The Love Song of N. Tanashah Godi

Let us go then, Mitron.
When the evening is spread out against the saffron sky
Like I lie prostrated before Purushottam;
Let us go, through madly ecstatic streets,
The proud drumbeats
Of jubilant nights along holy riversides
And mighty mandirs and clamouring conch shells.
Streets that follow like a euphoric fellow,
Stomach empty and eyes hollow
To lead you to an overwhelming question…
Oh, do not ask, “Where is it?”
Let us go and fake it.

In the room the ghosts come and go
Talking of my bravado.

The yellow fire that rubs its back upon the sandstone wall,
The yellow blaze that rubs its muzzle on the high dome,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the columns,
Lingered upon the red pools on the road,
Let fall upon its back the ash that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a loud festive night,
Leaped once about the Vista, and soared in might.

And indeed it is time–
For the yellow fire that marches down the street,
Rubbing its foot upon needless beings.
It is time, it is time
To wear a face to meet the faces that I meet.
It is time to murder and destroy,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a command on your plate;
Time for me and my men,
And time for a hundred ‘historic’ decisions,
And for a hundred visions and mega visions,
And the taking of blood and tea.

In the room the ghosts come and go
Talking of my bravado.

And indeed it is time
To assert, “I dared!” and “I dared!”
Time to march ahead and ascend the stair,
With a spotless beard and a silk smooth hair—
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My embroidered coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My pagdi bright and bold, asserted by a diamond pin—
(They will say: “But how his heart is shrinking!”)
I dared
Disarray the universe.
In a moment there is time
For decisions and visions which a moment will preserve.

For I know them all already, know them all
Know the real and the sham,
I have measured out my life in holograms;
I know the voices dying with despair
Beneath the megaphone.
But why should I care?

And I know these eyes, known them all—
The eyes that revere you as the prophetic sage,
And when I am enthroned, high and strong,
When I am well framed on the wall,
Then how should I stand
The questions that disturb my days and ways?
And why should I oblige?

And I know the arms already, know them all—
Arms that are wrapped with holy threads and stones
(But in the lamplight, downed with putrid bloody bones!)
Is it the stench from my dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along my table, or wrap about my God.
And should I then rejoice?
Oh why should I not?

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through emasculated streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the roofs
Of haggard beings barely alive, screaming out of windows?

No, no! I am a pair of mighty claws
Shielding a silent democracy.

And the nation sleeps so blissfully!
Smothered by rich fingers,
Asleep… tired… and unaware,
Stretched on the floor, here beside me and my man.
Should I, after khichdi and tea,
Have the will to force the nation into another crisis?
But though I have lied and smiled, lied and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (swell slightly more) crowned at the altar,
I am a prophet like no other — and here’s a great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness dazzle,
Blinding me from my eternal Footman,
And in short, I am exultant.

It is worth it, after all,
After the khichdi and the tea,
Among the silverware, among all the talk of me, me and me,
It is worth while,
To look at the nation with a smile,
To squeeze the universe into a ball
And roll it towards an overwhelming statement,
To say: “I am Purushottam, standing over the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
And the dead, bowing their heads in humble reverence
Should say: “Hail Almighty! Save us from death;
Hail! Hail! Hail!

And it is worth it, after all,
It is worth while,
After the ceremony, the lights and the sounds,
After the tridents, after the crowbars, after firearms—
A broken mihrab, and so much more—
It is possible to mean what I say!
But as if a secret lantern threw the insidious nerves in patterns on a screen:
It would be worth while
If they, bowing their heads in humble reverence,
And turning towards the Race Course, should say:
“That is all we wanted to hear,
That is all you meant, that is all.”

Yes! I am Purushottam, and I was meant to be;
A lord myself, one that will do
To swell hatred, start a riot or two,
Playing the Sage; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deceptive, glad to equivocate to fools,
Conniving, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high rhetoric, but all astute;
At times, indeed, almost murderous—
Almost, at times, the Redeemer.

I grow tough… I grow tough…
I shall wear the deaths in my laugh.

Shall I let my hair fall on my back? Do I dare to chew on grief?
I shall wear white cotton robes, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the apsaras singing, oh of course they sing for me.

Of course they SHALL sing for me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the red hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water red and blue.
I have stormed in the chambers of the sea
wreathed with human skulls
Till dead voices are buried, and I emerge unsunk.

Pritha Mahanti is a Masters graduate of English and International Studies from Presidency University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, respectively. She is currently engaged in working towards her research interest that includes visual art and global politics. When not typing she enjoys arranging brushstrokes for oil paintings and assembling soil for half dead plants in the garden.

Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty