An Evening in Golconda

Kunwar Narain


. . . and these orchestrations
these points of view
brave-hearts gathered here from so many places
spectators of royalty from so many places
on these ascents
these difficult slopes
monuments standing on tremulous knees about to tumble down
walls that barely tell
roofless rooms from courtyards
on very long very strong crags
the derelict abodes of daredevils
and undaunted falcon flights . . .

With what craft shall we arrange
these dissonant lines
so that ‘bravo’ may echo
in words fluttering like flags—
so that these desolations
may look less desolate.


Right here, where I have sat down tired,
a royal prisoner had decided 
that these etchings scratched out on mute rocks
shall persist
these prayers, the proof of his innocence . . .
he shall return to hear the verdict on these appeals

If we dig around somewhere here
we may find a date engraved on an amulet
when a fortunate king was born
when a king grew bigger than his kingdom
when a king set out to conquer the world
when a king lost to himself and his own . . .
when a proud dynasty kept its head high
against the enveloping darkness,
when Abulhasan put around the neck of Azamshah         
an entire empire sunk in the rubble of deceit
like a regal necklace of pearls . . .
when from this royal mortuary bathed and cleaned
a royal procession came out for the last time . . .


Let me sleep you voices of the near,
wake up in me you silences of the far,
someone is breathing in my lungs.
Fists grip these guns and daggers,
these waistbands, shadows
hang like bats in nooks and corners,
moss creeps up castles like monitor lizards,
bloody hands take off masks
from faces of conspiracy,
a cold evening descends
on the merciful valley of death.


‘Must return home before dark,’
he who drives a taxi knows better
the needs of tourists,
he shows them the ruins and takes them home daily,
he is indifferent
to tourists and ruins, for him time
is the time that passes
at the rapid pace of a meter

Far more difficult
than the battles of the ancestors
of taxi driver Rahmat Ali Shah
or guide Matsa Raj
is the struggle of the two with today,
their resolve to stay undefeated . . .

Apart from the histories of battles and igniting explosives 
there is a third history too
of reconciliation
between the cigarettes of Rahmat Ali Shah
and the matchsticks of Matsa Raj.

translated from the Hindi by Apurva Narain