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Kedarnath Singh

The Damaged Truck

I have been seeing it since the last rains
It has been standing exactly as it was
Damaged and harassed
And now its eyes are cracking open
I see
A small creeper
Reaching for the steering wheel
A tiny leaf
Turning towards the horn
As though wanting to sound it
A very fine and almost inaudible hammering
Continues to resound throughout the truck’s body
A nut is being loosened
A wire is being tightened
The damaged truck
Has been consigned fully
To the hands of grass
And the grass is struggling
To change its wheels
How easy it is for me to think
That by tomorrow morning everything will be in perfect order
I’ll wake up
And hear the sound of the horn
And the truck will go rattling off
Towards Tinsukhiya or Bokajan…
It is turning into evening
The damaged truck stands exactly as it was
And seeing through me

I think
That if it wasn’t there now
How difficult would it be to recognize
That this is my city
And these my own people
And that over there
My home.

Translated by Dilip Chitre

Cranes in the Drought

At three in the afternoon
They arrived
And when they did
None ever imagined
Cranes could come like that

One after the other
They came gradually
Flight after flight
They spread slowly
Over the entire sky
By degrees the whole city
Filled with their crackles

They hovered over the city
For long over the roofs
Over the porches
From their wings there
Kept falling the smell
Of dry paddy leaves

An old woman noticed them
Certainly they have come
In search of water
She felt

She went to the kitchen
Brought a bowl of water
And kept in the courtyard

But the cranes
Kept hovering over the city
They saw not the woman
Nor the bowl of water

Cranes had no idea
Down below people live
And they call them cranes
They had come from distant
Lands, searching for water

They were bound to distant
Lands, searching for water

So they raised their necks
For once they looked back
There is no telling
What there was in the look
Pity or enmity
But , while departing
They did give a look
Turning their necks towards the city

Then, beating their wings
In the air, they were
Lost in the distances.

Translated from Hindi by E.V. Ramakrishnan

A Two-Minute Silence

Brothers and sisters
this day is dying
a two-minute silence
for this dying day

for the bird flying away
for the still water
for the night-fall
a two-minute silence

for that which is
for that which is not
for that which could have been
a two-minute silence

for the discarded peel
for the crushed grass
for every plan
for every project
a two-minute silence

for this great century
for every great idea
of this great century
for its great words
and great intentions
a two-minute silence

brothers and sisters
for these great achievements
a two-minute silence.

Translated by Alok Bhalla

Come When You Find The Time

when you find the time.

even if you can’t find the time.

like the strength
in hands
like blood
flowing through arteries.

like the slow silent
in stoves.


like the fresh thorns
in babul trees
after the rains.

Shredding days
smashing promises

as Wednesday
after Tuesday.


Translated by Alok Bhalla

Even Without God

How strange it is
that at ten in the morning
the world is still going about its business
even without God.

The buses are crowded
and as usual
people are in a hurry.

His bag slung on his shoulder
the postman
is making his rounds as usual
even without God.

Banks somehow open on time
grass continues to grow
all calculations – however complicated –
somehow add up in the end
the one who must live
the one who must die
even without God.

How strange it is
that trains
late or on time
depart from and arrive at
some station or the other
that elections are held
planes continue to fly in the sky
even without God.

Even without God
horses continue to neigh
salt is still made in the sea
a sparrow
flies here and there
in a frenzy all day
and somehow finds her way
back to her nest
even without God.

Even without God
my sorrow is as profound as ever
and the hair of the woman
I had loved ten years ago
is as black as ever
and it is still as fascinating
to go out of this house
and then return home.

How strange it is
that water still flows
and the bridge still stands
in the middle of the stream
with its arms outstretched
even without God.

Translated by Alok Bhalla

The Highest Place

When I got there
I was afraid.

People of my city
it is terrifying to discover
that all the steps
of the city
lead up to
this place
where no one lives.

Translated by Alok Bhalla


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