i sent this out once, but posterous is misbehaving, and often either a) posts things twice or b) throws the post away without autoposting to my other microblogs. i have reset things on posterous, hope it works better now. one of my favorite poems of all time, i usually send it out every deepavali
Diwali by Vikram Seth Three years of neuroticGuy Fawkes Days—I recallThat lonely hankering— But I am home after all. Home. These walls, this skySplintered with wakes of light These mud-lamps beaded roundThe eaves, this festive night, These streets, these voices… yetThe old insensate dread,Abeyant as that love,Once more shifts in my head. Five? Six? generations agoSomewhere in the PunjabMy father’s family, farmers,Perhaps had a small shop And two generations laterCould send a son to a school To gain the conqueror’s Authoritarian seal: English! Six-armed god,Key to a job, to power,Snobbery, the good life,This separateness, this fear. English: beloved languageOf Johnson, Wordsworth’s tongue— These my “meridian names”Whose grooves I crawl along. The Moghuls fought and ruledAnd settled. Even whileThey hungered for musk-melon,Rose, peach, nightingale, The land assumed their love.At sixty they could notRetire westwards. The BritishMade us the Orient. How could an Englishman sayAbout the divan-e-khas“If there is heaven on earth It is this; it is this; it is this.”? Macaulay the prophet of learningChewed at his pen: one tasteOf Western wisdom “surpassesAll the books of the East,” And Kalidas, Shankaracharya, Panini, Bhaskara, Kabir,Surdas sank, and we welcomedThe reign of Shakespeare. The undigested Hobbes,The Mill who later ground(Through talk of liberty)The Raj out of the land… O happy breed of Babus,I march on with your purpose;We will have railways, common lawAnd a good postal service— And I twist alongThose grooves from image to image, Violet, elm-tree, swan,Pork-pie, gable, scrimmage And we title our memoirs“Roses in December”Though we all know that hereRoses *grow* in December And we import songs Composed in the USFor Vietnam (not evenOur local horrors grip us) And as, over gin at the Club,I note that egregious memberStrut just imperceptibly moreWhen with a foreigner, I know that the whole worldMeans exile of our breedWho are not home at homeAnd are abroad abroad, Huddled in towns, while around:“He died last week. My boys Are starving. Daily we digThe ground for sweet potatoes.” “The landlord’s hirelings brokeMy husband’s ribs—and IGrow blind in the smoke of the hearth.”“Who will take care of me When I am old? No-oneIs left.” So it goes on,The cyclic shadow-playUnder the sinister sun; That sun that, were there water,Could bless the dispirited land, Coaxing three crops a yearFrom this same yieldless ground. Yet would these parched wraiths stillStarve in their ruins, while“Silkworms around them growInto fat cocoons”?, Sad soil, This may as well be my home.Because no other nationMoves me thus? What of that?Cause for congratulation? This could well be my home;I am too used to the flavor Of tenuous fixity;I have been brought to savour Its phases: the winter wheat—The flowers of Har-ki-Doon—The sal forests—the hillsInflamed with rhododendron— The first smell of the RainsOn the baked earth—the peaksSnow-drowned in permanence—The single mountain lakes. What if my tongue is warped?I need no words to gaze At Ajanta, those flaked caves,Or at the tomb of Mumtaz; And when an alap of MarwaSwims on slow flute-notes overThe neighbors’ roofs at sunsetWordlessly like a lover It holds me—till the strainOf exile, here or there,Subverts the trance, the fearOf fear found everywhere. “But freedom?” the notes would sing…Parole is enough. Tonight Below the fire-crossed skyOf the Festival of Light. Give your soul leave to feelWhat distilled peace it can;In lieu of joy, at leastThis lapsing anodyne. “The world is a bridge. Pass over it,Building no house upon it.”Acceptance may come with time;Rest, then, disquieted heart.