Gieve Patel

(18 August 1940 - / Mumbai / India)

From Bombay Central - Poem by Gieve Patel

The Saurashtra Express waits to start
Chained patiently to the platform,
Good pet, while I clamber in
To take my reserved window seat
And settle into the half-empty compartment’s
Cool; the odour of human manure
Vague and sharp drifts in
From adjoining platforms.
The station’s population of porters,
Stall-keepers, toughs and vagabonds relieve themselves
Ticketless, into the bowels of these waiting pets;
Gujarat Mail, Delhi Janata, Bulsar Express,
Quiet linear beasts,
Offering unguarded toilets to a wave
Of non-passengers, Bombay Central’s
In-residence population.

That odour does not offend.
The station’s high and cool vault
Sucks it up and sprays down instead,
Interspersed with miraculous, heraldic
Shafts of sunlight, an eternal
Station odour, amalgam
Of diesel oil, hot steel, cool rails,
Light and shadow, human sweat,
Metallic distillations, dung, urine,
Newspaper ink, Parle’s Gluco Biscuits,
And sharp noisy sprays of water from taps
With worn-out bushes, all
Hitting the nostril as one singular
Invariable atmospheric thing,
Seeping into your clothing
The way cigarette smoke and air-conditioning
Seep into you at cinema halls.
I sink back into my hard wooden
Third-class seat, buffered by
This odour, as by a divine cushion.
And do not suspect that this ride
Will be for me the beginning of a meditation
On the nature of truth and beauty.

[From: Mirrored, Mirroring;
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1991]

Comments about From Bombay Central by Gieve Patel

  • Sylvia Frances Chan (5/22/2019 5:43:00 AM)

    I had been in Mumbai, I was there, but all times with the taxi, never been on a train, since it was crowded constantly, my dear aquaintances forbade me to go by train, wherever I went, I was always accompanied by their family. Mumbai is cozy, friendly and dangerous, that´s why. The truth they never told me. Amazing poem about Mumbai. (Report)Reply

    Sylvia Frances Chan(5/22/2019 5:49:00 AM)

    I have it here about the word: " acquaintances" the second line, is an error. Thank you.

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  • (9/8/2016 6:59:00 AM)

    Amazingly portrayed.. (Report)Reply

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  • Susan Williams (1/19/2016 3:44:00 PM)

    He certainly put me and all my senses right smack dab in the middle of Bombay Station. I wonder now if I would be lying if I said I've been there (Report)Reply

    25 person liked.
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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, June 19, 2012

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