A small bazaar, in a small place
Growing as the population is growing in geometrical progression
With a name and fame founded on institutions like
Bapu Middle School, Eden High School, Gopeshwar College, and I. T. I. etc.
Farmers from the neighbouring areas, from far and wide
Thronged at the time of Dussehra Festival
Like harmless hordes of horses and bullocks moving towards the maidan
Behind Gopal Mandir, clinking bells, rubbing their hooves
Amid the humming tunes of humans.
We played football near Keshar Bagh beside the High School
Founded in 1881(now renamed after its student, the first President of India),
Well-known for good teaching, good discipline, football matches and
Kavi sammelan and Mushaira on the eve of Saraswati Puja.
Beside the Mosque, behind the Litti-shop of Manmohan
Not very far from Harijan School, Gandhi Ashram are
the toddy stalls and the country liquor shops.
The bazaar is teeming with millions of human faces; gutka-gulping, pan-chewing,
busy talking faces - from dawn to dusk peopled – faces with differing political opinions, faces puzzling and puzzled – uncertain dispositions, uncertain loyalties.
Places are faces of their people, their petty political leaders,
Their blasts and bombasts, their promises and premises
Places are faces of their people,
Their traumas, aspirations, trials and tribulations
Their deities and divinities - deserted -
After a passing storm of prosperity.
Hiding treasures and snakes
Like the Old Forte of the Maharaja
– deserted –disintegrating….
Places are faces of their people
Always changing and changeless
Ripe with wrinkles excited suddenly
With sudden showers of rain
And calamities like a Draupadi
Waiting to be rescued from
The gambler's table in a casino
Nostalgic, waiting to be freed,
By a Krishna who might have said today,
"In the world of Virtual Reality,
I'm the Worldwide Web,
O Draupadi, I shall come again
Crossing space and Time's timeless terrain."
Gopal Mandir is deserted too, the population of the bazaar is found
Squatting at the morning and evening hours of worship.
The winds of liberalization have changed the face of the small place.
Now it is the subdivision of the district with new buildings of banks,
And public schools named St. Paul’s Academy and Rose Bud Academy
With the children of the local population trying
To keep pace with the sudden growth of the nation.
This is the global village of today –
Squatting to jump into another century
Bent double on a laptop – amused by
The fluidity of time and space -
Of oblivion and uncertainty, and
The lonely Lord Gopal is brooding over the dance of destiny
Amid the humdrum homage of humanity
To the peace and progress of the world
Amid the offerings of flowers and fire and fragrance
And furtive glances….
First written in September, 2000 and
Revised during my annual re-visits
With the hope that these words, one day,
One far away day, from a distant
Destination, unreachable and remote in time and space
Will connect me to my birthplace –
The space which is forever
Timeless in my consciousness