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Shanta Acharya

Shanta Acharya was born and educated in Orissa, India. In 1979, she came to Oxford where she completed her doctoral thesis. Between 1983-5 she was a Visiting Scholar at Harvard. In 1985, she started her career in investment management with Morgan Stanley in London. She subsequently worked as a Portfolio Manager with various firms, including Baring Asset Management. She is currently Associate Director, Initiative on Foundation and Endowment Asset Management at London Business School.

Her doctoral study, The Influence of Indian Thought on Ralph Waldo Emerson, was published by The Edwin Mellen Press, USA, in 2001. Her two books of poetry are Numbering Our Days’ Illusions (Rockingham Press, UK; 1995) and Not This, Not That (Rupa & Co, India; 1994). Her forthcoming collection, Looking In, Looking Out, is due in June 2005.


Pious neighbours celebrated Diwali
with neat rows of oil lamps
promising the destruction of evil.

My fever flew fast through the coil of night
setting ablaze the desolate sky
like a child conspiring with confetti stars.

Harassed doctors came with tablets,
magic, miniature moons
with syrup in exorcist cups and hermetic brew.

While the snake-charmer’s fluted thermometer
grinned its flinted fangs wider and wider,
I ate moons and laughed at stars.

My limbs could’ve even danced a few steps to appease
evil with the grace of lightning in a storm ripped sky
like blue throated Shiva with snakes in red matted hair.

White sheeted, I lay still
like an Indian monkey in summer.

From Shanta Acharya’s Not This, Not That (Rupa, India; 1994)


Strange fetish of trees in the snow;
so many pagodas their arches seem,
consecrating the ground they half bury themselves in.

The fog meditates on ivory stupas,
revealing no passion only the landscape's anonymity.

Eyes under purdah see what lies are meant for
knowing no adultery, no abortion, no self-obsession,
meeting the protocol of seasons effortlessly.
Charismatic ambassadors, leaves negotiate with the sun.

In this they are not trapped philomels,
their peplus offers no autobiography.
Freed of self portraits, they do their vanishing mime
with the singleness of yoginis renouncing the act.

From Shanta Acharya’s Numbering Our Days’ Illusions (Rockingham, UK; 1995)