Ram Munshi Bagh, Wazir Bagh, 2007
By Lynn Aarti Chandhok
|I see now that the plum trees are all gone
and where we strayed to gather fruit, a wall
rises to keep the bandh further away.
The neighbours – can I call them that? – can’t trespass
and I can’t sneak away for those long walks
along the Jhelum, into the deepening shadows.
Wazir Bagh house is gone as well – not gone
|Thin men in sleeveless undershirts and worn
green army-issued trousers peer at us.
We try to talk to them. One smiles, unfazed,
when Dad says he grew up there – behind that wall.
He lets us look, but through the tiny peephole
onto the now-cemented, unused courtyard,
the old facade with gingerbread-work eaves
still dangling from once-grand, once-loved verandahs.
Dad doesn’t look for long – just glances and
explains, not quietly, not slowly either,
‘There used to be a beautiful garden there,’
before he turns away, imagining
the old chinars that lined the avenue
where aunts and cousins spread out lunchtime blankets
and Pitaji slept through the afternoon
as if those trees could keep such heat at bay.
~ Lynn Aarti Chandhok is the author of The View from Zero Bridge, winner of the 2006 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry. She lives in New York.