Home // June.22.2017 // Uttaran Das Gupta

 

Women, Carpets

“A 34-year-old woman was stabbed to death on the crowded first-floor corridor of MG Metro station on Monday morning, in the middle of scores of people headed towards the platforms, by an auto driver who had unsuccessfully tried to court her for several months.” – The Times of India , 25 x 16

Every time a woman friend leaves
Delhi, I get a carpet
or two. Ethnic, intricate weaves,
yoga mats—gifted with regret.

One I asked: “But why did you buy
half-a-dozen for your one-room
flat?” She laughed. “Was either a broom,
or these—how else could I fly?”

Public transport is inclement
for women in this visceral
city: Autos belligerent,
buses unsafe, the metro dull.

So what is one supposed to do
on a smoggy, October night?
“We unroll our carpets, take flight.
Imagine the nocturnal view

of tombs, forts, minarets, malls.”
Yet, no matter how much I try,
the carpets don't answer my calls,
and, rolled up, my requests deny.

My job is to be a keeper;
I'm merely a carpet sweeper.

// New Delhi, 6 viii 16

 

Plotting Assassinations at Press Club

For Milan, whose middle name is Allen; perhaps, he will like our poetry.

Michael, Dibya, Abhimanyu and I
went to the Press Club to drink.
                                                 It's never
one drink, is it? So, as clouds gathered
like Timur's crazy camels with burning
hay on their backs, we traded thoughts on metre,
and plotted an assassination.
“It's time the bullshit tricksters shut their shops;
especially that douche bag, self-proclaimed
arbiter, gatekeeper of a Brahmin
ethics—let's kill him,” said Abhimanyu.
“Or, we could just deposit the rotting
cattle carcass, which is our poetry,
outside his pristine metaphysical temple.”

With rain, the talk turned to children, and how
they grow into trees, into furniture,
into pirate ships, their Jolly Rogers
slicing in half tropical hurricanes.
What will they—sons and daughters of teachers,
journalists, workers—think of us, drinking
in summer evenings at subsidized
clubs on Raisina Road?
                                    I think Milan
would be happy we discarded our castes,
and refused to worry about getting
bungalows on Pandara Road, at Jor Bagh,
and lived in rented flats at Jangpura
and Malviya Nagar, overspending
on books, and having dinner at Nizamuddin.

When he's a little older, I'll tell him
How I teased his father in an auto
about following his caste profession:
a poet in the court of tyrants.
Only now, we don't get pearl necklaces;
recalcitrant outcastes, we howl our sonnets
at nocturnal trains, at tombs of sufis,
and urchins who sell jasmines, rose garlands,
at a discount for assassin-poets.

// New Delhi, 9 viii 16

 

The Hills Come Home

after Shakti Chattopadhyay’s ‘Paharia Kolkata’

Here, they're always digging: gigantic cranes
turning up earth for baolis, the metro,
building foundations. Wherever I go,
hillocks block Aurobindo Road, bylanes
in Green Park. We'd planned to take the midnight
bus to Manali from Kashmiri Gate.
Never did it. And now, it's too late.
Yet, this morning, in the watery light,
New Delhi has become a hill station:
the hillocks have sprouted eucalyptus, pines,
deodars; GK is a tea plantation;
and on my neighbour's balcony are lines
of Tibetan flags. Did rain prompt this strange
transformation? Delhi is now McLeod Ganj.

// New Delhi, 1 ix 16

 

 

Banner graphic: a view (cropped) of the Paharganj neighborhood as seen from the New Delhi Railway Station, photographed by Wikimedia Commons user Em_G. Used here under the terms of the CC by 2.0 license.

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