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www.djburnham.com, Poetry written i n the 1980's, Poetry, Lyrics, Prose, David Burnham, D.J. Burnham, Dave Burnha

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Images of India


Temples, great and small, mingle with architecture from the British Raj,
Women in fabulously colourful saris with henna'd hair,
Tend paddy fields, mix concrete, and build roads,
They sift grain, wash children and their clothes,
Rickshaws, buses, Ambassador Classic cars,
Bicycles, trucks and camel carts,
All vie to be first away at the traffic lights,
Swerving and weaving past impervious holy cows,
Mum, Dad and two kids, four-up on a narrow-wheeled motorbike,
Market stall barrows piled high with fruit and veg' and eggs,
While pigs and cows feast on roadside rubbish tips,
A half-built shopping mall looms out of the fog on the outskirts of Delhi,
Dhobi wallahs bash clothes in the river on a rock,
Shops are crammed, piled high to the ceiling with stock.


We wait at a level crossing,
As the endless trucks of a freight train rumble past,
Then comes a biblical scene of oxen, goats and camels,
Clustered in front of a Rajasthani homestead,
Infants playing in the dirt, perilously close to the road,
Girls practicing their traditional dance,
Balancing flaming pots on their heads,
Bicycle repair shops sprout ubiquitous,
Garage mechanics corralled by mountains of old lorry parts,
Strips of foil-sealed sweet packets, flutter on stalls,
Men spit the juice from chewing paan,
Fields of rice and dhal stretch away,
On the verdant tapestry of the horizon.


Handblock print textile factories hang wonders to dry,
Marble-inlay workshops scratch and chisel mogul geometry,
Cross-legged gem-polishers work shiny jewels,
Rhajasthani paintings and your name on a grain of rice,
The impossible orchestration of hundreds of threads,
In baffling hand-operated looms.


Arthurian mists over early-morning lakes,
Dense jungle with the fleeting glimpse of a chital,
The adrenaline-rush promise of a tiger,
Glorious representations of Hindu deities adorn the country,
Vishnu, Shiva, Kali, Hanuman, Krishna and Ganesh,
From enormous bronzes to windscreen stickers,
Diamond-shaped kites fly with birds above the rooftops of Varanasi,
Stacks of wood teeter on the steps of a cremation ghat,
Heaps of marigold garlands, sandalwood and shrouds,
Sunrise over the Ganges,
Sunset on Khajuraho.

The chime of a prayer bell,
Marriage of sitar and tabla,
The moo of a nomadic cow, first thing in the morning,
Cacophonous clatter of the looms,
Laughter of children in the countryside,
Traffic horns announcing an imminent over/undertaking manoeuvre,
Haunting sounds of the jungle at dawn,
Shrill bicycle bells of the cycle rickshaws,
The insistently luring cry of the shopkeepers,
Splashing oars in the Ganges,
Crackling flames from the funeral pyres,
Baying of camels,
The distant alarm call of a spotted deer,
A generator rumbles as it kicks at a power drop,
The exotic tune of a snake charmer’s pungi,
The ubiquitous call of "Garam Chai."

Sweet lassies, masala chai, Kingfisher beer and Pipers' Indian whisky,
Samosas, chapattis, poppadoms, naan breads, dosas and puris,
Lime pickle, breakfast masala omelettes, pistachios and cashews,
After dinner sugar-coated minty fennel seeds,
The self-contained joy of a thali,
Coconut, syrup, and fruits,
Curry-a-Go-Go.

Incense, cow dung, boiling masala chai,
Diesel, sandalwood carvings, freshly cooked street food,
Ayurvedic massage oils, tar, elephant dung, wood smoke,
Roses, recently poured concrete, the ink of the Hindustan Times,
Musty mounds of cloth in textile shops, musk and patchouli,
The sparking electrics of auto-rickshaws,
Ambushed by mouth-watering street food aromas.

Heart-racing excitement at the majestic vision of a tiger,
Terror at the head-on approach of a Tata lorry,
Voyeuristic fascination at the funeral ghat,
Frustration at the overly keen touts and salesmen,
Bewilderment in the back streets of Varanasi,
Naughty school kid dormitory spirit on the overnight sleeper train,
The humbling privilege of taking part in a ritual,
Delight in the gentle sway of an elephant ride,
Guilt/pity/irritation at the persistent street beggars,
Genuine wonder at the grandeur of the Taj Mahal,
Amusement at the antics of the Langur monkeys,
Incredulity at the stamping, signing, inspection and lassitude,
The immutable nature of Indian bureaucracy.

Copyright ©DJBurnham 2006 All Rights Reserved

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