The Urchin in Dr Radhakrishnan Road - Part Two

Written by: T Wignesan

                            Part Two

           a hardly flickering oilwick open trough lamp lighting
limply other framed coloured pictures of Ganapati
two half-empty troughs of kunkunum and vibhuti
on the half-opened cicatrised shrine gate
traces of twirls of white chalk on the road
reminders of mandala and disrespectful feet
a bleak reminder to the departed donor's culpability

To the boy now awakened
looking through dazed poolai-stuck eyes
the obeisances of hurrying office workers
and the coins they reverently pressed in a cement platter
at the saffron-robed shrine's feet
strewn with fading frangipani
and shrivelling kernel in split coconut-halves
                    all these were on a reel 
spun high on a screen
the lad could neither fear
nor partake of the proferred fare

his only Right was his right hand
     stretched long but never touching
the deadened fury of his looks
softened only by the lowered eyes

The day was long or short
depending on his cavernous gastric growls
and according to how he laid himself out in some public place
to shut out the important world of poets and politicians

shout-shooting around him
   into the Twenty-First Century
towards wild parties and fun-conferences
       to shore up their sagging petty images

to bombs and cars that fly
to other worlds won on stars
to shrines adorned like filmstars
and filmstars adorned like shrines

Just a privileged lingerer
allowed to watch a while the magic lantern show
behind burning fearful eyes
that dreamt of 
        steamy coco-shavings-crusted puttu
   a second stomach thunderbread and chapati
               ladiesfingers and drumsticks
                    pumpkin in hot sambar
    stringhoppers in coti
                          masala tosai
and a tumbler of buttermilk

1.Dr.Radhakrishnan Rd.: Boulevard in Madras (Chennai, India) where are to be found some posh hotels
2. mallikai: Tamil for a variety of the jasmine.
3. splodges: a blend of "splotches" and "lodges" (in the sense of “to serve as a receptacle for”), meaning a great heap of splotches
4. kunkunum and vibhuti: Hindus streak their faces with these powders either for customary or religious reasons
5. poolai: Tamil for rheum in the eyes
6. magic lantern show: a reference from Omar Khayyam’s Ruba’iyat.
7. puttu, sambar, coti, stringhoppers, masala tosai: Indian Tamil cuisine, usually taken as part of breakfast

© T.Wignesan 1993 (January 4, 1993) , from the Sequence/Collection: "Words for a Lost Sub-Continent".