Magadh (1979)

Listen horseman, where’s Magadh?
I’ve come
from Magadh
I must go to

do I turn?
North or south,
east or west?

Here I see Magadh,
here it disappears –

just yesterday
I left Magadh
just yesterday
Magadh’s people
told me not to
leave Magadh
I gave my word –
I’d be back
before sunrise

But there is
neither Magadh nor Magadh

You too have been searching
brothers, this is not the Magadh
you’ve read about
in books,
this is the Magadh
that you
like me
have lost

Corpses in Kashi (1984)

Have you seen Kashi?
corpses come and
corpses go
by the same road.

And what of corpses?
Corpses will come,
corpses will go –

ask then, Whose corpse is this?
No, no,
all corpses can’t be Rohitashva

His corpse
you’ll recognise from a distance
and if not from a distance, then
from up close –
and if not from up close,
then it
can’t be Rohitashva

and even if it is
will it make a difference?

you have seen Kashi,
corpses come and
corpses go
by the same road.

And this is all you did –
made way
and asked –
Whose corpse is this?

Whoever it was,
whoever it wasn’t,
did it make a difference?

Fiction (1984)

Sir, hear me out
before you go
The Pataliputra
you and I
are fighting for
is in the eyes of others
a fiction

Do you hear?

For them it’s not worth
even a moment’s thought
They ask,
What Pataliputra?

Sir! You have to
answer them,
make them understand –
this is the same Pataliputra
for which
Ajatashatru, Bimbisara,
you and I
are fighting
Did you tell them?

did you hear their retort?
fighting for a fiction’

Questions From Friends (1984)

it is meaningless
to say I’m coming back.

The question is: where are you headed?

it is pointless
to say I’m moving with the times.

The question is: are the times changing you
or are you
changing the times?

it is meaningless
to say I’ve reached home.

The question is:
where will you go now?

The Law (1984)

I say again, Maharaj –
do not say,
‘The law can’t be changed.
What applies to others
applies to me as well.’

There are other ways
to confound the council –
the truth is unnecessary
it is unwise
to be prodigal with the truth –

if you must, say
‘The law can’t be broken,
the law
can be changed.’

‘I don’t break the law
like everyone
I fear it
But sometimes, citizens,
when it starts to smother
I make
amendments –
the law, after all, can be relaxed.’

Excerpted with permission from Magadh, Shrikant Verma, translated from the Hindi by Rahul Soni, Eka/Westland.