Out late one night in Allahabad,
where the Ganga and the Yamuna become one
with the Saraswati, the invisible, the heavenly,
and souls are cleansed, and soul and river
flow on into the east together:
out late one night in search of cigarettes –
Mister, have you got the time?
She separates herself from a group of youths,
comes to me, pointing at my watch.
Uh? I smile. Kya?
The time – taking hold of my wrist,
What’s the time? – holding and peering –
holding too tight. I laugh.
The youths approach.
I try to shake her off. Shake harder.
What are you doing to that girl?
Show us your papers.
No! Your passport!
No! Why? I just –
Take his jacket. Look in his pockets.
There are too many of them. (One would be too many.)
I let them take it, take my papers,
everything – my shirt, my shoes –
His trousers too – they debate
whether to leave me my glasses –
I plead – my underpants –
even they are worth money,
but the glasses, frames like that,
cost more than such kids see in a month.
Keep the dhoti – you no fakir –
then suddenly bored
they drive me off with kicks and taunts
and a hail of stones to get me running –
running, running out of the city –
no fakir, no gymnosoph, nothing,
not even a proper dhoti, just
a naked English pansy,
crying and clutching his bottom,
a kothi, O Lord of the Night.