When evening trickled inside my tent
the sun had already turned into an orange flame
perishing behind the slopes of Craignure.
I poured some kerosene onto the coal and made a fire.
Blue flames leaped into the black haze of nightfall.
Near the camp, I lit a candle and covered it
with a slender open glass.
On the other side of the hill the lake opened
like a mirror unveiled after a vigil.
At midnight, I woke up to a sound and thought I heard
your voice. I lit the hurricane lamp and stepped outside.
The darkness and the lake had become inseparable.
Just the sound of water lapping gently on the rocks
and the wind in the trees.
The old mahogany chair sits near the window
As you left it; its hand-rest still hollowed
With the weight of your elbow. And as the evening wind
pushes little clouds of mist into our garden,
a heaviness stays. I remember those occasions
when we did not speak; sometimes for a whole day
and then another. Slowly longings would build up,
a strange desperation pressing on every inch of my body.
And then, we would speak again, such heavy words
Would queue at the back of my tongue.
It’s just two days since you left. My heart squirms
each moment I think of you. In the evening,
your blue nightie hung on the clothesline sways gently
as the wind fills up the hollow you have left forever. It swells
afloat, rises and falls back again, straightening its lacy folds.
Today, I have left the doors and the windows open.
Come home tonight and touch me.
Just like this wind that touches everything.
It was early February, a winter morning.
On an empty platform, the blue train engine arrived.
It coughed and belched. It hissed a jet of pure white steam.
I saw a blue hoarding – ‘Darjeeling, 0 Mile’.
Nobody filled or emptied the station.
Upon the ceiling, behind the mesh of iron
Supporting the platform, the pigeons
Had built houses. I sat until late, listening to their sound.
And then the train moved;
The pines, the loops, smell of coal,
the cold wind, the sting of winter on my skin –
and that bygone age.
Everything reminds me of Darjeeling.
Early morning, my grandmother would be cooking.
I used to crawl by her side, pull the pleat of her gown and cry.
She always lifted me upon her arm and carried me to my cot
and covered me with a blanket
as I pretended to sleep.
I was old enough to read her face:
the clear lines of her skin, the hollow of her cheeks,
the little island of her smile.
After many years, as I see her again.
Her hair greyed, her bespectacled eyes.
I remember that day – so much has changed since then,
But what has not changed is her smile
Even today when she smiles, the years she carries on her skin
gather into a dance of little folds, circles and curves.
The train stops for five minutes in Hasimara
and a dimly lit platform emerges from the darkness.
Other than the light from inside the train,
there is only the light of the gas lantern
that hangs out of the station guard’s room.
The smell of tea leaves drifts in from the darkness.
A few minutes’ walk from the station
my house lies at the edge of a tea garden
but I am not going there today.
As the guard blows the whistle
long shadows of metal carriages
shift shapes in the phosphorescent light.
My childhood memories, just like the train,
chug through the dark,
into the vast countryside of Bengal.
~ Nabin Kumar Chettri debut poetry collection, Zero Passion was published in India by Writers Forum in 1998. His forthcoming poetry volume is called Bini, published by the Red Mountain Press, Santa Fe, USA. He currently lives in Aberdeen, USA.