Canto 89: Amang the Vedas

King falcons of Britain, your chief song I fashion
Your chief praise I bear:
I’ll act as your bard, your judge
Your support, it befits me

Cynddelw Brydydd Mawr


Bus Crash

I think about the moments
Moments I dread
Moments I can’t seem to forget
Muhammad Afzal

I awoke in a strange, white-sheeted bed,
Fellow passengers moaning in sev’ral ways,
Soak’d in blood & clutching a concuss’d head
I stumb’ld to a taxi in a daze!
“Driver, just drive!”
I fled that hospital
Lucky to be alive, the crash had been fatal.

Why am I in a strange white bed,
Woke by moans? to my amaze,
Bags lying by my concuss’d head,
Stumbling out in blood-soak’d haze,
In old, odd rickshaw off I sped
Such are our brave young days,
Though full of life oftentimes we feel faint
When thunder breaks & goddesses our saint

I took a room to convalesce
Mid palatial surrounds,
I was a mess, for more or less
A week of sleeps & sounds,
Until half-heal’d I took the sights, great palaces & grounds.

Murshidabad
October
2008


Sacred City

Wither’d lotus petals,
Pale, faded,
Aged stems tottering in the wind
Liu Ping-chung

Alluvial flatlands roll ever West,
The Ganga Matha shimmers into sight,
Here came the British banquet of conquest
To dine on the age old City of Light;
Siva’s domain
Beside her fragrant flow
Where marigold & grain ash-daub’d ascetics throw.

To Sarnath, thou deer park of bliss,
Stretch’d by the Holy River,
He came, gave men a kiss,
“No longer I Siddhartha!”
They knew not what to make of this,
“Call me, please, the Buddha!”
They sat & listen’d to the first sermon
Soft on the lips of the enlighten’d one.

Hypnofixed on that bamboo bier
Down by the riverside,
The pyres appear, fire’d atmosphere
Reeking for those that died
Their blessed death, Kashi lit up as Vedic chantsmen vied.

Varanasi
October
2008


Mutiny

In ripen’d years, when blood flows cool,
Then mankind cease to play the fool,
Grow mighty cautious, grave & wise
Allan Ramsay

Countryside chiming like a park of Kent,
No wonder here they chose to stamp the Pax,
Alas, civilisation really meant,
The ignorance, the excrescence, the tax;
Shame struck the Oudh,
Their noble kingdom next,
Shamed as their Nawab bow’d while the British annex’d.

The North declared the battleground,
Fuels focus for mutiny,
Fifty thousand aggriev’d surround
Eurasian residency,
All day & night the cannon’s pound
The dreams of Dalhousie,
Til’ Redcoats, march’d under merciless skies,
Redemption bring, slaying those who’d dared rise.

Regent ruins as red as dust,
Cupid’s nuzzling couples,
Are held in trust, coated with dust
From those desp’rate battles,
They form symbolic sepulchre of empiric shackles.

Lucknow
October
2008


Delhi

This is a sight that Wordsworth never knew,
whether looking down from mountain, bridge or hill:
An endless field of lights, white, orange, & blue
Bruce Bawer

I stood tall as the mountains for a week,
Better tall than a tourist at the Taj,
Each morn spent with the Empire’s highest peak,
The summit of my soiree round the Raj;
With dew-eyed wrench
I ride back to battle,
The noise, the heat, the stench cloaking the capital.

From the steppes of central Asia
Camest Nadir Shah, great guest
Of mickle-minded emporer,
Th’ancestral riches to wrest,
Twas a festival of slaughter,
Blood splasht on treasure chest
As seized from the fabulous peacock throne
He gripp’d the Koh-i-Noor, Babar’s bright stone.

As a hundred Sunday innings
Spreads round the grassy mile,
Tricky spinnings, wicket winnings,
Each man an Anglophile,
For cricket is to India as Egypt needs the Nile.
New delhi

Old Delhi
November
2008


Taj Mahal

in its eyes you will see a rare
ancestor
a mystique, long gone
Ana Golejshka Dzikova

To leave no regrets is to lead good life,
& so, despite cursing the tourist trail,
That glory-monument to man & wife
Upon my wanderlust must now prevail;
Oer crowd & lane
The Taj Mahal arose,
No dome of France nor Spain could match her matchless poise.

The house of Shah Jahan grew hushed
His grief was overbearing,
But chieftains prosper best when crush’d,
The weeping wreath outwearing,
He briefly with the heavens brushed,
All who saw were staring,
A testament to beauty’s deep adore,
The Taj Mahal, Cupid’s conquistador.

With prime Indian Icon
Tick’d from my tourist box,
The North was won, tour almost done,
As workers watch the clocks,
Downloading my flight details as the homeward notion knocks.

Agra
November
2008


Cricket

Since man’s but pasted up of Earth,
& ne’er was cradled in the skies,
What Terra Lemnia gave thee birth
John Hall

This short, Byronic sortie to the East,
Sometimes tourist, sometimes adventurer,
Sees sublime sunsets as each new night pieced
This myriad India together;
Yon Udaipur,
The honeymooner’s dream,
I trundl’d to Jaipur to watch my native team.

Some worship Christianity,
Or pray five times to Mecca,
Perhaps Laxsmi, Saraswathi,
Lord Vishnu, Krishna, Siva,
The Buddha, Kali, Parvati,
Durga or Ganesha,
But all thro India one god is king –
Sachin Tendulkar at the opening.

With Brits I met at Andaman
We watch’d a thrilling game,
With swifty ton K Peiterson
Native spin bowlers tame,
Each stroke applauded by our hosts, the batsman flashing flame.

Jaipur
November
2008


Kipling Country

With me along some Strip of Herbage strown
That just divides the desert from the sown,
Where name of Slave & Sultan scarce is known
Omar Khayyam

Reaching the eastern edge of Rajstahan
The stands abandoned fortress goblin-hewn
While wandering within & round its span
I wondered if it was some vedic boon;
Neath red rampart
I Kipling’d for a week,
For poets slowly part from places quite unique.

From dying Satis’ final words
Flew an ancyent prophecy,
“When princes meet hunting the herds,
Born of Mewar & Bundi,
One must die!” Ajit aim’d at birds,
His arrow flies keenly…
Whether by chance, by fate, by secret gain,
Rana, the prince of Udaipur, lay slain.

I took a ride thro villagery,
Sought out a waterfall,
It seemed to me like ecstasy,
Immersing body’s all,
& driving back, dried by the breeze, felt burdens lift from soul.

Bundi
November
2008


Desert Fortress

I have sought, but I seek it vainly,
That one lost chord divine,
Which came from the soul of the organ
Arthur Sullivan

My camel treks thro’ realms of chivalry,
Follow’d barefoot by this gypsy player
Conjuring scenes upon his Sarrangee,
Charming the desert night with sung prayer;
Ah! Completed
Is our nomadic flow,
An ancyent city stood on tabletop plateau.

At the steep walls of the fortress
Insatiable Akbar stared,
Those soldiers in their saffron dress
Say Jauhar has beenm declared,
They rode to die in gentilesse,
A martyrdom soon shared…
As wives & children step in to the fire
Chants of victory climb with the empire.

The sun hoists flame up oer the walls,
A cruel & hostile red,
My contree calls, fresh footstep falls
By dry Ghamberi’s bed,
Aim’d at Burnley, on the dusty Daksinpatha I tread.

Chittorgarh
November
2008


L´Envoi

How far from Malaya
To snowy Ben Doran?
How far from Johore to Saltcoats or Ross?
David Ross

I pause in Ratlam for a two night stay,
My long tours’s circle drawing to a close,
An obscure spot to while the last full day
Before the latest triumph of the Rose;
One more sleeper,
Neath overarching sky,
Yon the pale Narmarda, pulls back into Mumbai.

I saw so many miseries
But I saw much beauty too,
All of mankind’s categories
Thro’ this single city drew,
What mixture of cacophonies
Climb’d with the morning dew –
Them to mine ears did seem a morning choir,
The chauntings of the children of empire.

I step ‘tween mendicants, oxen,
Fresh stools, strays, tips & crows,
Strange monkeymen, hags, swine & then
A sense of friendship grows,
One glorious sub-continent, as complex as a rose!

Dharavi
November
2008

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