"The bus is coming;
I can hear its rumble in the distance.
You can now stop elaborating your dressing.
Aren't we going only to the temple?"
Still you persisted, O great one,
The bus came, went.
We stood dejected
under the banyan tree.
Now one must reach
the bus stand for another bus,
a distance of two or three miles.
We can save the distance
if we go across the paddy fields, you said.
Paddy fields in the rainy season?
I hummed a half-consent.
Just the green tips
of the tender rice plants
and the veins of the bunds
-everything else is submerged in water.
Not a single stork’s white wing is moving.
The kaitha-plants are up to their necks in water.
The sky with its jostling clouds
looks like a muddy field
ploughed up with many teams of buffaloes
in the early morning light.
"It's slippery here." "This bund is better."
Although uttering such
occasional words of politeness,
we moved slowly forward
along the way
maintaining a mutual silence
as far as possible.
At the bottom of that silence,
in spite of so much liking for each other,
were feelings exacerbated by
thoughts of being slighted,
envious resentments –
as beneath cloudy skies
along fields of tears,
two deluded souls moved forward
with unsteady steps,
while the sound
of their suppressed cry
could be heard
like the distant sound
of water that somewhere
has burst a barrier.
Feet slipping at edges,
and beaten by a rain
that ignored our umbrellas,
as we were edging forward,
we remembered –
In a gone season of mists,
in the rose garden of a marriage
that now has become
mostly a patch of brambles,
we were returning carrying flowers
after a darshan at our beloved Durga temple.
Spider webs bearing morning’s dew-drops
like pearls shone on ripe rice plants
that lay on their sides.
I remember how, on this same bund
that was clear then,
I ran forward with delight;
while you, unable to catch up,
cried out to me to stop.
And now I am behind,
but only because of the burden of grief.
Watching you go now
pulling up the edges of your saree,
and seeing your tender ankle
with its soft down, I feel pitiful:
Forsaking flower-strewn avenues,
oh pure one, how you have chosen
the pasty mud of these field-bunds!
In every hole in the bunds,
we saw crabs welcoming the rain.
They did not nip us,
possibly thinking that
these were pitiable people
who had already injured each other
with their distorted love.
It's seven thirty now;
but the western edge
of the fields is still
distant and unattainable.
In this way we walked,
and reached the side of the canal
that I once had described
as the hair-parting of this stretch of fields.
There used to be a bridge
in the shape of a wooden plank,
which the flow of water
had thrown away somewhere!
Although you tried to stop me,
I said "It is just possible to cross here"
and went down to try the depth
of the water with my legs.
But the flow of water,
like a rope made up of
a hundred thousand twisted strands,
caught me and pushed me down.
In the tears in your eyes,
the depth of a love
that makes even death
relent was then revealed.
Somehow I climbed back on the shore,
and saw the humour of the water
displayed on my clothes.
We laughed in our distress.
On a bit of raised land towards the south,
a boy sat like a stone, seeing everything.
How unfeeling is the new generation!
We went a little distance to change
out of the wet clothes.
You had a fresh dhoti
in your leather bag,
meant for the temple;
I removed my wet clothes,
and also my mind’s distress.
"Let’s go back home," you said.
But how can we admit defeat
in a matter which is begun?
And how can we fail to do
obeisance at the temple?
I recalled how, some days
before our marriage,
you had asked me,
"Aren't you a believer in God?"
I escaped the question,
saying that I was and wasn't;
but later you made me
go to your beloved Durga temple.
Six miles distant, to the north of
coconut groves, behind rocks
that stood like bathing elephants,
with loud streams on three sides,
an aged peepal tree in front,
banana groves all around,
parrots in the rice fields,
and blue hills steaming,
stood the temple; and to me,
coming to it in love
with my beloved mate,
it gave the goddess of nature’s
blessings and gifts.
This Durga, who gave us peace
even in times of distress,
this village goddess
at the edge of the forest –
how will she be to look at now?
In these monsoon rains,
after submerging the bridge
that was meant for people to climb up;
scattering her dark hair in the wind,
making even the aged peepal tree shudder,
drinking the ruddy water of the streams,
she must be roaring and dancing now,
while the nearby hills give out smoke
like a cremation done with wet wood.
If we go to her now, with our minds clouded
with mutual resentments, how can it be right?
But go, we must.
We proceeded again, along the thin bund,
looking for the narrow
neck of the life-threatening canal.
I jumped across; but what of it?
On the other side, there are no fields
and no bunds – only a stretch of water!
And you cannot even jump.
I crossed over again,
over the swirling water of the canal,
and came back to your side,
while you stood frightened.
Even then, one could see,
on the raised bit of land to the south,
the boy seated like a granite stone,
looking at us!
What a world!
We went back to the place
where we had changed
out of our wet clothes,
and stood there.
The rain lessened.
I said, "Look at that cloud
which is like the frowning brows of the sky."
You looked up listlessly
and hummed your assent,
listening to my completely
inopportune attempt at metaphor.
There was contempt in that assent.
How can my fancy and your reality meet?
You still murmur in your mind,
"If one comes to the temple
with only half a mind,
this will be the result."
And my mind pleads,
"You made us miss the bus,
oh my temple dove.
Now the fields shall be our holy dip!"
“Aren’t you an unbeliever in God?”
"Aren't your vedas four--
temple visits, astrology, Hindi, and sleep?"
(It is in the case of country people that
domestic strife issues in loud quarrels; for the
civilized, there is only silent cold war!)
How much of marriage is just obeying rules,
how much is tact, how much is pretence?
Digging deeper and deeper,
we reach the dirt of unsavoury
memories and end up in hell.
In an unkind world we are isolated,
and again isolated from each other.
If we had never been born in this world,
if we had never met each other,
never loved and hated!
At that time we saw two people
coming from the east,
an ordinary village couple.
Although no longer young,
owing to life-long physical work
that showed in the way they walked,
they quickly came up and
jumped across the narrow bottle neck
of the canal with ease.
(The man cleverly jumped across
and then, holding the woman’s hand,
made her cross too.)
Without hesitation, so naturally,
with so much love, and without
any show, they did this!
Placing their feet along the submerged bunds,
they went as if walking on water.
And we did the same;
first crossing the canal,
I made you cross
holding your hand,
with some effort.
Although it looked
as if the dam of the clouds
would burst at any time now
and we would be made to wander helplessly,
nothing like that happened;
it didn’t rain, praise be to God.
And we went placing our feet
cleverly on bunds that were just under water.
And how our tear-submerged lives'
difficult word puzzle became easy!
When we climbed on to the big bund and
went forward, finally the cloud’s threatening
face became rain, became laughter,
became the sweet song of water
flowing in a thousand ways.
And that song resounded in our minds too,
and the scent of the kaitha-flowers flowed
in the cool air.
Where did that generous rustic man go?
While he went holding
an umbrella over his mate,
I who saw and followed you
with renewed pride in my love
created a rainbow above the two of you.
At that time there appeared
on the southern shore of the fields
our landlord, who – after early ablutions,
with sandal-paste on his forehead,
donning pure white clothes,
and having finished his breakfast –
had come out to see the rain’s
We forgave even him; and then we went and
made our obeisance to the goddess
who shatters all our sorrows, our Durga.