightly Said was already seated next to Madam Um Ha. His head twitched up abruptly. He was a recent graduate from a management school, which I believe is an institution that Mr. Rightly Said holds in high regard. I have often heard him say, "As it is rightly said in my alma-mater..." But this time, he need not go all the way back to his school. He had got a candidate to direct his right conversation right there, and advance the important decisions being made. He told Mr. Sex Henna: "I have a minor difference of opinion. However, as you rightly said, we could definitely consider mating..err...connect the two approaches into one."
"What do you say, Mr SF?" he turned to me suddenly with a keen interest.
I was a rank outsider, a consultant and that too one who didn't have a management qualification and/or corporate experience. Just an architect. They often used my thoughts as the way the fast-food chaps sprinkle inconsequential toppings on a pizza base. Some people liked it that way.
I realized that I was unconsciously plucking hair from my nostrils. It was a habit of old when I had the luxury of being my own boss. I immediately started stroking my nose, crinkled my eyes; hopefully in a very wise fashion and said "Let me think about it. It may be all right".
Madam De Mure sitting next to me was squirming. She was quite demure and delicate; prone to shivers from the cold of the air-conditioner. Initially I thought that was the reason for her fidgeting, but now I realized that it may have been set off by my obsession with my nasal undergrowth. She usually didn't speak much. And she was quite adept at propping up her pretty head on the palm of one hand, and turning focusedly towards whoever who was speaking. She had also developed the knack of continuing to nod while resting her head on her palm. It gave a good impression of listening and the subtle mascara she was wearing helped. And I think the nail polish on her finger nails invariably matched her dress, and came off quite well on the texture of her skin, as she splayed her fingers across her chin.
Mr. Good Night was sitting next to Madam De Mure. He was always concerned. About her, and of course about the workshop proceedings. He is often sitting quite upright in his chair, with his head handsomely tilted at the right angle and his palms crossed at his lap, holding the air-conditioner remote away from the eyes and reach of others rocking sagely to and fro in the chair. He would usually have his eyes partly closed and would be nodding gently at whatever which is going on. He was not inattentive. I tend to think only he elected to chose the subject of his attention; the lady sitting next to him. He suddenly got up and pointed the remote towards the air-conditioner and increased the temperature slightly. Then he turned towards Madam De Mure and smiled at her and got back to his earlier position. Mr. Sex Henna glared at him.
Mr Syn-ical had his usual sneer. He was busy ignoring everyone around and was staring intently at some micro-wallpaper on his new mobile that he held in his hand for everyone to see. I saw his fingers move hurriedly on the keypad of his mobile. He caressed it effortlessly and expertly with both is hands and gave a quick glance at Mr. Should B on the opposite side of the table once he was through.
Mr. Should B had a morose look on his face. His mobile phone vibrated on the polished wooden top of the conference table but people didn't take notice. It happened often enough. He looked at it briefly, glanced across the table, gave a fleeting smile to Mr. Syn-ical across the table and continued without changing his expression: "I think it should be possible to get those officials to give us the drawings". I have rarely heard him say if he had actually got the drawings or whatever he was supposed to procure. It was always: "should be possible".
Mr. Rightly Said took charge once again. He had a booming voice and always wanted to be right in control. He spoke effectively and decisively. When he spoke everyone thought it was rightly said. Thus he started: "As rightly said by my colleague here, it should be possible to do the needful to get hold of the drawings. So let us proceed immediately on the matter and not rest till we have them in our hands"
Madam De Mure smiled subtly and nodded. Madam Um Ha hummed along. Some mobiles buzzed. Some of them squealed. Mr. Syn-ical sneered even more. Mr. Should B should be doing more but wasn't. Mr. Sex Henna was now vigorously trying to screw on the cap of the marker. Mr. Bhat Butt butted but once more. Mr. Rightly Said was never wrong; just loud. Mr. Good Night micro-managed the air conditioner.
Thus it went on and on. For four hours. In between we broke for lunch, which was a pizza for each of us and we all commented on the nice toppings. Some people liked it that way. Some work also got done, of course. But nobody wanted to state that the sketch of a nice square with little arrows coming from each side could have well been done on the white board in the first fifteen minutes.
Now, after having deliberated; discussed, analyzed and followed protocols right through a working lunch in the busy workshop, all of were satisfied with our work. We then decided to advance on the project by immediately following up with another workshop on the following day. Sometime later in the day a minutes of the meeting would float down from somewhere and land gently inside various files and folders. I am sure they would then be analyzed, scrutinized and discussed suitably later.
As we were trooping out of the building, the Delhi heat caught me and enveloped me like a fever. An air-conditioned vehicle had been booked for the workshop and was lying in wait for us. When we got in, I looked back and almost turned into a pillar of salt. Outside; a cycle-rickshaw puller was wiping his forehead after having just deposited a client at the required destination. His shirt was plastered to his back by his own sweat.
Sabu Francis

The Hopes of Diwali

the little child sat waiting
among his friends' fireworks and lighting
for his father who was still working
hoping against hopes that on his returning
there will be something to his liking
so he could enjoy what his friends were doing

the mother noticed the hopes of her child
alas the hopes were unfounded, she silently sighed
for today her husband was deeply mired
in issues that just about lit the house fire
and maybe a little clay lamp or two outside

yet, she couldn't bear to see her child lose
the hopes that Diwali always lets loose
and the flutter of excitement that runs wild.
she thought: what good is all that if a noose
is tied around the hopes of even one child

she therefore led the child by the hand
and showed him the starry sky;
but all that he could see
were fireworks bursting in glee;
mocking at his little hopes and pride

The mother pointed out the stars to her son
and asked him, "do you know how they came to be?"
to which the son looked puzzled,
completely distracted and bedazzled;
thus he replied: "but aren't you noticing the fun?"

"The fireworks come and go my dearest," she said
"they all try to reach for the stars,
but eventually they all fall back dead.
However, the stars will always shine above us
to teach us that some things are always ahead"

"And which is?" the son asked curiously
"Every star was once an idea my son", said the mother
"an idea that was lit inside someone's head;
an idea that stayed its course unwaveringly
till it found its place up there, in our destiny"

"the best of fireworks is not the loudest,
neither is it the one that is the brightest.
it is that little pin-prick of an idea
that will always live along with a billion others
showering a little light on us for a million years"

"you too can have your fireworks, my son;
you too can have a lot of fun
don't get swayed by the showy or the vain
just make sure that your idea is relevant
only then it would stay its distance"

"make sure that the idea is well and truly lit
by your determination; a proper fuse
and fueled by your commitment; your muse
for without your zeal; the real fire behind
no idea can ever throw even the smallest light"

"your idea can never be worked on alone
for it needs to live among other stars
it is only the pompous fireworks
that try to out-do each other
only to come down and fall apart"

thus a mother's wisdom accomplished
what no pyrotechnics ever did
the boy soaked in the spectacle
and kept on thinking in wonderment
how the heaven and earth were all connected

later that night, when the father came home
he saw his fast growing son fast asleep
yet on that happy Diwali night;
behind that child's closed eyes
were a million ideas waiting to leap