poetry picks

‘Malgudi’: A poem to remember R K Narayan, creator of India’s most loveable town

October 10 marked the writer’s 111th birth anniversary

I have come to Malgudi –
at last!

All is flux
but Malgudi does not fluctuate.
It is what and where
it always has been,
resting like a cloud
somewhere in South India.

It flows as it has always flowed –
the river Sarayu –
and has not changed course.
Birnam Wood may move
but Mempi Forest – guess what –
it hasn’t moved an inch,
not to Chennai or Mumbai.

Here’s the thing:
all needs are fulfilled in Malgudi.
If rain’s required,
will Raju not earnestly pray
for the first drop to fall?

if poems need printing
someone will be waiting,
at Truth Printing Works:
why, if they pass muster
one can read them to the long-suffering pupils
of Albert Mission School (established 1904)
or give them first to Srinivas
for top class editing.

What else?
Should I need oil
is Ellaman Street not home
to oil mongers?

What if I get bored?
I can gaze at that statue again –
Sir Frederick Lawley proudly on his horse,
a good Brit: a “Quit India” Brit!

The Boardless restaurant
where only the most exquisite gossip is exchanged:
a certain gentleman of Kabir Street
cuckolded again – for the third time.

Pop up to the station
and see who’s getting off the train.
A Talkative Man, perhaps?
So what if I stare!
In Malgudi, it’s not rude to stare.

A stray dog without a name
lies down beside its weary shadow.

Early morning stroll
to the river for ablutions:
the milkman might ask, “What time is it?”
Jingle of ox-bells, carts on their way to market.
Ah! I have come to Malgudi.

If taken ill
What better than an earful of good words from Dr Raman!
If more good news is needed
Surely postman Thannappa will bring it.

A poet is recreating the life of Krishna
in priceless monosyllabic verse –
“Girls with girls did dance in trance –”
surely he will become my dearest friend!

Some people say, “It has changed.”
No! The way ‘some people’ see it has changed
but that’s people for you, not Malgudi!
Malgudi does not change,
it does not expand any more
or contract.
Let others follow their dreams and mirages –
Jagan, vendor of sweets,
still follows the Mahatma.

Rome, Vrindavan, Cork, Los Angeles –
I could not live anywhere else. No.
I have come at last to Malgudi!

But wait!
Yes. Of course. Yes, I know…
Do you take me for a crazed one,
Idiot of the Month?

I know full well it does not exist.
But I have news for you:
neither does Rome, Cork
or anywhere else.
Malgudi is nothing,
nothing but fiction,
a dream, pure illusion…
The Regal Haircutting Saloon –
I mean to say, really!

And yet…
I have come
I am here and not here
I have reached the unreachable:
I have come at last to Malgudi.

Gabriel Rosenstock is an internationally renowned poet from Ireland. A selection of his poems translated from the Irish, I Open My Poem, has been published by PoetryWala.

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Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

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