homecoming

There are things more important than a silly sadness that comes at night. Things more real than this.
Men cut through mountains and men move them. My aunt drives on the roads in Sikkim and my uncle here next to me says the mountains are soft and its cliffs will give way.

Men and Woman are real, so they talk at dawn how they will change the world.

My feet walks but I am not here.

I try weakly to collect these scrambled thoughts and memories, but I find nothing but the cold sun rising. I remind myself I am in Bangalore, that Sikkim is someplace else.

This once, we travel south.

The hills will fall, he says. The hills will fall when the seismic plates shift and no man can stop the earth from raining.

The dust spells out a language, but I do not understand it.
So none of us speak.

It is too quiet here.

The cold sun makes for cold walls at six-thirty, when you can only hear the rustling of the avocado tree and father’s footsteps drawing a picture for what he will be today.

The rain from last night comes from the metal tap and makes a loud splatter in the sink. The iron pipes are rusting and the ceiling is high. The houses here are old in Cook Town, the trees are even older and only the first of the many have started to die.
We don’t know how it will fall so my uncle parks the car further down the road.

There’s a red cut on my palm from two days after that. Only the jutting stone slabs on Davis road saw me fall, so I turn it into a party joke –
“ and I heard the perplexed auto driver gasp as I went down-”

Only Davis road saw me fall in the rain before I could panic.

I see the cut on my palm and red skin at the Investiture Ceremony, hidden to all who do not want to see, and think it is better than having cried. The small gash hurts and numbs too much with pain to want more, so I forgive myself for not pressing it. No leader with the badge I wear cries in these streets.

(No leader forgets the two streets he was to cross. No leader forgets the right turn onto Hutchins road. No leader forgets where he was. No leader forgets he was ever walking.

 

 

 

 

 

But they don’t need to know that I did.

 

In the wetness I could see everything-)

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Alamgir

The sun was low in the sky when we pulled up outside the mosque. The shops lining the square hung the everyday needs of domestic India from its hooks and shelves. Heavy-eyed goats moved through the thinning crowds, the village young boys running after them. The sound of evening gossip filled the air as we trespassed the ordinary lives of these men and women in rural Maharashtra.

“Ha, ha, andar ja sakte hai, ladki!”

Ellora caves had left my mother and sister tired from a day in the heat, so my father and I ventured forth into mosque. The lazy breeze in the large courtyard reassured me, my anxiety of breaking unspoken rules quietening down with the sound of the local village elderlies guffawing under a tree, enjoying the last few minutes of daylight. We were pointed to a metal-and-paper banner, hanging precariously from two smaller minarets.

“That’s what you’re looking for!”

We entered the smaller courtyard, shepherded gently into the white marble enclosure on our right. The three simple white screens of marble, carved with the ‘jali’ work of the Deccan barely accommodated the twelve of us, shoulders pressed against each other and backs stuck to the stone. Before us, was a mound, covered with a white cloth and held down by make-shift paper weights of discarded marble. There were a few flowers, withered, and a cluster of a cluster of twigs, bound by thread at the head of the mound.

‘The tomb of the mogul emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir’

That is all four hundred years has left of a man who ruled an empire at its epoch. It is all that has been spared by the mutiny against every thirty-one million seconds of each of those four hundred years. Mere skin and fingers of his body mean nothing without the cities he built, without his name dotted in books and on signboards pointing to streets in a world that didn’t care to wait.

The mahgrib moans from speakers.

In a mosque tucked away in an unnamed town, lost in the ridges of the Sahyadris, maybe he knew that there’s an inevitability we fight while the rotting of our bones reduces us to the sparsity of this his dying wish for anonymity. The cawing of crows and endless violet dusk in the sky above are the only witnesses of our feet walking the earth.

We climbed back into the car and drove out, Pune waiting beyond the hills.

Diaspora

Day 3 of Darshit’s  Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge, which Sheth nominated me for. 

DSC05674

As the bus runs past the blue plastic roofed hut,
The image of tales once told by the old
Of dhoti-clad, bare-chested artisans
Moulding forms of holy myths divine
And faces of doe-eyed goddesses
Lingers in my mind’s eye.
Their dark sienna skin is beaded with
The monsoon rain,
Their long fingers cup scared earth,
Giving birth to the mother
In a land and time not their own.

This picture is from the Durga Puja celebrations in Pune around this time last year. There are Bengalis everywhere in the world, divided only by geography.