आज़ादी विशेषांक / Freedom Special

अंक 13 / Issue 13

Lunatics of the Border Areas – A Journal: Vivek Narayanan

From an actual news item, apparently, (credited to the Press Trust of India) in The Hindu, June 3, 2002: “A sudden increase in the number of lunatics in the border areas is causing concern to the district administration…”

*

When I woke the first day, all
was blur. A boot kicked me, I fell,
then the hot sharp sting of a hand to
my face. The sun walked, I got
hungry. Bass drawls like currents
came from far trucks and went up
through me. Voices; laughter; cowbells
slipping from this world into a next.

Night fell. I grew stiff and rough, heard the seed pods
rattle. On the second day I opened my eyes. The light
so full it hurt me. My clothes were wet, spittle trailed
from a mouth. Now there was a town: an old friend
whose name I could not recall. I stumbled
on its shabby mall street among its people,
its vendors, its holy men. They only

looked away. But a soldier pulled me aside
and grabbed my wrist. The nib of his gun played
across my face from left to right as if reading
or writing or teaching. I had nothing
to tell or learn: there was nothing to tell. He held me
just like that for so long I wondered, later,
much later, about what it was he
had wanted. By the third day hunger

pierced me, doubled me. Figures
with dog heads, shadows took me in and
held out chunks of bread. I ate
and choked on it. I saw a fence sway
in the wind. For the first time I felt the border,
but it could not be found. It was
the horizon, an evening sky on the verge
of town, grazing lands like tongues

unrolled in that need. It moved. My lungs
pumped it out and in. But even to the sixth day
no one and nothing else had a name. I was known
and tolerated. I was called out to but felt
most spoken to when touched or hit. The
nearness of them, their bright smells, sometimes made
me cry. Their tea was too hot, it gave

me mouth sores. But I’d found my place
there. A man let me sit next to him while
he was being shaved, I remembered
being shaved. It was simple. On the eighth or maybe
the ninth day as the world grew heavy, words
also grew heavy. Something half-known
came back, frightened me. I sang, I could not control

myself. Whether half-collected
words or homemade cries I can’t say now.
On the fourteenth day, pictures came
in sweats. And then my knees fighting
my feet, my heart flapping in my chest, my ears
against blizzards of noise, my eyes, their
sockets, my head, my brain,
my skin. Perhaps it knew

and yet, with each hour, not
who you were, what I was. And it called, the new
and the old of it, that shrub-ridden sand, that sky
into which we too would go. It was not
what we believed it to be. It was not where
we believed it to be. It was no land
but an unmaking. And if on that other side
you were spirit, here, now,
almost a corpse. Then slowly coming back

into my clothes, into the shame
of being in my own words, I thought
for the first time – sad and bewildered
memory scraped and fading
in this becoming – of cities glittering
in the starless ocean dark and of
my mission, a small
page of instructions
fluttering in my handler’s hand.

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Lunatics of the Border Areas – A Journal: Vivek Narayanan

From an actual news item, apparently, (credited to the Press Trust of India) in The Hindu, June 3, 2002: “A sudden increase in the number of lunatics in the border areas is causing concern to the district administration…”

*

When I woke the first day, all
was blur. A boot kicked me, I fell,
then the hot sharp sting of a hand to
my face. The sun walked, I got
hungry. Bass drawls like currents
came from far trucks and went up
through me. Voices; laughter; cowbells
slipping from this world into a next.

Night fell. I grew stiff and rough, heard the seed pods
rattle. On the second day I opened my eyes. The light
so full it hurt me. My clothes were wet, spittle trailed
from a mouth. Now there was a town: an old friend
whose name I could not recall. I stumbled
on its shabby mall street among its people,
its vendors, its holy men. They only

looked away. But a soldier pulled me aside
and grabbed my wrist. The nib of his gun played
across my face from left to right as if reading
or writing or teaching. I had nothing
to tell or learn: there was nothing to tell. He held me
just like that for so long I wondered, later,
much later, about what it was he
had wanted. By the third day hunger

pierced me, doubled me. Figures
with dog heads, shadows took me in and
held out chunks of bread. I ate
and choked on it. I saw a fence sway
in the wind. For the first time I felt the border,
but it could not be found. It was
the horizon, an evening sky on the verge
of town, grazing lands like tongues

unrolled in that need. It moved. My lungs
pumped it out and in. But even to the sixth day
no one and nothing else had a name. I was known
and tolerated. I was called out to but felt
most spoken to when touched or hit. The
nearness of them, their bright smells, sometimes made
me cry. Their tea was too hot, it gave

me mouth sores. But I’d found my place
there. A man let me sit next to him while
he was being shaved, I remembered
being shaved. It was simple. On the eighth or maybe
the ninth day as the world grew heavy, words
also grew heavy. Something half-known
came back, frightened me. I sang, I could not control

myself. Whether half-collected
words or homemade cries I can’t say now.
On the fourteenth day, pictures came
in sweats. And then my knees fighting
my feet, my heart flapping in my chest, my ears
against blizzards of noise, my eyes, their
sockets, my head, my brain,
my skin. Perhaps it knew

and yet, with each hour, not
who you were, what I was. And it called, the new
and the old of it, that shrub-ridden sand, that sky
into which we too would go. It was not
what we believed it to be. It was not where
we believed it to be. It was no land
but an unmaking. And if on that other side
you were spirit, here, now,
almost a corpse. Then slowly coming back

into my clothes, into the shame
of being in my own words, I thought
for the first time – sad and bewildered
memory scraped and fading
in this becoming – of cities glittering
in the starless ocean dark and of
my mission, a small
page of instructions
fluttering in my handler’s hand.

Tags:

Leave Comment