For Calcutta by Manash Bhattacharjee

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As I leave for Calcutta
I think the city
Always that other city
Its river Ganga
Always my other river
Howrah Bridge
What a colonial cradle
A Raj suspended
Kipling’s imperial joy
Hoogly below
Flows older than time
Soothing hearts
River rowed with song
Of undying love
God familiar boatman
With a name
Now none remembers

City of modest curtains
A canvas of wilted time
Buildings of lost colour
Windows of empty eyes
Crowds of salt and sun
Sweats in rushing blood
Searching for old lovers
Or the roadside teashop
A limping beggar pauses
Before slogans of justice
Grey photographs hang
Marx, Lenin and Engels
Names of grim factories
Names of old chimneys
Ideas sold in bookstores
Rage of all conversations

Calcutta is nostalgia
Mad for running boots
Split by jersey colour
Polite despite humidity
Vehicles in no hurry
Pausing for pedestrians
No one is apologetic
For not arriving on time
The naked goddess
Clothed before it is late
Calcutta surreal city
Where Bhaskar dreamt
Trams floating on air
And Nabarun met Hegel
In a slaughtered goat’s
Dead vision upside down

My memories of Calcutta
Flowers picked in a hurry
To cheer her face of grass
Cajole her hesitant breasts
A smoky evening of saliva
Smuggled by contrary lips
An open wound salivating
Below the saddest clouds
Scolded by the granduncle
“You are late for your age,
And the English grammar
Is still not up to the mark”

And pity I couldn’t tell him
Kisses don’t need grammar. 

by Manash Bhattacharjee

Manash Bhattacharjee is a poet from New Delhi. His first collection of poetry, Ghalib’s Tomb and Other Poems, was published by The London Magazine.)