Friday, March 8, 2024



A city person,

I was strangely disoriented

in the midst of nature.

In the bus queue

it looked as though

a roadside tree

had come and joined in too.

I was right behind it,

the last in line.

Now I'm an educated man.

When the bus arrived

I waited for the tree to get on first

when it struck me that trees

do not board buses.

And I who am a city dweller,

was separated from nature

in such a way that leaving the tree behind

I took my seat on the bus.

Once seated, my only wish

was to see trees on either side of the road

all the way back.

In my room I've hung a picture

of a whole forest.  


A dry river

was dry again the following year.

Deep below,

it would've been drier.

Below dry rivers

are channels of more dry rivers.

In a village

along one such river

its oldest man,

the last one alive,

will eventually find

buried in the sediment

a transparent rock

in which are fossils

of river vegetation,

river fish,

organisms, and snails,

and also locked inside,

one drop of water

millions of years old.

Preserved in the soul of the oldest man

is a single seed of rice.

I'm at the place

where it was decided I'll be

and from where I've always

been observing

those who go by.

This is where we'll gather,

though come to think of it

we could've gathered

at any place and there's no place

where we couldn't have gathered.

No matter where we meet,

we invariably meet at the place

meant for gathering.

With birth is born its twin, death —

it's a double birth.

Wherever I go, I carry this inborn death with me.

I'll save it

for as long as I live.

But after death, somewhere in the piggy bank,

you'll find that life's been saved.

I walk around as though I were the treasurer of piggy banks,

even of their piggy banks.

The Chhattisgarh to Bilaspur

on which I was traveling

would stop unwontedly.

Suddenly, at Gondia,

everyone disembarked

and rushed towards the Calcutta train

that had arrived.

Getting off, a passenger,

he was older than me, said,

You better get off too,

or you'll be waiting until your next life

for this one to reach its destination.

In no great hurry,

I was happy to be sitting where I was,

I was only going up to Rajnandgaon,

a few stations away,

where I was born.


Vinod Kumar Shukla

Treasurer of Piggy Banks

translated by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

Circumference Books, 2024