Jawaharlal Nehru Visits Assam
As the crowd swelled, dust
flew in the air, like shredded
silk-cotton in windy
February-noons. People jostled,
smelling like lime, coconut water;
by noon, they smelled like rotten lime;
their blouses darkened by
sweat dust anticipation tiredness journeys.
Our family had used a bullock cart, though the
people in the village said it would be wrong
not to walk to watch a great man, who is
almost Godly. Housewives were excited like sparrows.
Putting on their flowery blouses, hanging earrings,
they recalled the last time they had gone to Sonapur.
Grandma’s mother-in-law described his long nose, wondering
aloud if he could smell flowers blooming in distant hills
sweat grime dust darkened-underarms.
It was difficult to get in. A young girl
vomited at the entrance, the security
looked on, hesitating to shoo her away, while
the mother slapped her on the right cheek, on the
left cheek for spoiling her silk dress, her trip, her
opportunity to see the long-nosed Godlike man.
Many of them could see only his long nose,
while almost everyone saw his cap:
white. My grandma, who
was a young bashful woman then,
saw his hand only, about which
she talked for years, sometimes