Allahabad

By ARI SITAS

from Around the World in Eighty Days: The India Section

 

It was important to have a conversation with
Pandit Nehru in Allahabad
After the visitors left the fine house
We sat down for tea
Overlooking the confluence of the sacred rivers
I marveled at the variety of trees
—So Pandit how is the dream?
—Fine. Stronger than ever: even when we lose, we win
And when we win, we win. It was a dream now it has its emanations
—But the dream is declared a nightmare by many
—Look at the trees. Each tree has at least four postmodernists—
or, what do you call them?—
post-colonials chirring. They face this way and they are lambasting
the dream. If the
dream goes they are gone, there is nothing, all is meaningless.
—How so?
—It is right that the Communists strive for revolution—CPIM—
they think it is right and we
think it is right that they are wrong. Take the Maoists, they think
that the dream stalls the revolution; it is right that my friend EMS
thought they were wrong and it is right that we
think both are wrong. Take the dream away, they are nothing. It is also
right that the
communalists strive for Hindutva, and it is right that we think
they wrong. Take the dream
away, they are nothing. Should I talk about the Dalits? It is right that
they think the caste
order remains, it is right that we think they wrong. This is dialectics:
the dream is both
the space and time for the molecules to clash and shape.

—The Congress is not where you left it, Pandit!
—It either serves the dream or doesn’t, that’s all.
—What about the woman who sits under a tree at night,
crying to the heavens?
—We cry with her.
—What about the squalor, the misery, the utter disregard for
the spinner, the plougher, the
weaver, the child that dies at 14 from overwork?
—They were the reason for the dream.
—So all is well?
—Better than ever. India is real. Even if we lose, we win—
the dream is both the essence
and the existence.
The two women wafted through the streets instead, in the
company of a disheveled Nirala—to get provisions for the train
ride to Bengal. They came back with no toiletries, hampers,
dresses or shawls. They returned with poetic metaphors instead:
chrysanthemums, spinning wheels and shrouds.
Time to leave Triveni Sangam as the crickets in the ancient trees
started chirring industrial policy ragas.

 

 

Ari Sitas is a poet, dramatist, and sociologist.

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Allahabad

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