Mihir Vatsa: "In 2009, the Indian NH 33, which passes through my hometown, Hazaribagh, was disrupted at two places due to a broken bridge and an underground coal fire, causing a plateau town to become nearly isolated for months. These two poems are based on that situation."
Hazaribagh, with the Bay of Bengal
still over five hundred kilometres away.
A British bridge in the north conspired
with a smooth coalfield-road in the south;
and finally, in 2009, both went down—
the former hanging over a tiny Siwane,
unable to bear buses from Koderma,
the latter smoking in an underground fire.
I de-boarded at Ramgarh, because
trains in Hazaribagh are only an idea—
an hour and half from home, rain
splattering against the leaves, branches,
searching, in the night, for a road
that neither drowned, nor burned.
Since ’85, I have heard this lake’s haunted
so, rickshaws won’t come here. Even for a 50.
At times, ghosts surface on the water,
show knives, throw punches, steal, and kill.
Strange how a plateau becomes an island
as a town battles water-shortage, promises.
Strange how trains still appear in new dreams
without a route, track, or map, without tunnels.
Strange that tonight Ramgarh is so far,
because weeks ago, it only took an hour.
Mihir Vatsa grew up in the plateau-town of Hazaribagh before moving to New Delhi for his university education. In New Delhi, he lives in a room on a roof with his little netbook and water bottles. His poems have previously appeared in and are forthcoming from Eclectica Magazine, Downer Magazine, Contemporary Literary Review- India, The Four Quarters Magazine, Boston Literary Magazine and UCity Review among other places.