Monday, May 21, 2007

Never Never Land     [haibun no. 1]

The place is called Sham-e-Bhopal -- the Pride of Bhopal -- and is what one would have to call a concept restaurant. The concept is everywhere evident in design and decor, in the attire of waiters, in graphics and nomenclature of the menu, and in every musical selection of the live singers -- their songs now wafting on the night air as we amble up the slope. It's pure Railroad Kitsch: the Indian Railway Experience as envisaged through rosy-hued lenses of a romantic recollection, encircled by green tendrils creeping up from rich, dark loam of Olden Celluloid.

This is where they're taking me for my 51st birthday? It's the first I'll celebrate in my new life as an American expat on the subcontinent. I don't need to follow the particular Urdu ghazal intoned by an old-style-filmi crooner to catch the general drift. We're in Never Never Land.

With my beloved
I recall those bygone days
of partings meetings!

Cute railway stations!
O adorable traincars!
nostalgiac for when?

Whom was one greeting?
Whither wound one's journeying?
Our life's a fiction


The above was written as a minor exercise in the literary form known as Haibun -- i.e., prose followed by a haiku sequence. No doubt, it works best when developed in sequential narrative vignettes -- where the mind thus toggles back and forth between alternating modes of prose and verse. This is the form one finds in Basho's travellogues, for instance. Right now, the form appeals to me more than does either prose or verse in isolation. Who wants only land or only water? Here, instead, one finds a realm of islands.

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