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


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