Ashok Vajpeyi

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We have not given up hope
though we know
in the end
we will live in the place
we do not wish to.

At the beginning
we will be unhappy
even restless,
we will not like -
the peepul tree opposite,
the ever-coughing neighbour,
children yelling out film songs
hordes of pariah dogs barking
throughout the night,
the unseasonal weather too.

Then we will reassure ourselves
what have we to do with all this -
a few days more
and we move on.

As time passes
in the evenings
we too will sit on the platform
under the peepul tree,
greet, with folded hands,
the old man passing by,
scatter grains in the courtyard
for birds to peck at.

We will then hedge
our small piece of land,
musing one afternoon
that we need to do something
since we have to live just here.

There will be hope
but like an old garment
its colours will fade
with time,
then we will hang it
over a peg.

We will stop then
going for walks
beyond the bend
and like a word
from an old song
forget there was a place beyond
where we hoped to live.

Neither here, nor there
neither in hope
nor in despair
we will remain just there
where we do not want to.
The day will be brimming with people
night shelters full
we will find a place
only at dusk.

In the ledgers of the ageing gods
there will be no mention of us
the documents
that record virtues, vices
will have no transactions
in our name.

At Heaven's gate
we will stand bashful,
in the frightening din of Hell
defeated we will be.

In the remaining flame
of our courage
we will get lost
midst lanes and houses,
our lost forefathers
meandering, empty-handed.

From a divine window
we will look at the earth,
not recognizing
our small house.

In our love, alone
as always
in our courage, alone
at dusk
all alone.
Consigned to a shallow river
are father's mortal remains,
mother keeps appearing often
in poems,
spread in front
a neem tree, its ancestral shade.

Time that has gone by
comes again,
like a metre, repeating itself.

We are not
what our forefathers were
and our parents,
yet again
we are what they were.

Our home is the one
made by our forefathers -
like water we flow
here and there
carving a path,
meandering, happy
coming down a slope,
from the rock
into a waterfall,
like an unexpected shower
in the evening
waking up the plants at night
becoming a wonder
in the morning glow,
do we arrive in the end
at the shores of our forefathers?
How will Mother know
we have come back
to her home
after so many years?

For a while she will be surprised
thrown into disbelief
by our faces laden with dust -
then she will recognize us
scaling heights of joy
plumbing depths of sorrow

Her home will not be
near the Ganges
or under the shade
of a sacred grove,
she would have rented out
a house, as usual
in a crowded locality
filled with noise.

Then Father will come
as always look at us
without a word
finish off his dinner
laid out on the table
clearing his throat
search for some sweets
in the cupboard.

Tired we will fall asleep
wake up next morning
as if living there
for years,
leaving one home
we will move on to another
as if it were
the same home.
From the heap of names, future and dried-up leaves
growing despair and incongruous childhood words
from tales entangled in time, darkness
verandahs and a rickety basket
what shall we offer
in our cupped hands, as a prayer?

Looking at the deeply etched lines in our empty palms
the unclear silence dried up on the lips
what can we offer to our God
who has deserted us?

We will keep waiting, window wide open
hover around the threshold of possibilities
dejected, we will look at
the blown-out lamps and dried-up flowers
we will sit in a corner
of a temple, aimless.

We will go out
like an uproar spreading
we will come inside
like silence.

Like an interpolated passage
expelled from holy scripture
where shall we go?


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5/7/2021 12:13:22 AM #