[Issue 8 / February 2014]

 

The drought killed twelve cows in our village.
After sundown, we hear jackals and mongrels
fighting over the carcass dumped
at the burning ghats;
and at midday, vultures circle
the circumference of the upturned fishbowl
of the sky, on which the farmers,
hunched at the edge of their fields,
keep constant vigil.

The narrow tributary of the Ganga
that flows through our village
dividing the fifty thatched huts
neatly into Hindu and Muslim,
turns into a thread of dirty water
shallow enough for us to walk across
and play hide and seek in the evergreen orchard
around the whitewashed mosque.

When the thirteenth cow dies,
the elders decide that it is time
to pray at the ruins of the temple
on the outskirts of our village
near the bamboo forest
where the tigers hide.

So, we all go there
to chant Sanskrit mantras
and offer ghee lamps
but nothings occurs for nine days.
On the tenth morning,
when we arrive hopeless,
to continue with our ineffectual rituals,
we find the villager leper
disallowed from entering the shrine
standing near the temple stairs
with an open umbrella.

*

Uttaran Das Gupta was born in Calcutta, India. He has an MA in English from Jadavpur
University. His poetry, stories and articles have been published or are forthcoming in a number
of Indian and international newspapers, like The Telegraph, The Times of India, Asian Age and
The Statesman, and magazines, like The Odd Magazine, Reading Hour, Magnapoets,
Raedleaf and Fulcrum. Uttaran has also been involved in amateur theatre since 2006 and has
worked in more than 10 Bengali, English and multi-lingual productions with a number of
groups. His debut as a playwright, Murder and Create, was shortlisted for the Shyamanand
Jalan Youth Theatre Award, 2012. At present he is working a novel on Henry Lousie Vivian
Derozio, the first national poet of India.

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