Makarand Paranjape

(31 August 1960 - / Ahmedabad, Gujarat / India)

Hauz-i-Khas


Approach
The path is six hundred years old.
On the way you will see peacocks
And, if you are lucky, some deer.
From this parapet
The empty, dried lake looks like
An immense ditch,
A grotesque seventy-acre dugout—
A gouged eye of earth.
The old emperor chose this quiet spot
For his grave. There he is-
In a simple enclosure of sandstone
That anyone can approach.
Beside him lie a son and a grandson
To keep him company, perhaps.

Does she remember
How this place intrigued us?
We haunted it constantly,
Walking here from her house
To be alone, together.
We speculated upon these ruins
From the sketchy tourist notice
Put at the entrance by the archaeological survey:
Just this brief walk would turn centuries.
We sat overlooking the pit,
Holding hands sometimes
While the attendant slyly looked on.
Does she remember
The December sun soaking into us?
And how one day
The birds flew away when we came,
Flapping in an enormous mottled flock from the tomb.
'They're migrating,' she pronounced,
In her characteristic, solemn, symbolic way.
Does she remember?

This hollow goes back to times before Altamash.
But it was Firoz Shah who made it a lake
Cementing the sides, clearing the bottom,
Sealing it to hold water.
The college, which Firoz Shah also built,
Is almost in ruins.
Only the pillared assembly hall still stands.

The lawns are well-maintained
And the walls of the tomb
Are not disfigured
With the names of vain lovers.

Night.
In the steely moonlight,
The royal lake slowly fills up
Before my eyes.
I hear the ripple of gentle water.
Behind me, the scholars are asleep
In their cramped quarters.
The burly, heavily armed Afghan guard,
With a sharp, close-cut beard
Dozes, leaning on his spear.
From the dark
An old Mulla in his long black cloak
Walks into the balcony
Counting his beads,
His white beard quivering...
It's time for the last prayer of the day.

From a distance
I watch the light in her house
Go out.

Submitted: Wednesday, March 28, 2012

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