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I, a Paper Ravan

At Indirapuram, Ghaziabad
October, 2012

I, a Paper Ravan

The glimmering of the stars
The hustle and bustle of the streets
And the colourful company of the friends –
These bandits make away with my fortune
In the twinkling of an eye.

With a view to protecting myself
I take refuge, broken and defeated,
In the primal cave of my mind.
When I find the shadow of a giant,
repeating 'Adam-bo, adam-bo'.
I settle down,
in the primal cave of my heart,
with bated breath
like a pigeon
in front of a cat.

In the world of the primal cave
dreams keep me company
and Ego talks about me and
they respond to my intentions.
Let this mystery be cleared
and my query answered.

In a train disaster
the travellers were cut into pieces.
why shouldn't I search for myself
in the list printed in bold letters?
or in a fair that of Chhapaar
Why should I show my skill,
perform cycling feats before a crowd,
revolving like a wheel?
Or in the Kumbhmela
I slip down from the steps of
har-ki-Pauri
I die by drowning
I drown myself after death.

My death will be a matter for investigations
why should I slip down
the steps of Har-ki-Pauri?
'It's a death-wish.'
This reply of your
O my friend!
hurts my ego.
I demand an answer to y query
Or, after the lila,
spanning nine navaratras,
on the tenth day,
in front of a large crowd,
dress me in a black attire and
bury me in the earth up to the ankles-
so that I,
the paper ravava,
Attain immortality for ever.
I may, after all, give away in alms, my ego,
Kept chained for centuries.

Answer my question
or bury me on the stage
up to my ankles.

Main Kagaz da Ravan by Pubjabi poet Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, 1965

Translated by N.S. Tasneem

adam-bo: odour of human flesh
chhapaar: name of a fair
Kumbha Mela: fair held once every 12 years on the Ganga
Har-ki-Pauri: the sacred steps of the ghat at Haridwar, a hindu place of pilgrimage
lila: sport, wonderful  play
navratras the first nine days of the month of Asvina (October) held sacred to Durga
Came across it in Modern Indian literature, an anthology, Volume 2 by K. M. George (1994)

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