Arka Mukhopadhyay
The Khan And I

I wonder what it would be like
If I woke up one morning
To find you sitting on the rickety wooden bench
Outside Paltu-da’s tea-stall,
Taking contented sips of his
Earthen-pot flavoured tea for two bucks,
Feeding a one-rupee biscuit to the mangy dog
That always sits there, sphinx-like,
Keeping the conscience of the street
Through its mucous filled eyes.
At seven o’ clock in the morning,
As my sleepy feet tottered to the grocery store
For a half-litre pouch of milk, the sight of you
Would stop me dead in my tracks. Strangely,
No one else would notice anything strange!
Adhir-Jethu would amble to the market,
Customarily stopping to glance
At the wall-mounted pages of the people’s (party’s) official mouthpiece
With its exhortation of ’read and make others read.’
Only I would notice the incongruity of
Your own three-syllabled signature perfume
Wafting from your skin to my nostrils,
Along with the stink from the overflowing bin.
As I stand there, gaping, I would be startled out of my wits
By the flatulent horn of a cycle-rickshaw
That would nearly knock me down.
Suddenly, I’d sense your eyes
Boring into mine, sliding up my thighs
And with a shudder I’d realize
I wore nothing beneath the thin
Nightdress I had stepped out in.
My hands would go involuntarily up
To my meagre breasts, as my head would spin,
Thinking of the buxom divinities
I’ve seen you romancing on the screen.
The milk would remain unbought,
I’d go running back to the house
And for no reason at all, douse
Myself in my one good perfume,
Ply the razor with a savage grin,
Not minding, not minding the blood at all.
And later, underneath the shower,
As I slowly, languorously, fearfully touched myself,
I would suddenly look out the window
And find you still sitting, still sipping,
Staring fixedly up towards the house.
All day long I would not step out,
Knowing that you were still there, waiting,
Not glancing, not even once,
At the Tag Heuer watch your wrists graced;
Constantly smoking Charminars (not Marlboroughs),
And I’d smile, knowing I had you in my power,
I’d devour an extra helping of fish and rice,
While you hungrily sat spellbound.
At dusk, I’d step out, in a blood-red gown
Designed by Ritu Kumar or Tarun Tahiliani perhaps;
Matching the sunblood splattered across the skyline,
And glide with magical grace over the potholes.
The riflecrack of my stilettos making your head jerk up.
I would take you to Park Street, and untouched by the din
Of mile-long traffic, I’d kiss you full on the lips,
Right there, forcing your hands
To slide down my breasts and up my thighs,
Holding you with my eyes, glancing
Diva-like, at the police sergeant on the beat—
The conscience keeper of the street,
And we would start dancing
As the first of the raindrops came down,
Keeping time to a Rehman tune,
Pushing the many, harsh, insistent voices of the city
Into a dim, background hum,
Swelling into the thunder’s drum
And a surround-sound storm would come,
As we danced by the lightning-light,
As we danced by the silty-shore
Of the river, bubbling with its lore
Of boatmen’s songs, sailing with tales
Of hungry, yellow nights and days
Of dead poets floating down the quays,
As we’d sail on a white swan-boat,
With this city’s minutes and memories,
To the sea, to the sea, to the sea.