Those days

When we scrubbed our hands
with ash and water,
brushed our teeth
with fingers
and charcoal powder…

When we sat
in a semi-circle
on the kitchen floor,
raising a din
with spoons and brass plates
waiting for scolding amma
to give us food…

When we ran barefoot
on the dirt roads
after bullock carts
and horse carriages,
dodging cow-dung
as our feet pranced
or we plunged in the pond
with frogs, fish
and buffalos…

We were happy.

Ashok Gupta
ashok1082 [at] yahoo [dot] co [dot] uk
May 1999

Hike to Gurkha Fort

We hiked to Gurkha Fort
in the heat of mid-June,
Victor and I.

The stream had dried
into shallow pockets.
Clear sunlight shone
on rounded stones.

Little pink fish
gulped tiny mouthfuls,
darted pell-mell
trapped and starved.

They rushed for the bait,
the black barbed hook
pierced clean through
eager open mouths.

It was easy, so easy;
we caught so many
and cast them away
on our way back to school

by Ashok Gupta


Children would run behind
Dadaji on his bicycle.
Children of the hut dwellers
and those from the bungalows.
Dadaji ,a huge figure in black
with days old salt-pepper beard
in his long flowing shirt
hanging from behind the seat
and white broad pyjamas.
He would paddle away
on the same path
day after day

They would scream and shout
gleefully- “Dadaji”, “Dadaji”
and chase him over long distances,
till he tired and balancing his bicycle on a foot,
took out from his pocket
peppermints of bright colours
and gave to the children.

Hardly would he have started again,
they would scream unsatiated-
“Dadaji”, “Dadaji”
teasing him
till he was too far from home to follow.

This was forgotten
and children went their ways.
I chanced upon Dadaji
sitting on a charpoy
outside a dilapidated hut.
I stopped uncertainly.

“Da.. .Dadaji”, I hesitated
He was paralysed on the right side
and couldn’t hear me
so I said a little louder —”Dadaji”,
my mouth close to his ear.

He turned to his side,
in slow halting motion,
took out a red peppermint
and placed it on my hand.

Ashok Gupta
Jakarta, Sept 2003

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