Treasure Island

Dilip Chitre

(17 September 1938 – 10 December 2009 / Gujarat / India)

The view from Chinchpokli


A fouled Sun rises from behind the textile mills
As I crawl out of my nightmares and hobble
To the sink. Then I luxuriate in the toilet
While my unprivileged compatriots of Parel Road Cross Lane
Defecate along the stone wall of Byculla Goods Depot.
I shudder at the thought of going out of this lane
Towards the main road. Hundreds of workers are already returning
From the night-shift, crossing the railway lines.
The bus stop is already crowded. I begin to read
The morning's papers and cover my naked mind
With global events. The ceiling fan whirs, but I sweat.
I breathe in the sulphur dioxide emitted
By the Bombay Gas Company, blended with specks of cotton
And carbon particles discharged by the mills
That clothe millions of loins. Then I shave and shower,
Dismissing all untouchables from my mind, fearing
More palpable pollution. On my way out
I shall throw a used condom and a crumpled pack of cigarettes
Into the garbage. And like a glorious Hindu hero,
Reluctantly riding his chariot to the centre of the battlefield,
I will take a cab to the Manhattan-like
Unreality of Nariman Point. There I will shape India's destiny
Using my immaculate gift. I will ride in a taxi.
I will pass the Victoria Gardens Zoo without blinking.
Byculla Bridge will give me the first line of a poem,
And the Christians, Jews, and Muslims on my way
Will inspire a brilliant critique of contemporary
Indian culture. Of course, I will ignore
The junk-shops, the tea-houses, the restaurants, the markets
I zig-zag through. I shall smoothly go past
The Institute of Art, Anjuman-e-Islam, The Times of India,
The Bombay Municipal Corporation, and Victoria Terminus.
If I glance at Flora Fountain or the Bombay High Court,
It will be an absent-minded observation
And if I seem to look at the University of Bombay's
Clock-tower and buildings it will only be the sulking
Stare of a dirty-minded alma mater-fucker at the old hag herself.
But beyond all lies my daily sigh of relief
Because the gross millions are temporarily out of sight.
Some culture is possible in that half a square mile
Where the wall of India cracks open and the sea is visible.
At Chinchpokli, once I return in the evening,
I plot seductions and rapes, plan masterpieces
Of evasion. The loudspeakers blare at me.
Bedbugs bite me. Cockroaches hover about my soul.
Mice scurry around my metaphysics, mosquitoes sing among my lyrics
Lizards crawl over my religion, spiders infest my politics.
I itch. I become horny. I booze. I want to get smashed.
And I do. It comes easy at Chinchpokli,
Where, like a minor Hindu god, I am stoned
By the misery of my worshippers and by my own
Triumphant impotence.

[Translated by Viju Chitre, from: As Is Where Is: Selected Poems ]

Submitted: Thursday, March 29, 2012

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