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Monday, October 25, 2010

Dormant Poets Everywhere

We were going to the other end of town. There was chaos on the roads. Even though both of us had to be there on time there was no movement in sight. I suggested to the driver to pull over by a roadside shack and ordered some tea.

He was born in Karachi, Pakistan and his parents were from Swabi, in the North West.

Are you a reporter, he asked me. How do you conclude that? He pointed at my cameras and notebook. I told him I wrote poetry.

This shack was some distance from the road that locals called a highway. Even though it was supposed to be winter, the heat was piercing and made worse by the pollutants and dust covering us in a haze. The flies were oblivious to the pollution and went about their business with zeal. There was this big fly that circled the driver every two seconds and then came to rest on his cup. He ignored it. I kept waiving them away, and they would fly away and settle on the hair, ear, even the back of hand - audacious little things. The ever present cacophonous noise pollution was present also. Some drivers actually believe horns assist in braking. And the rickshaws have no silencers. People get used to talking as if in a crowd. You tend to notice these things.

I could never write a poem.

The traffic was not moving as far as I could see. Even the two-wheelers that tried to maneuver through the cars and trucks had come to a halt. I called the person I was visiting to apprise of the situation. She told me to have faith. I told her I had misplaced it decades earlier.

Yes you could. Anyone can write a poem.

'Nahin saab, mazaaq mut karo.'

Have you ever made pottery? Made? Created? There are Picassos and Michaelangelos and there are Ramus and Dittas. Am seeing in my mind the clay toys from Harappa and Moen jo Daro. The line between an artist and artisan has a common beginning. Was Picasso not a craftsman par excellence? Where is the boundary? Is there a boundary between craft and art?

Are you married? No.
Did you love someone? No.
Why this smile? Yo can be honest with me.
Saab....saab...the last place I worked... I liked the chothi memsahib.
Tell me about her, I told him and opened my notebook.

I was the second driver. My duties were driving the memsaab and chotimemsaab around. Her laughter still rings in my ears. She had a dimple when she smiled. He body smiled. She smelled fresh, innocent. She would not talk with others, but she talked a lot with me. I am unread. She was attending University. We poor cannot even dream. Even in dream I could not touch her. But I liked her and her smile always hovered in my thoughts. This is written in my destiny.

I am poor and unread
but that stops me not
from thinking about her
dimpled smile, fragrance
I cannot stop this thinking
but I cannot dream of her
I cannot dream about her
this is written in my destiny

I read back this to him. He shook his head and said, 'Saab you wrote this, I did not.'


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