Poem by Krishna Prasai
MY FATHER IN REVERIE
Connived by a stranger some seven decades back
My father reportedly sneaked into a foreign land to hunt for pelf;
He saw town before anyone in his village did
Sold from the hand of his own villager at a spot in Ghum Pahad
He set for Dehradun, Kashmir, Malaya and beyond
With a gun set in hand by a foreigner,
Dropped his middle name ‘Prasad’ and adopted ‘Bahadur’
And only then, he started comprehending what a foreign land was.
With father’s name, I am contemplating
The antique age of the hill
Where, there was a path but no boots
There were things, but no strength
There were stacks of home-grown crops
Fruits, vegetables and cereals grew prodigally
Doomed to rot on ridges and farms before being fetched to the marketplace
Or got cooked as cattle-porridge in a pig-iron caldron.
What to talk of the present time!
When the digital air has intruded into the village
Even the dung-pile is sold away in town via e-mail
The village is upset; not even in talking-terms with Father
And has stopped caring for his olden ways—
At times, it stares as though it would maul him
Taking Father’s thoughts as out-of-place.
Like a bugle, blown by war all of a sudden,
Facebook, Skype and Viber in succession
Have claimed all the progenies of Father;
The new intruders have, in no time,
Extended their grips!
Enduring through all these recent inventions,
Father brings back in reveries his own olden times,
Alas, that terrible Second World War,
Macabre Burma, deluged by a downpour of mortared cloud
Airawati River, laced with human blood everywhere
The charge of the Japanese soldiers in the dense forest
Innumerable corpses from both the ends
The ooze from falling friends gathered into a pool,
The gruesome death-scene of a friend recruited same day as him
Now dying writhing, pegged by a sharp lance,
The stale food—a share of the dead friend—and the stinking daal
Retrieved from under the clotted blood for saving life
The English beauty, who served him in Dhaka’s Maina Moti Hospital where he lay injured,
The promotion to the post of Subedar he earned
For polishing shoes into shining black
A different brass medal for slaying dozens of foes,
The tin-tank carried along on six-month leave to Hang-Pang, Seven years later
The half-year time a thread-bound letter with
Death-news took to reach the village;
Doomed to be torn by the marty’s own wife
As though it belonged to this second wife
The black-and-white pictures with the white air-hostess in a skirt
And fair like a freshly washed carrot.
Recalling every episode of the past, Father wakes up time and again
Seeking himself in the transformed moments.
Wrinkling a forehead that bears scars of grenades and bullets, Like his backbone and shoulders,
My father, one hundred years old now
Is reading the fresh newspaper in this own language
Out of the press just today.