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Theme: Civilization Share This Page
Chandni Chowk
by Mukesh Williams
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  Caught in profit and personal gain,
Many trading and service families,
Who had once come from
Tehran, Turbat, or Turkey,
To service the emperor and his daughter,
Mingled, married and settled here,
Transforming the place and
Getting transformed by it.

Amidst the kharid-farokht of bazaars,
You can see many things:
A pastiche of cotton, rubia and silk,
The bravado of many young men,
The furtive looks of cloistered women,
The aesthetics of a bygone era,
The mixing of diverse styles
In public spaces and squares.

In the midst of minarets
And temple bells, you can hear
Hindustani and khari boli
Flying across crowded streets,
In gentle repartee, weaving through
The hustle and bustle of rickshaws pullers,
Pedestrians and bicycle riders.

You can find obscurant centuries
Sliding over each other,
Caught in the shadow of
Narrow winding staircases
Of old stone havelis,
Rubbed with the fragrance
Of quaint forgotten itrs,
Worn by the rich, and literati.

If you're patient with your time
You can watch the impetuous beard
Of some old bookbinder shaking
In the translucent interior of a musty shop
As he hammers golden letters
In Urdu or English
Upon the spine of some old
Leather bound book.

As you emerge
In the cluttered lane of Nai Sarak
You can inhale
The wafting smells of biryani,
Kebabs, tandoori rotis,
Stews, curries and bread,
Creating an evening urgency, hard to resist,

On a hot summer day you can hear
The muezzin's cry cutting through
A flight of pigeons, descending
Into the ears of the devout,
The temple bells clanging
In a shower of marigold, and
Church bells ringing,
Celebrating a marriage or a birth.

As the devout pray, women
Hurry through narrow lanes
Into the busy market place,
Haggling with shopkeepers,
Concluding purchases for the day,
Gathering themselves home
In a flurry of goods
For yet another task at hand.

If you're not too fussy about hygiene
You can enjoy the redolent ambience
Of the cantankerous bird market,
The bustling chaatwallahs,
The obstreperous khonchawallahs,
Then converse with the poor and pinched,
Criticize the recent price rise
And the relocation of the flea market.

As you walk through
Centuries of people and customs
You realize in one graven moment
The inexorable mixing
Of cultures and civilizations, and
After some thought conclude that
Civilizations don't clash,
They just coalesce.

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August 12, 2007
More By: Mukesh Williams
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