You need a transit pass to go to Patna
His mother and father are locked down in Simari, Madhubani. Mother calls and talks about the quarantine centres the panchayat is making. Father is not too happy for he can get no visitors. Mother talks of all the crazy WhatsApp messages she gets in the family group about the Tabhligi Jamaat. Then one morning, mother calls him. His father is breathing but not waking up and has to be taken to a hospital in Patna.
Three Borders – Meghalaya, Assam, Bengal, Bihar
He has been shutting his eyes when they point the gun. Temperature gun.
“I have to learn to keep my eyes open.” He texts her from the Assam-Bengal border. And the stench of a dead cow assails him. Highways calm him.
“Hope you don’t meet any migrants,” her voice sounds strained, “I can’t bear the images anymore.”
“Not here,” I mumble.
Near Naxalbari he finds demography returning home.
“Bees-pachees din,”, the man replies and pedals on towards Dhubri, Assam. From Noida, 1,624 km, my Google map informs.
He takes out the draft of the translation of Amitabh’s Hindi poem.
“Corona is deadly, but not a bloodthirsty oppressor. The poor thing does not even know that it can kill. It spreads but does not know how to murder like a lynch mob. It is not like the Home Minister. Not like the Delhi Police. Not like Rajan Gogoi. It has no philosophy like the RSS. It’s life merely of 14 days. Best of all, it does not differentiate between a Hindu and a Muslim. If someone wishes, even the poor can be saved from it.”
They hold hands and all he can think of is whether his mother has sanitised her hands. She looks at him sadly.
He tells them of the never-ending walk on the hospital bypass he sees everyday.
What hides in their bag?
Three coins and seven tears.
Eleven deaths, half a joke,
A stolen kiss,
Two yellowing mineral water bottles.
At the border,
Police confiscates their anger
And some good people
Pack a shroud
Washed and smelling fresh.
ICU is on the fifth floor. He wheels out his father and they watch the monsoon come to Patna. He tell his father to remember Shillong rains and they smile.
And He Flies Back
“So marvellous sounds that which I have now to relate, that, had not many, and I among them, observed it with their own eyes, I had hardly dared to credit it, much less to set it down in writing, though I had had it from the lips of a credible witness… Whereof my own eyes (as I said a little before) had cognisance, one day among others, by the following experience.”
from The Decameron (1353) by Boccaccio
And he wants to go home.
Tarun Bhartiya is a picturemaker, poet and political activist based in Shillong. This article first appeared on his blog.