I can but won’t go

At Kivarli, under a yellow bulb outside the stone house, a boy runs. Behind him, a cracker explodes. There are no houses in the distance.


A bell hangs at the centre of the platform. As the train moves, a middle-aged mustachioed man sits upright on his desk. Behind him, dials with needles flicker, and red and yellow lights blink against the stillness of the night. Not half as many stars are seen from Delhi.


‘You speak of it as a small country. Go to Dhaka. You’d want to kiss the streets.’

It was his first day driving an auto in the city. He wore a checkered shirt and grey trousers exuding priceless, ordinary warmth that makes one direly long for the homeland in this deserted capital.


‘Jete padi kintu jabo na’


On the unpaved path up the water tank, sitting by a rock, I lit a joint. On a bench outside the canteen, a group of kids licked candies, throwing the wrappers around, restless to go somewhere, anywhere.

An elderly man spoke in the native tongue, ‘Dabba ma naakhi de.’

The kid replied, ‘Dabbo gyo aeni baen ne chodava’

It is sunny. Too hot for October in a little town off the western coast of Gujarat. Seems like June. There are small outgrowths around. Maize and cacti, mostly.


The coach attendant refuses the lone cigarette and asks for mava over the rattling sound of the goods train speeding outside. He’s from Bavangarh, he mentions without being asked.


At the boundary of a field in Beaver, a dog fed on a dead cow, half skeleton.


‘Pluck the blood: my words will echo thus, at the sunset, by the ivy, but to what purpose?’*



* from The Pastoral, Agha Shahid Ali


Under a thatch roof by the bend uphill, he sat across an acquaintance made a while ago by dint of the colour of his skin. A group of guys from Delhi sprawled on the next table fixing a chillum every now and then. Mirek had been sitting there since dawn. When one of them asked him to share some of his hash, he fished out an ornate, little box and gave them a stick.

After so many years, I still do not trust people, he said. It’s too fleeting a trust on myself I cling onto.

Across the edge loom green hills of the Parvati Valley warm under the afternoon sun. Lapos is still far away. The breeze is cold but pleasant; the kettle constantly on the boil. Wafts of smoke surround them. Every now and then, a shepherd or a cow herder passes them headed toward a small village a few hours along the trek. Horses carry grocery supplies to the seasonal tents at the top of the hill who charge the travelers three, or often, four times the price.

‘This is a beautiful country with the most abhorrent people. But it’s different in the hills. The hills don’t retain any traces.’

What to speak of this nomadic existence dimmed by years of trawling through distant lands, returning seemingly to inhabit the same vacuous space one could not call home?

His head bowed towards his feet, he says, ‘I have changed, I believe I have. But people just don’t see it.’