The invisible mountain

Published: Thursday 31 December 1992

-- Arms outstretched on the edge of the cliffs
Stand a few trees
Ready to fly away with the clouds.

They say these deodars once
Kissed the Koku nala
And embraced the skies so tight
That the stars were startled
By the village glow-worms every night.

Now when the corn touches gold
A scoundrel bear
Swoops down the slopes
Blazing destruction
All our pistols and double barrelled guns
Fail to stop him.
Maharaj, where is that old rogue this year?

The mountain before you
Hides another from view.
Ascend the slopes to Rana Ki Kot
And look across
But the mountain will not appear
It is drowned in mist
To float up staid

The slate on the watermill still shimmers
The corn spreads in yellow sheets
The cowherds laze around, watching
Across the valleys the cattle are grazing
You say the mountain
Shrouded in mist
Would reappear.

But see how clear is the sky
No mist, no fog
No wisp of a cloud stuck on a cliff top
That mountain is not visible, Maharaj.

You cannot see on the mountain
The gujar camp
With long-waisted women dressed in black
And the wild dogs with eyes of burning coal
That mountain is not visible, Maharaj
Its silence hides behind
The mountain before you
A wounded deer waiting to spring.

(J Swaminathan has been a painter for over 40 years. A former director of Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal, he is currently the chairman of the National Museum of Man. He contributed this previously untranslated poem to Down To Earth, has been translated from the original Hindi by Amit Mitra.)

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