Mermaid

I dreamed of bumping into you suddenly,

say, at Teen Murti house,

or at the Times of India building,

and imagined what I'd do then:

give you a big hug and a kiss,

unable to restrain my happiness

on seeing you after twelve years?

 

Your long, straight, glossy hair

would have done a shampoo commercial proud.

The hooked nose

only added character.

You had a grandmother's benign smile,

but such petulant eyes.

Though terribly insecure,

you always seemed so sure of yourself.

I still remember some of your famous lines:

“Are you asking me out on a date?

Then say so, don’t say ‘Do you see movies?’”

“Incidentally, I don’t go out on dates.”

"I know I'm attractive, though not beautiful...”

“Just because I'm liberated doesn't mean I'm available...”

All your admirers had them by heart

we rehearsed them and laughed.

 

At last, you held my hand on the abandoned stairway

leading to the roof of your college.

Before I could begin to appreciate the sensation

we were surprised by a puritanical lecturer

on the prowl, who threatened to report us.

You told him off with characteristic confidence:

"We know what we are doing,

we don't need you to guard our morals."

The poor man was too taken aback to answer.

 

Yes, the Hauz Khas poem actually

belongs to you, though it occurs in her book.

Remember how we visited the village

before any of the boutiques had come up.

There were reams upon reams of dyed cloth,

in myriad bright colours,

stretched to dry in the sun,

like swathes of a rainbow, descended on earth.

We also visited Mulk Raj Anand's famous house,

but found that he was in Bombay.

Then to Feroze Shah's tomb and madarsa

which was our favourite haunt.

 

How proud you were when I took a taxi

from the University all the way to your place

just to wish you happy birthday.

I picked up the flowers at C.P.

and called to ask if I could visit at 6:00 p.m.

You told your dad, "You can set your watch

by him.  It has to be six o'clock now"

as I was announced and introduced.

You were the happiest that day.

How intensely as we talked, dreaming

of great things:  “We’ll change the world,”

you boasted:  “you'll be like Sartre,

and I, Simone de Beauvoir."

Of course, I proposed to you.

Then why did you not accept me?

"I’m not sure I love you--" you often said,

"don’t you know how badly Sartre treated de Beauvoir…?"

You went off to the U.S. with someone else

but that broke up too, I heard.

Finally, it was clear

that you'd never really be able

to let go of yourself.  You were too

scared of losing control, of heartbreak,

of needing somebody else.

I once wrote to you

just after I'd married her

that I loved you and only you.

I showed her the letter and hurt all three of us.

 

But time passes and with it

what once was so precious

is hardly worth preserving now:

“I’m just an aging spinster,”

you say when we meet,

“do you still want to be my friend?”

You’re tone is light and ironic,

but why is there a wistful look in your eyes?

Back to Selected Poems from Partial Disclosure

 
  Copyright © 2005 - Makarand Paranjape