Poem: How Long Is The Distance From Gujarat To Assam?
By Paloma Bhattacharjee
Distances are only thinkable in their collapsing.
Two thousand eight hundred kilometres
Between Gujarat to Assam
Are inches between your fingertips on the map.
For unlike rivers, maps don’t confess of far-ness
They only seize
– Pinch away the distance between you and the moon.
Distance is only a meaning in its overcoming –
A conclusions’ purse-lipped afterthought.
But if unity is an epilogue to the history of languages,
Then let the journey of a folktale that has travelled between
Kashmir and Tamil Nadu be left to be told by the storms
And floods encountered on its path. Even if they lie stifled
Under cemented roads, communication will find its way,
Without the brokerage of highways and lexicons.
For distance was a convert reborn,
And the first Train that Durga and Apu watched in awe*
Was the apostle’s victory march.
But when has a tempest knelt before a preacher,
Long after the whistles were gone, those tracks
Of what was never a temple and what can never be a tomb –
Trembled with the wails of Little Road’s death song.
Those tracks, now splintered with bones,
Their distances have bled out of maps.
Will you still roll out your measuring tapes,
And try to stitch bandages with them?
When time has refused to be a currency,
Will you still do transactions of distance with speed?
Will you still vanquish distance with metaphors – Pilgrimage! Long March!
When the promise of a Highway from Porbandar to Cachar
Has been trampled over by Distance on its feet.
*The reference is to a scene from the movie Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road).
Paloma Bhattacharjee is a researcher working at the National Museum Institute, New Delhi. She has previously published her essays on Countercurrents and Raiot.
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