The red mud track I stepped onto to the right of our homestay
was smooth and broad; flanked by houses, ponds, tiny groves —
over which a just risen sun dodged us – trailing wings of birds,
leading to the forked road with contrary settings on either side.
I instinctively chose the tiny wet track on the right, to the slum –
one on the left with villas and gardens, was too picture perfect,
looking urban and implanted in the outskirts of Shantiniketan:
which was originally rustic and belonged to the tribal Santhals.
Thatched roofs with billowing smoke bestowed an exotic charm –
upon a semi-circular platform of shacks, over which trees guard:
around which there wasn’t other signs of life but stray pigs, dogs –
and a child with wide wonder in his eyes – roaming these tracks.
Mud huts crisply painted Turkish blue, black, with thatched roofs
nestled under palm trees, remind me of childhood painting books –
I coloured with imagination – unaware they existed in this world:
hoping the rustic life was made known to me as a privileged child.
I had set out to look for Bangla author Sunil Gangopadhya’s house,
but landed up in this dream world – recreated in his poetry, prose:
I concluded were less fictional than my unoriginal child’s sketches –
unlike now when as a poet and novelist I value real life inspiration.
After returning to the forked road, and crossing to the urban side –
I was unable to find his house, as at seven people weren’t in sight
amidst cottages cushioned in lawn-gardens of picturesque delight:
thus disappointed I gave up – turning back to return to our house.
A few steps before I’d reached our well-manicured garden porch
I saw a young lady coming out of her gate to a mud road outside;
so one last time I decided – to ask her to attempt to reach my goal:
when to my bliss she knew the author’s house, offering to walk us.
A brisk walk back and I stood facing one of his homes by a pond,
with plants hiding the name of the neglected but beautiful cottage –
I figured now what might have been his inspiration to call home:
‘Alone and a few People’ titles one of his novels, I translate from.