For Prof. MP Singh
I went to Daryaganj yesterday
And thought of you.
The book bazaar has changed name, place and destination,
Filled with pulp and cramming guides.
Odds and ends, broken down hovels
Ancient inns masquearading as hotels,
Tea shacks as before, with adrak wali chai, poured fresh from pan.
The old police station, those colonial arcades still resplendent
New bag sellers bark: keep it back!
When I spend an extra moment, trying to read the fine print.
Biryani shacks open, but no one there.
So, I was thinking of visiting, unannounced, spending some time with you
Discussing this and that, nothing scholarly,
Just how things are.
I was thinking of this - over lunch - nice naan, kulcha well stuffed
Onion and aloo, some masoor dal made specially for me
A kebab or two, and lots of green salad days,
Remembering what books meant then,
Now, just a biography of Leonard Woolf stays aloof
From the crowd of pedestrian exam guides.
A collection of English comic writings, nothing more.
The sun set here long ago.
Dilapidation cannot last forever.
New things take over.
But there is something still peeping from those rickety blinds
Perhaps the wood of long ago, squared with the past.
Humour or shade, who knows, who cares,
As curtains part - once- briefly, perhaps it is the wind.
No, it must be something else, but nothing shows up
During daylight hours.
The rickshaw puller resting on the pavement,
Reading a Hindi newspaper, an op-ed on India and China.
He is not speaking to anyone.
A bunch of gamblers place their bets about a pack of cards.
Some laughter rings from closed shutters.
Golcha, the movie hall, now gone with the wind.
A faded line about the last movie shown.
Kahaani -Part 2, the sequel, but no posters now beckon.
Maybe there is one more act, still to follow.
Reborn as multiplex, as butter popcorn and fine coffee.
Later, the ubiquitous metro stairs and metro queue
Longer than the journey.
I even think of calling you, but you must be reading –
or - inside your siesta.
Later in the evening, your son texts me.
You are in critical care.
Your son and I exchange notes, on medicines and prognosis.
We think you can make it
For one more cup of tea, just you and me
In the narrow lanes of Daryaganj.
And perhaps we can find our place in the midday sun,
Between the muddy galli and the road to nowhere.
Perhaps, this time, we will pick up
That old conversation about right and duty
And I will once again, talk of freedom
While you brew some more tea over dignity.
Amlanjyoti Goswami's new book of poetry, Vital Signs (Poetrywala) follows his widely reviewed collection, River Wedding (Poetrywala). Published in journals and anthologies across the world, including Poetry, The Poetry Review, Penguin Vintage, Rattle and Sahitya Akademi, he is also a Best of the Net and Pushcart nominee. His work has appeared on street walls of Christchurch, buses in Philadelphia, exhibitions in Johannesburg and an e-gallery in Brighton. He has reviewed poetry for Modern Poetry in Translation and has read at various places, including New York, Boston and Delhi. He grew up in Guwahati, Assam and lives in Delhi.