From Bombay Central Poem by Gieve Patel

From Bombay Central

Rating: 3.5


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 OF THE POEM
Susan Williams 19 January 2016

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

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Sylvia Frances Chan 22 May 2019

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.

1 0 Reply

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

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Edward Kofi Louis 07 July 2020

Means of transportation! ! The people! ! ! With the muse of the train. Thanks for sharing this poem with us.

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Dr Antony Theodore 07 July 2020

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, a very fine poem. tony

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Ratnakar Mandlik 07 July 2020

The factual portrayal of the panorama in and around Bombay centrl railway station and a train standing there gives a feeling of being there in first person. Well deserved modern poem of the day.

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Juliet Languedoc 07 July 2020

Powerful description of compiling the good, bad, and mix up such a disguise

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Sylvia Frances Chan 07 July 2020

3) I was very shocked.After that moment I understood their concern. Congratulations for being honoured as the Member Poem Of The Day, Gieve Sir. You wrote here an excellent photography of Bombay Central. Fantastic!

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Sylvia Frances Chan 07 July 2020

2) That was too crowded, so during my stay we only saw nature and the many many beautiful parks with all kinds of animals. BUT This Mumbai is not that Bombay anno 1991 as the poet described. And I was brought constantly by a taxi together with the family. Later they told me that India was the most dangerous (one of the five most dangerous countries in the world, they showed me the world's statistics.

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Sylvia Frances Chan 07 July 2020

As I have told here below, I had been in Mumbay Bay near the Queen's necklace. I wished to go to Bollywood, but my acquaintance told me that Bollywood consists of several parts, not one big place, but several smaller parts throughout Mumbai (India) , altogether they are Bollywood.

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