"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, 
prettifying yourself. 

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 
love’s selfishnesses, 
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 
agricultural effort.

We forgave even him; and then we went and 
made our obeisance to the goddess 
who shatters all our sorrows, our Durga.