A little distance from the waterfall
By a small pool the yellow beach towel lies
On a long warm rock, and near it azaleas grow
And the shadows of thin fish fall
Across the speckled stones, and a light breeze blows
Rippling the skin of the pool, first this way, then that.
A blue-tailed lizard suns itself
And we ourselves as the sun burns through a cloud
Into the rocks, into our cold bones.
Tired, tired, my mind melts in the sun.
An ant crawls over my ankle. I sit up: there
You lie, beautiful, half-nude on the white pebbles,
Cream-coloured breasts open to the breeze and the sky
And a few lines of silver hair in the brown
To announce the burden of your twenty-eight years.
To be chaste, how frustrating for minutes,
How uncomplicated for days - to order fish, chives,
To discuss the rats in our room when the morning gongs
Sound out the monastery routine. To be
Just friends, reverting in a richer vein
To what we were, the way that we once were,
The way I hope, for a while, we may remain.
After six days, with nothing voiced, we are
Perhaps like an aging couple. We do not
Even kiss goodnight yet wake to friendliness.
It is perhaps the tiredness in my mind
Or the fear of the structure set. Unsettledness
Is what I have come to fear. We sit away
From the noise of the waterfall, by a clear pool,
Less conscious of the risk that is not worthwhile
Than of the warm grey boulders and the slopes
That circumscribe our peace, and the warmth of the sun
Melting us into the stones, and the azaleas
Mauve against a sea of pine.
We are clueless as for what the poem is about. Is it about love and loving or the suppression of the fact at the internal level? Is it about friendship just as there is a female persona too with him and he is addressing to say the things of his heart? The things are happening just a little distance away from and he is watching it all with sensuality. Sometimes she comes and he likes to sit with her and view, but what has it happened that still loves her not from his heart nor has the courage and guts to? Is she just a partner for the pleasure sake? We do not know all that as the story is just like the ones we see them in foreign countries. She is a friend for the time being, not a life friend.
A Little Distance is about the joys of swimming and bathing together with; is all about a pleasurable trip and sojourn. Both of them go for a sunbath and enjoy the pleasures of sunbathing. The sea shore, the swimming pool, stones, and the waterfall add to the beauty of the poem and make it scenic and landscape presenting the whole panorama. Seth as a co-visitor captures the photos shared together with, the moments lived with. Just as the travellers travel with, the foreigner tourists come and go away, just as the friends mix up so are the things herein. There is nothing special about it. It is just about a sunbath and roaming of the beach. Everything appears to be hollow and superficial. There is nothing as deep to be felt inwardly. Vikram Seth has failed to grasp what is Indian love.
A little distance away from the waterfall there lies a yellow beach towel by the pool on a long warm rock and this is how the poet starts his poem and nearer to it the azaleas grown and the shadows of the thin fish falling across the spectacled stones. A breeze blows rippling the skin of the pool. A blue-tailed lizard suns itself and a sunniness is spread all around.
The poet feels tired and his mind melts in the sun. An ant craws over his ankle and he sits up. But there on the white pebbles lies she half-nude the female protagonist with the cream-coloured breasts open to the breeze and the sky and a few lines of silver hair in the brown. To speak frankly, it is difficult to be chaste here. How the days pass by! Just as the friends they take the breakfast and go on chatting.
After the expiry of six days, nothing takes place in between them. They remain as they were. They are friends but are unsettled. This is what the poet has said it all and as thus the days keep running. There is nothing as that to kiss her and show affection. Just the goodnight is the last word bade during the night time and they take leave of each other. They are just friends, modern friends and nothing more. But we do not know it what it the interest of the poet if she is just a friend. They sit by the pool and keep watching the things around. What do they want to do, this he says it not. What does he want to do, he also says it not. What is in their hearts it is very difficult to take out? What partners or friends are they, we do not know it.
A Little Distance as a poem is all about temporary love and friendship, a visit to the sea-beach enjoying a sunny warmth spread all over the landscape spanning the waterfall, the pool and the near-by rocks and stones. There is nothing of proposition and disposition, everything is hidden under the wrap of it.
The poem is an exploit of the live-in relationship. Seth is in doldrums if he should love or not and this forms the crux of his life-story. This is the reason for which he prefers the gay as well as the bisexual relationships and is a votary of that. To be or not to be is the Hamletian drama of his, should he love that girl or not, is she likeable and lovely or not? On the one he likes and loves her while on the other takes to her differently. What is the spectacle of his love and loving we do not know it at all nor can we say about. This is but a personal matter. When we read the poem, we get reminded of Goa where the foreigners come for a sojourn, a sunbath, a tour and a change.
Though we call him an Indian English poet, he is very much like an NRI, shuttling in between America and India. A student of economics, he has got his maximum schooling in foreign and has visited many Asian and European countries. While in China for research, Chinese poetry drew him so close. The manuscript of his first of poetry was not accepted in the West, but was brought out finally by Writers Workshop, Calcutta before being popular. Call him the suitable or unsuitable boy of Indian English poetry, he has come far, very far from where one cannot look behind, such is the name and accolade of his.
A Little Distance is a modern love story where hearts matter it not, only partnerships make a way for. They are fellow travelers, tourists, visitors, not life partners, nor lovers of any kind. Just as the holidayers, picnickers and hoteliers go for an outing similar is the case herein. One who often keeps visiting from place to place remains it not attached to anyone. A foreigner girl bathing on the sea-beach too may be the point of deliberation and he looking her with so much so love and affection. The blonde beauty, she is perhaps not of India, but of the West, which but only Vikram can say it if enquired and he says it in response to. Where did he meet her by the Atlantic or the Pacific? Where? We do not understand if she is some ex-girlfriend of his.