Last night I read Eliot.
These are strange times to read him
and more to discuss him with a friend at Marriott
as we sip wine and eat lamb-steak,
expostulate (that’s a big word) against double-speak,
heresy, hypocrisy, a bureaucrat’s bid to block blogs,
America’s complacency, Israel’s capacity to bamboozle, shock.
My friend chuckles, he’s recently been to Tel Aviv,
is well acquainted with Israel’s potential for mischief.
And then, my friend burps, sighs,
“Aren’t we lucky to be alive?”
But then trains were never our aspirations in rush hour drives.
We’re probably waiting for the Metro
for us to shift to public transport,
aspire then for a workplace
between Versova and Ghatkopar.
(…the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table…)*
The conversation shifts to extra-marital affairs, orthopedic surgery –
Professor Matuknath Chaudhary’s love discourses for his paramour Julie.
(I think Matuknath has balls
to turn his life into a brawl
and stand for what he believes
while the news channels gloat at this sleaze.)
But it is politically correct to take pot-shots
at him and I further it with parental duty, guilt.
I talk about my mother’s rheumatism, her knee…
Why is it that women suffer more from arthritis?
Has there been a medical research on this?
My friend shrugs, I don’t know though my mother also suffers from it.
(We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!)**
The bill is paid. We step out in the early morning rush.
The street-lamp said,
“Remark the cat which flattens itself in the gutter,
Slips out its tongue
And devours a morsel of rancid butter.”)***
I am grateful to my friend, and
he says thank you for that rib-tickling performance.
This is the best we can offer to each other –
Moments like bric-a-brac, friendship as a tag –
A mathematician and a stand-up comedian.
I stand smugly satisfied at this sight.
The rain assumes the muggy Mumbai night…
(Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
The worlds revolve like ancient women
Gathering fuel in vacant lots.)****
© Dan Husain
July 19, 2006
*From T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”
**From T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men.”
***From T.S. Eliot’s “Rhapsody on A Windy Night.”
****From T.S. Eliot’s “Preludes.”