Sujata Bhatt

For Nanabhai Bhatt

In this dream my grandfather
comes to comfort me.
He stands apart
and in his face I see
the patience of his trees
on hot typhoid days
that promise no rain.

His eyes
the color of a crow’s feather in children’s mud,
yet filled with sharp mountain-top light.

I’m sure this was the face the true bald man,
Gandhiji saw when he confessed
about the Harijan girl, the six-year-old
he adopted and tried to educate.
I’m sure these were the eyes the true hermaphrodite,
Gandhiji saw while he explained
how this girl cared too much for clothes,
how one day she went and had her hair bobbed,
the latest fashion, she said.
It was too much.
She had to be set straight,
the sooner the better.
So he had her head shaved
to teach her
not to look in mirrors so often.
At this point Gandhiji turned
towards my grandfather and allowed, so softly:
“But she cried.
I couldn’t stop her crying.
She didn’t touch dinner.
She cried all night.
I brought her to my room,
tucked her in my bed, sang her bhajans,
but she still cried.
I stayed awake beside her.
So this morning I can’t think clearly,
I can’t discuss our plans
for building schools in villages.”
And my grandfather
looked at him with the same face
he shows in my dream.