in a dark dark time he came
extra wattage light held in a cheeky grinny smile
from a land i’ve met long back
in childhood,
at play, in the park,
at the dinner table, in a feeling of being safe

every day he’d appear at an hour he’d appointed
and say, teach me
and grin
books ragged and torn in hand
a pencil sharpened and scraggly
an eraser that wouldn’t erase his spark
i thought one day… krishna
had to
that’s what i’m conditioned to i guess
the little one who’ll prance immortality
into a dull aching day
a blank empty evening

we played with words
i said, where are your fingers
he wriggled ten tiny digits smeared
with telltale marks of the day
certainly not dettol soap cleaned hands
i said, tongue
he promptly stuck it out
i said, buttocks, he laughed
i gave him a five star, he grinned
i asked about his mother
he said he liked five star
his eyes said nothing

what do you like to play with, i said
surya has so many cars
all remote control ones
eyes were bright
torch light pupils
which one do you like
grubby finger pointed to the red car on my phone screen
i said, ferrari
he nodded, eyes pinned on the shot
say it, say ferrari
he shot back, no hesitation

something terribly sophisticated
about seeing truth as a child
unmaligned, unmuddied
for all the dirt on his face
and hands
not a single touch of what makes us messy
he’s sitting with his hands on his head
muttering i look so bad
he’d gone to the barber with a bad haircut
and now his hair’s all gone
a shaved head
he is squirming and wriggling and
trying to concentrate on the cat
who eats all the mice up
“uppooh” is how he pronounces the word
will i ever forget
in the glass door he catches his reflection
and again clutches his head
eyes going moist
i try to tell him the physics of a reflection
to take his mind off the dread
he’s close to tears
there’s a boy who’ll buy a ferrari, i say brightly
i will
that’s what he says and sits up straight

the force of his grin
pushing the life place in me to startle
move a little
a little, then a little
he will drive his ferrari some day
he came to me in
a dark dark time


a difficult year, a discomfort zone as i’ve started calling it, will usually not give a warning and come. it’ll catch you unawares, intent on finishing you off, but then something or someone might walk into your world, equally without notice, and start doing all sorts of things that signal only the innate sweetness of life, its resilience, its will to live… clear light. in my case it was a ten year old boy, far away from his home in nepal, his mother, his gaon, who chose me and eased my heart.

indrani’s index