Poems in Saffron Ink: Here Is the News You Couldn’t Live to See

Journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead in Bengaluru on September 5, wrote fiercely against divisive right-wing politics and the Hindutva agenda.

A candlelight march for Gauri Lankesh. Credit: Reuters

A candlelight march for Gauri Lankesh. Credit: Reuters

This is the first in the five-part ‘Poems in Saffron Ink’ series.

The Wire presents the ‘Poems Written in Saffron Ink’ series that capture the present environment of divisive politics, with threats to freedom of expression, where minorities feel unsafe and incidents of mob lynching have become common.


Gauri. Bangalore. 2017.

Knock knock

Who’s there?


Bullet, who?

A bullet and three more inside you

Knock knock

Who’s there?


Camera, who?

Twenty-three cameras as if you were posing

in your own blood

Picture yourself, cotton against concrete, lying
across television screens in Mandya, Delhi, Gorakhpur.
Here is the news you couldn’t live to see.
Here is the news you lived, the news you have become
in your absence.

Knock knock

Who’s there?

Who’s there?

Who’s there?

To where did they march
you away in white sheets and two garlands?

Who’s there?

I am there where I no longer receive news of myself
Ghalib said before his dying

You are writing. You must be writing
a revolution rising from print, words growing
into trees, into forests of legends—
a moving forest once felled a tyrant.

Knock knock on the tyrant’s door.

Knock knock

The forest is coming

It’s coming. It’s coming

like your news is coming

as it always came

in unwavering blows

It’s coming, now, it’s coming

because you are not

It rained the whole day after you went. Strangers stood
together—an unusual sight for the city, for themselves.
They held your words in bad handwriting—blue marker
on flimsy paper above their heads—that withered as the rain fell.
They stood for hours as you did, on the same steps
of that garish landmark in the heart of the city.

Drenched city.
Broken hearts.
Fighting hearts.
Hearts making sense
of a sudden love. Or a sudden hate of monsoon where the rain comes
down as bullets.

Poorna Swami is a writer and dancer based in Bangalore.

Liked the story? We’re a non-profit. Make a donation and help pay for our journalism.