On hot summer evenings like these,
I often find myself talking aloud
though there's no one around me.
The sound of my voice surprises me,
falling in the vacant stillness
like splintered glass.
Is someone listening to all that I say?
Can I tame this emptiness around
Each morning I arise,
bleary eyed and restless,
wondering how to face another day.
In the bathroom, I see a line of ants,
diligently crawling to some crevice,
storing food, working incessantly.
Sometimes, they come my way and bite.
I flush them away angrily: death
by water. Then there are roaches
hiding in the dark drains, nosy,
creepy, rustling behind the garbage can.
I seize a broom and beat them about,
clumsily. Thud, thud, thud. It's
Difficult to make a clean killing.
I manage to water the plants,
brush my teeth, open the gate
at the jingle of the milkman,
shave, shit, shower, dress,
boil the milk, toast some bread,
have breakfast--the usual routine--
by then I am tired again.
The days lengthen.
Summer plays havoc
with my books. There's a thick layer
of dust on top of the shelves
which defies cleaning.
The heat is unbearable and
I am utterly beaten
by the complimentary power cut.
I sleep in the nude,
with the balcony door open,
just out of sight of neighbours.
But sometimes I am afraid:
how embarrassing it would be
to expose one's naked, ugly,
ungainly and hairy body,
splayed awkwardly, defenceless,
for all to see.
The house oppresses me with its many walls.
Outside, the streets are dirty and disgusting.
The same surge of humanity everywhere,
the uncleared rubbish and the beggars.
At night a tramp sleeps at the doorstep
of the neighbourhood shop. He is all alone
in the crowd. He never begs during the day
but lies in a daze next to the garbage heap,
dirty and dishevelled. Dogs roam about,
rifling through rubbish, barking smartly
at strangers in the dark. In daylight,
they are a humble lot, cautiously avoiding
the cruel kick or wanton stone
that can so easily strike.
I can identify the curs easily;
their imploring, intelligent eyes
The bandiwalla selling bananas is almost
supercilious, despite his soiled clothes.
He makes a sale with cool smugness.
Sometimes he wishes me, sometimes looks
the other way. At night
he sleeps on the street,
amidst huge heaps
of smelly fruit.
At midnight this world is deserted
except for a few men clustered about
the lone tea shop.
There are a couple of whores too,
in easy concourse, exchanging palaver
with customers. One is diseased and
I see her lying drunk on the street
at mid-noon. She always says,
"Aie dunt wury!"
Once there was a young mad woman
not too bad to look at.
She had no blouse and went about, breasts exposed,
oblivious of the stir she caused.
They would chase her away by throwing
water at her. Finally, someone
gave her a shirt to cover herself.
I never saw her again.
The two neighbourhood movie-halls
are always full.
Streams of pent-up emotions
find daily catharsis here
in confused images
of gyrating fleshy bodies
and gratuitous violence.
there's a week of decibel-rape:
discordant bhajans sung to filmi tunes
blare out on low-fi systems
all through the day,
punctuated, of course,
by the muezzin's five calls
to the faithful.
Come Diwali and the skies light up:
all that black money goes up in smoke.
On the way home from the bus stop,
each evening I change a magazine
at the lending library:
reading trash everyday keeps the blues away.
Sometimes I borrow video movies;
bad prints of sleazy films
penetrate my disturbed dreams.
There are some pleasant moments too:
listening to old songs on akashvani at night
and thinking of absent beloveds.
Or sleeping on the terrace
under the stark, star-shot sky,
and waking up refreshed
at the crack of dawn
with dew on the pillow.
|Copyright © 2005 - Makarand Paranjape|