Sujata Bhatt

Swami Anand

In Kosbad during the monsoons
There are so many shades of green
Your mind forgets other colours.

At that time
I am seventeen, and have just started 
to wear a sari every day.
Swami Anand is eighty-nine 
                       and almost blind.
His thick glasses don't seem to work,
they only magnify his cloudy eyes.
Mornings he summons me
       from the kitchen
and I read to him until lunch time.

One day he tells me
"you can read your poems now."
I read a few, he is silent.
Thinking he's asleep, I stop.
But he says “continue.”
I begin a long one
In which the Himalayas rise
                   as a metaphor.
Suddenly I am ashamed
to have used the Himalayas like this,
ashamed to speak my imaginary mountains
to a man who walked through
            the ice and snow of Gangotri
a man who lived close to Kanchajanga
         and Everest clad only in summer cotton.
I pause to apologize
but he says “just continue.”

Later climbing through
          the slippery green hills of Kosbad,
Swami Anand does not need to lean
on my shoulder or his umbrella.
I prod him for suggestions,
ways to improve my poems.
He is silent a long while,
then, he says 
              "there is nothing I can tell you
                             except continue."