Chanakya Vyas

I try, they tell



I try, they tell

I try to make art
They tell me to find my tradition.
I try to find my tradition
They tell me to be contemporary.
I try to be contemporary
They tell me to get rid of English.

I keep trying
I can tell someone else who is trying.


Domicile Certificate

‘Home is the one that is mentioned in your domicile certificate,’
said the Admissions Officer at Mumbai University.
I have lived in three cities, in three different homes
and speak three different languages.
‘Where would I get one?’ I asked.
‘Where you were born or have lived the longest. That is your home.’
Where I’ve lived the longest is not my home anymore.
Where I’ve lived the shortest is where I wanted to live the longest.
‘If I don’t have one, then?’ I asked hesitantly.
‘Then go study abroad!’
I took him seriously and decided to study in America.
It was just after 9/11.
No one here asks for a domicile certificate,
I have a social security number
But, people still ask ‘Where’s home?’



I hoard every little thing
Old toothbrush, empty ointment tubes and corroded razors
They lie scattered in corners
Ignored and forgotten
Like my relationship with distant relatives.
Now they lie together
In a dustpan at the centre of the living room
As we move into a new house
That smells fresh and clean
Even in edges and corners
Like unrequited love until it’s confronted
They are thrown
Into a big hollow drum
Labeled ‘REJECTS’
Scattered again
Like he and I lie on the bed
After having planned sex

Mother Tongue

I have a tongue
Like you do.
Coated with multilingual saliva
Like yours.
I once tried reading in my mother tongue
And my mother got upset.
‘English is one and all,’ she said.
I once tried writing in my mother tongue
And English got upset.
‘Where’s the comma and full stop?’ he said.
Now, I write on whatsapp and facebook in my mother tongue
using the English alphabet,
Mother and English both are happy.
Don’t know about the multilingual tongue though!


Words World

I leave home
And find another in a foreign land.
AirBnb calls it experience
offering vacant bedrooms
-airy, cozy and spacious
And a host
-who is friendly, warm and relaxed
waiting to be accepted
Like homeless refugees in their own land.
Words in the end
travel across countries or borders
safe with you
-like your passport
protected in your memory
-like your passwords
Gluten free, Lactose free, GMO Free
Free words in a free country
printed on cans , packets and tins
in different fonts and colours
Donning the shelves of colorfully banal supermarkets
Captivating you to be free.

In the end
only words is what I find around me
to hold onto
to curb my fears
in foreign countries.
Words are all you need
to seem familiar
In an unfamiliar world


The Burden of Tradition

I have many books
All half read.
A new package is scheduled to arrive
Of  Kafka, Gogol, Premchand and Dostoevsky
They say ‘Read them if you want to write’
I read them in awe
And then start to write
Critics call it ‘derivative’
Some say ‘Find your tradition’
And some ‘The conflict is missing’
I abandon writing
in search of my tradition
And all I find is just conflict.


Image courtesy: Dayanita Singh

Chanakya Vyas is a writer, director and teacher based in Bangalore. He works as Associate Director with Indian Ensemble, a Bangalore based theatre company.

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