Article - 7 (5.2)


 Teesta Review: A Journal of Poetry, Volume 5, Number 2. November 2022. ISSN: 2581-7094

A Cup of Tea for Dad and Me

-- Arnis Silvia and Susheel K. Sharma


Two poets of different cultures and generations have come together to converse through poetry on the various themes, such as: grief, equality and age. The chapter title ‘A cup of tea for Dad and Me’ symbolises two things. One, ‘a cup of tea’ represents shared moment, shared knowledge or shared understandings. It reflects our dialogues and conversations which occurred in the form of poetry; poems and response poems are tools for building shared understandings and co-creating new meanings. Meanwhile, ‘for Dad and Me’ refers to intergenerational views and understandings towards aspects of life, which represents both poets’ points of view coming from two different generations (a woman in her 30s and a man in his 60s).

Employing duoethnography methodology (see Sawyer & Norris, 2012), both poets construct meanings on their own and then co-construct new meanings through their poems and responses.

There are six pairs of poems in this chapter. The first three poems are written by Arnis Silvia, then responded to by Susheel Sharma. The last three poems are composed by Susheel Sharma, responded to by Arnis Silvia. For each pair of poems, both authors provide their personal reflections. Discussions and insights are presented in the following section.


974 KILOMETRES: Poem and response


974 Kilometres (by Arnis Silvia)

: Dad

How could I measure a distance when near is far?

Homes are two dots on the map,

used to be twelve hours of journey

then restriction came in between

hearts are close, yet my hands could not

touch your eyelids for one last time

sky is as grey as your hair

as the sidewalks

as the tombstones


How could I measure time when regret is timeless?

A phone call was a train I missed to catch

Fifteen minutes later did I know

that your train won’t come back

I wish I could move back the clock

to hear your sorry and goodbye

don’t you have a lot to say

and little to pass on

I want that little, please


How could I measure life when life is done?

Death was a lotto ticket you bought

with the money I save

for many years to come

And you won

This pandemic won

On a day as grey as sidewalks

as grey as tombstones,

you were gone.

You were my yardstick,

and now I lost count.


Tell me, Dad

How could I measure them all?



Miles Away (by Susheel Sharma)


in response to “974 Kilometres” by Arnis Silvia


When I was trying to draw a map

To indicate my location on the sand

The water wave full of froth came

To wipe out all boundaries. It is just

All yellow ground with black patches

Here and there; the basalt rocks are

covered with sand to give a feel

of comfort.


The bones of my grandfather hurt

me when I tried to ride his back.


Another wave comes to take away

One of my slippers. How will I go

Home with one bare foot? I count on

Your wisdom Dad and remain patient.

On the sand I felt I was in the arms

Of my father beyond all geographical

Boundaries; the sea returns my slipper

A little away.


Without flesh and skin, a body is no

More than yellowish, rock like bones.


Another slightly larger wave comes to

Soak me; I feel the taste of salt in my mouth.

Why I can’t listen to your voice,

O father! Where are your lectures on

Shakespearean tragedy and Whitman?

The storm ravages houses and men;

The sea is a killer. I have found a pearl

In a sea-shell.


Tell me, Dad

how to measure a burn

In the heart and a thorn in the mind.




Arnis Silvia: The poem reflects an immense grief of a daughter whose father died of Covid-19 but could not see or talk to him at his last moment. She missed the last call from her father, just 15 minutes before he was gone for good. She, who lived 974 kilometres away from her dad, could not be sorrier and more disappointed that her dad whose love and affirmation she needed the most, who also gave her childhood trauma, did not pass on any message or keepsake when he left. She, who tried her best to recover from her childhood wound, did not get the last sorry that she deserved so much. Then she had to live saying sorry on behalf of her father to her very self.

This poem speaks volume about how far physical and emotional distance between parents and children affect someone’s view of life and mental wellbeing. Emotional duality (sadness and relief, hate and forgiveness, disappointment and compassion) as implied in this poem might resonate with bitter realities of human emotions that never be single-dimensioned.


Susheel Sharma:

The grief felt by the persona in Arnis’s autobiographical poem is also the subject matter in my poem. However, this is doubled in my poem as the persona recollects the memories of both the grandfather and the father. The life goes on irrespective of birth and death. The images taken from sea-shore indicate to the constant movement of life irrespective of any mighty object, unconcerned with time and undaunted by the glory of the people; the cyclic movement of the waves indicates to the life-cycle of human beings, the disappearing signs on the sand indicate to the erasure of memory. The time period of life is compared to the elapse of time between two waves. The rushing movement of the sea-waves hints to the rushing of memories associated with the grandfather and father. Thus, the distance between three generations is not only physical but also fleeting in terms of memories and elapsed time.


THE DELAY: Poem and response

The Delay (by Arnis Silvia)


The being stranded

and displaced

The being

pulled out from your roots

by unknown



Time morphs

into fireflies

your hands

cannot catch.

Numbers were flying off

of your planner

of your schedule


into the night.


Clocks, stubborn

as your dreams

stopped ticking,

while sun rises

and sets.

Kokaboora makes


-while you not.


Detainment caught

your steps

out of a long journey.

You stuttered

answering the whys

your mind interrogates

figuring ’til whens

your ability lasts


In the waiting room

words are bubbles

your head

could only blow.

Hands are checking

what have been unticked

Feelings are busy counting

what is less

          than losing

what is less

          than missing.



The Delay (by Susheel Sharma)

: in response to “Delay” by Arnis Silvia


The delay in getting up

disturbed the schedule

of reaching the railway

Station and, the train

Left me on the platform,



I am trying to dig out some

Notes to lead a pious life

Without burning sins and to

Treat the world as home.

Words are not transient



The night soon comes to

Envelope me in sleep.

Chirping of birds yields to

Ticking of the clocks. Why do

I cry? Visions yield place to



My grandson catches hold

Of my kurta and cries to

Accompany me on the flight.

Flying planes can be dangerous.

I just assure him of an early



Stranded bubbles and dreams return;

But I miss your delays and smells now. 



Arnis Silvia: “Delay” is a poem representing a beyond-human-control situation like a quarter life crisis. However good someone tries to control their life through plans, there is apparently always something beyond that control. Like a proverb saying, “man proposes, God disposes”, sometimes we can only accept what is uncontrollable. There

comes a time when well-organized and well-planned activities of the intelligent and capable human beings get disrupted by greater circumstances. For people in their 30s

who are passing through the phase of achievement, recognition, and competition, delay is more of a curse rather than blessing. One disruption in life affects the ongoings of other plans and timelines. It also gives a sense of getting missed out and left behind, which leaves this group of people emotionally drained.


Susheel Sharma:

Arnis’ poem is sad as it is a sort of continuation of her earlier poem. For me, the “delay” is good as one gets some time to ponder over and reflect on one’s deeds/ mistakes when one arrives late at the station and the train is missed. The persona in my poem, apparently an old person, is contemplating on various kinds of delays and their consequences that he has faced in his life. He enjoys his time by ruminating over the past when he suffered the pangs of love while waiting for the late beloved. Some of the delays cause some disruption because of which visions are reduced to dreams. While some others become as memorable as the body-odour of the beloved.



FORTRESS: Poem and Response

Fortress (by Arnis Silvia)


While you see me strong

This smile is not mine

I am wearing my mother’s, my grandmother’s,

my great grandmother’s and women before her

My face is a fortress - thick and tall

A little girl inside me hides within the wall

people stone me with shame and envy

dent me a little, exhaust them to eternity


Our men are very good guests

come visit with an appointment,

leave the place with a notice.

You won’t find them in the housekeeping chamber

nor them near the basement

A little boy inside them loves to play outside

into the fortress he too comes to hide


At nights I hang my smile like a coat

Before I close my eyes,

I admit before the pictures

of my mother, my grandmother,

my great grandmother, and the women before her

This smile is too hard to wear

My little soul cannot bear

Yet they yell back at me

just go to sleep and

wake up stronger!

No man is needed

to be a warrior


Dawn is broken

As I am putting on my crooked smile

Ready for another fortress show

from the wall,

my mother, my grandmother,

my great grandmother, and the women before them

screaming at me:

          Fix your smile

          Conquer your day!

          No man is needed

          to be feeling okay.



The Red Fort (by Susheel Sharma)

: in response to “The Fortress” by Arnis Silvia


We are the sons and daughters

Of the same parents; then why

Am I black and you red? And, there

The white man is on the prowl

With his gun; my courage is my forte;

My patience is my strength; My body

Is frail and sharp bullets pierce it.


There dwells Sikander Butshikan

To eradicate the land of heretics and

Infidels and raze all my temples in his

Quest to become a Shah. A guest is not

To be trusted; was Suhabhatta not to

Be trusted? Can knowledge be trusted?

Is the convert loyal to the people?


Another Shah comes running from

Iran to plunder; the peacock throne,

Kohinoor and Darya-ye Noor are not

Sufficient; the Innocent blood should

Flow in the streets of Delhi. The loot

Saves Iran from taxes; The Red Fort

Can’t save the women and children.


The princesses giggle, purchasing

Silk, jewellery in the roofed market.

Mumtaz lives in the marble Mahal.

The whites do not spare the white

Rang Mahal; the cut-off heads are

The frail poet-King praises his brave

Sons at the sight of special nazrana.


Why was Hudson repeating Alamgeer?

The Major was no follower of the Guru,

Nor a playmate of his three sons? Brave

Teg casts a cursory glance while riding his

Horse; Mati, Dayal and Sati smile from

Above. God doesn’t sleep. The Sins of

The father shall be visited upon the son.


Red Fort houses a military cantonment

In the country of Gautama, the Buddha.





Arnis Silvia: “Fortress” is a poem that represents gender roles in Java, Indonesia which apparently also applies to many other cultures. The role of women is central in many households where men are the main breadwinners for some reasons (women serve as the main carers for their children, their parents, and their parents in law). Despite the demanding responsibilities and commitments, these domestics’ contribution of women is often neglected and less praised by the society. Meanwhile, men’s monotask of ‘earning money’ gained more respect and pride.

This poem offers an insider insight of how gender roles are lived and passed on from one generation of Javanese women to the next generation. Housewives take care of almost everything in the house, working from early morning to midnight, being a gardener, cook, teacher to their kids, a wife to her husband. Meanwhile, husbands who spend most of their time outside the house, are simply like a guest. They come, rest, and go, without even being involved in the complexities of daily life management.



Susheel Sharma:

While Arnis’s poem is about gender divide, my poem has a larger canvass in which racial history and violence are presented through some silent eye witness, say “the Fort of Time” or some national monument like a fort. Various causes for violence, religious, economic, geographical, racial prejudices, hatred and personal jealousies, have been hinted at through various names from Indian history to highlight the issues. Because of this not only the menfolk suffered but even the women and children not spared. The entire belief in human goodness is shattered by such events. The poem raises questions such as: What should one believe in? -- In might being right? In the goodness of humanity? In the religious books? In realistic descriptions: every powerful person tortures the weaker person on one pretext or the other.



TEA: Poem and Response

Tea (by Susheel Sharma)

One’s age evaporates with time like

Sugar crystals do in the boiling water.

With every passing moment the speed

Gets enhanced. Some cold milk needs

To be added to slow the process and let

The crystals stay for a little while more.

Sugar disappears leaving a sweet taste

Behind like divine moments do. Tea

Leaves do to the milk what the impatient

dreams do to life. Some cardamoms bring

flavour like some proud moments do.

A little ginger works wonders like

praises do in an office. Over-heated

tea gets impatient to pour out of the pan

like silly abuses in a fit of anger. The

tea served with some tangy snacks gives

some warmth in the cold winter like the

grand-kids in a lap. Hands feel the warmth

of the past and bring a smile on the wrinkled

face. Teeth are not necessary to enjoy tea but

The lips should know how much is too much

For the tongue and the cavity at a moment.


Tea makes following friends, understanding

Enemies’ sly smiles, chasing and being

Chased on the chessboard of life easier,

Cosier, smooth and playful. Tea-parties

Colour one’s invisible dreams with pride,

Jealousies, passions, gratitude and hopes.



Iced Tea (by Arnis Silvia)

: in response to “Tea” by Susheel Sharma


You might wonder of why

We --young people prefer our tea cold

and why do we like it with other flavour

better than being pure as it is


Teen age is water that we want to freeze

Life is tea that we don’t want to be bold

and bitter

and dark

Let them belong to the wise men

and women before us


need some sweet

some innocent belief

some baseless optimism

some world of changeability

unlimited by bitter reality

freed from prejudices

built along our age


Moments of joy and freedom

are vanilla to our tea

: sweetness that does not last long

We know that, we do


We know that age evaporates as does hot tea

so does our naivety

so does our changeability


when we have grasped

the essence of reality

We became aware

that people do not change easily

that trust can be betrayed

that hope can be disappointed

our idea of sweetness evaporates

that is when our tea evolves

it is hotter

darker, bitter


In our youth time

Our hearts are all warm

We need ice to cool them down

As we get older

Our hearts turn colder

We need heat

To prevent it frozen.





Susheel Sharma:

Preparing hot tea and having it, is a part of modern Indian culture. The phenomena have been used as a metaphor for leading a life in this poem. One grows old as quickly as one cup of tea is prepared. Through the imagery of tea various facets of life have been presented. The poem may be regarded didactic by some but it makes a realistic presentation of life-events. If hot tea is not prepared carefully, one may burn oneself. If one does not know the art of drinking tea, one may be called uncultured and uncouth; besides a steaming cup of tea may scald one’s lips, burn one’s tongue and leave one feeling some red-hot regret if one is even slightly careless. So is the case with the carelessness and the mistakes which may cause havoc in one’s lives.


Arnis Silvia:

In responding to Susheel’s poem, I was taking a perspective of a younger person whose life is in the ‘hot’ phase, hence needs a balance from an “Iced tea”. It is also based on my observation towards the tea drinking habit of young people in Australia, where they prefer sweetened tea with various toppings such as: bubble milk, jelly, red beans, or other flavour.

Iced tea or cold tea symbolises younger people’s attempt to live in the moment. Young people want to freeze the time so they could embrace life as it is, without regretting about the past nor being anxious about the future. These people are aware that their phase is full of joy, excitement and energy, and that this phase is not eternal. They know that they cannot enjoy that exciting phase forever, therefore they want to do their best to be present.



HUNTING: Poem and Response


Hunting (by Susheel Sharma)

A poet tells a lie all the time.

He is an idiot telling a tale.

Still, let me try telling one.

In a jungle safari

One will not hunt

A lion; a lion also

Doesn’t dream of 

Hurting one.

A lion carves out 

His territory,

A hunting space

An area for himself,

And for his family.

He works hard 

To safeguard it

In the thick jungle.

Another lion has 

To fight hard to

Make inroads into it.

They both use their paws.

Neither one has a gun.

A dog pisses around

To fix his territory.

He never attacks the 

Intruder alone.

A lion hunts 

For his meals,

Never for pleasure.

A dog has no pity on the 

Fellow suspect; it is loyal.

A dog attacks the infringer

Just for suspicion – 

The new one may steal his food.

The intruder is surrounded

By his class; he surrenders, 

By lying down on his back, 

With folded legs in the air,

Showing his long and sharp canine

That cannot bite flesh at the moment. 

The owners let the trespasser flee

To a safe haven after his caving in.

His tail changes its shape;

It goes inside the hind legs

Before the dog retreats.

A man may be hunted

If he lies down on his belly

In a complete submission.

The other man shows his grit

By suffocating a knuckled man. 

This filching is not pleasuresome.

It is a tale of life—

Not told by an idiot



Hunted (by Arnis Silvia)

: responding to “Hunting” by Susheel Sharma


In the jungle of needs and wants

Who knows who hunts and who is hunted?

A lion hunts for his territory

A dog hunts for his meals

is the same lion, the same dog

who is being hunted

by hunger and fear


A man hunts for bucks

Bucks hunt for possession

Possession hunts for status

Status hunts for recognition

Recognition hunts for costs

Costs hunts for income

Income hunts for time

Time hunts for break

Break hunts for peace

Peace hunts for mind

Mind hunts for adequacy

Adequacy hunts for hard work

Hard work hunts for soul

Soul hunts for peace

and the cycle continues


Even poets hunt for words,

a vehicle to deliver his message

are the same poets being hunted

by deadlines, crisis of identity

by self-doubt, peer-pressure

unpaid works, debts, mortgage

internal paradox, guilt, shame

can he still tell a lie?


Lie is a privilege

For those who have many to offer

Who have much in their bunker

enough for damage control

for lies that they may tell

And no poet is too lavish to do so

Honesty is luxury

Only poets have

And no honesty equals to prosperity


So, no

A poet does not tell a lie

Because truth is the only thing

that defines them

Poets don’t lie.





Susheel Sharma:

The poem is an Anthropocene allegory. It not only describes the habits and the regulated lifestyle of the two ferocious animals like a lion and a dog but it also glorifies their behaviour. Their predictable behaviour is contrasted to the unpredictable one of a civilised human being for all practical glorification. The poem attains political and racial dimensions when the George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a white policeman, is referred to and described. The persona in the poem dons himself as a poet. He poses himself like a Shakespearean fool who is wise enough. Like a Frostian poem it begins in a delight but ends in wisdom. 


Arnis Silvia: What is understood from Susheel’s “Hunting” is a paradox of being a hunter. In an ecology of life creatures where there is a food chain, hunter is hunted by another hunter. Even the top eater will be finally eaten by smaller microbes that dissolve them into the ground.

In responding to the poem, I took the flipside perspective which is ‘hunted’, presenting the paradox of being a victim. Although the perspective is opposite to Susheel’s poem, but the main message that “Hunted” tries to convey is quite similar. What I would deliver through this poem is a bitter truth that no one or no single entity in this world is fully free and powerful. Even the poets, who are assumed as the most independent, honest and true people, are not free from pressures and a sense of being hunted by the critics and the rival poets.



SUNSHINE: Poem and Response


Sunshine (by Susheel Sharma)

Both of us need clean air

To maintain the haemoglobin

The calcium you need for bones

Shapes mine too the same way.

Both of us need water and food

To sustain our bodies and spirits.

My food is not all black and

Yours is not all white; if my lips

Get thicker than yours, it is not

My doing; thick lips can make

As much love as the thin lips do.

Remember Lucifer’s lips were

Not different from those of God.


My black colour is not the doing

Of Lucifer; they say it is melanin

That has done the trick. I ask

Who has created that pigment?

Sure, it was not devised in Africa.

Why was it not distributed equally?

Why were you not given more?

Do you see a conspiracy there?


In the training camp we held the

Same guns; we were trained to

Fire the same bullets; the holsters

Were not painted different either;

Neither were the bullets stained

Nor were there any names on them

Still your bullets pierced only the

Coloured hearts. How come they

Become more blood thirsty in your

Hands with the blowing of sirens?


You certainly need more

Cheery sunshine than I do.



Melanin (by Arnis Silvia)

: in response to “Sunshine” by Susheel Sharma


I am melanin strong

Sunshine colours my skin

like an armour of war

fighting the radiation

without sunscreen

then why did you see me weak?

Can we race in sunbathing

and see who is surviving?


Eggs have the same yolk

with same nutrition counts

despite their shell colours

Have you asked a hotel chef

for only white-shelled eggs

for your breakfast?


I am red beans to your mashed potato

I am jam to your bread

I am black tea to your milk

Oh, how dull your life

Without me?


In the warzone

Guns and bullets are blind

your eyes are not

who to pick to be killed?

will you pass the white

and aim for the coloured?


So shoot me

Shoot me to serve your

selective blood thirst

shoot me to redeem

your hatred to my people

shoot me so you know

that my blood colour

is just the same

as yours.




Susheel Sharma:

The poem is a dramatic monologue, political in nature written from the perspective of a coloured person. Here, the persona is rejecting the notions of white-race-superiority and the consequent xenophobia and wishes for a better world without any colour prejudice. He is trying to justify his position and stand on various grounds viz. biological needs, physical capacities, natural justice and offers a scientific explanation for his coloured skin. He questions even the training that has been imparted to both of them simultaneously but which has developed two different attitudes. The poem ends without any display of hatred towards anyone but, in the Biblical manner, prays for benevolence of even the opponent.


Arnis Silvia: Melanin is simply echoing and complementing what “Sunshine” is saying about racism, xenophobia, and discrimination based on skin colours. The main difference between two poems is that, Susheel’s poem focuses more on the situation, while Arnis’ poem is more on the person. In “Melanin”, I voiced out a call for equality and mutual respect, because despite the different colours, we all have much more similarities as human beings with capacities, dreams and aspirations.


Concluding Thoughts

In this dialogic poetry exchange, both Susheel and Arnis worked in tandem in examining their personal artifacts, stories, memories, and critical incidents (Sawyer and Norris, 2009) and the meanings they give to these issues. Through duo ethnography in the form of poetry exchange, both poets explored their personal, philosophical, cultural, and social tenets of their loves and explicating their assumptions and perspectives. Susheel in his 60s offers his global and macro lens of life, while Arnis in her 30s proposes a more micro dimension of personal life. Both offered their own unique perspectives of life, yet attempted to dialogue these differences through their response poems.

          The difference in cultural, temporal, geographical, and social contexts between two poets were mediated by the use of English, which is their second or third language. With this language, poets were able to understand each other’s sentiments and work and are able to respond to them by showing full empathy. Both the poets are concerned with growing distances -- both physical and mental, limitations of the scientific gadgets and reject any kind of negative discrimination. They specify the adoption of a more humane approach and reject every kind of mono-culturist approach for leading a meaningful and peaceful life. They have paid equal attention to the themes and the similes, metaphors, imagery and symbols in their poems.

          This collaborative work finally demonstrates that duo ethnography enabled its collaborators to ‘interpret the interpretations and meaning of others and to create dialogic transactions (between  and  within  themselves)’ (Sawyer and Norris, 2009). 


List of works cited                                   


Norris, J., Sawyer, R. & Lund, D. (eds.)(2012). Duoethnography: Dialogic Methods for Social, Health, and Educational Research. London: Routledge

Sawyer, R. & Norris, J. (2009). ‘Duoethnography: Articulations/(Re)Creation of Meaning in the Making’ in Sawyer & Norris, The Collaborative Turn, pp. 127-140. Netherlands: Brill.


Interliminal Encounters: Indian and Australian writers in po(i)etic dialogue, eds Amelia Walker and Aden Burg