Two odes to Hyderabad

As dawn broke, the city blossomed,
With a buzz, the motorcars swarmed around.
The automobiles, the diesel and the smoke
The daily newspapers, the talcom and the smell of fresh soap,
The scent of daily routine surrounds me.
And then I spend all day lazing around in the lanes of the city.
Second-hand opinions and used books
Prayers that do not skip timings,
Dark stains of the spitting across the walls
Morals, no longer respected, traditions losing their grip
Apples that spill milk and the hidden hatreds of the royal courts-
You may go around any number of times
The city will not share her secrets with you.
As dusk falls, the city shrinks.
An unfamiliar place appears behind the wheezing of buses
That transport the tired government staff home.
And far away, Golconda fort mumbles to herself
The grief of the populace.
A sadness loom in the tin and the din of the Abids circle.
As you slide into an alley from
The shadows of the monstrous skyscrapers
Fragrant jasmine in someone’s braid pierces your heart.
Perhaps the glory of a city lies
In such a moment of oblivion.
We wished for a life without illusion.
All we needed was a spoonful of faith in this cup of life.
When we took a nap on the canal banks under the cool shade then,
Why and what didn’t occur to us.
Day after day, we searched for our true calling.
When doubt and dissent arose,
The shouts of the porters on the platforms silenced them.
We are now caught in the maze of speed and the web of greed,
And the only way out is to pluck your heart out and lament.
We have everything here to enjoy,
Except for the leisure to taste them.
Please, do not seek any meaning in our lives.
Keep the thin veil between what we wished and what we got.
Didn’t the sculptor long to reveal?
What lay beneath the veil of the beautiful Rebeca?
He is still a mortal, however.
That’s what disquiets us in our lives is the ultimate veil
That we cannot remove.
Unillusioned life may be beautiful,
But this life with all of its illusions is certainly more beautiful.
From Ontari Chela Madhya Okkatte Mana Amma (1987)
Translated by the poet, May, 2022.

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