The guest

At times I realize
That the country
Where I work, doesn’t
Belong to me.

Here the rains appear strange
Petrichor smells foreign
They fail to make me happy
I wonder why!

I do love to see those huge
Red autumn-leaves,
They look beautiful;
But I’ve grown up seeing
Catkin flowers talking
To the feathery clouds,
Priests are hired for the
Durga puja* which is celebrated
With enthusiasm and grandeur,
And I’ve also made friends here
Still in me a sense
of emptiness prevails.

Then where do I belong!
Cannot ignore money, good life?
That’s why I’m floating here
Singing the immigrant’s song!

Despite the number of shops,
No matter how flawlessly
I sing ‘On the country roads’
Or a Jim Reeves number
I’m always out of tune
A signed off intruding prune.
If they don’t find anything
They’d look at me, in a metro
They’d stand for miles
Yet not sit beside me
Or they’d simply say,
‘O I love this accent’
Until I realize I’m a guest.

But when I go to my
own country, there too
I’m made to feel like a guest.
Relatives, friends
Carry for-how-long-you’re-here
On their curious faces
I’m pound and dollar for them
Passers-by look at me strangely,
Roadside teashop owners
Call me sir, but hesitate
Calling me by my name
No matter how flawlessly
I recite in my mother tongue
Lines of Tagore so dear
‘Where the mind is without fear
And the head is held high’
Looking up in the azure sky.

In this world I guess
The only consolation
That perhaps eases
Is that we all are guests.

I also have this voice
In me which says,
‘O boy, chin up, head high
You’ve made a choice
Make it right without guilt or shame
Both the beautiful countries
Are gaining as much as you are
No worries, you’ve come this far.
Don’t cloud your head with insipid stories
Accept the game
Do not sulk, do not blame
Anyone, neither the petrichor, nor the graceful rains
You’ve come here for your growth
Your places of work and birth belong to you
You also belong to both.
Red leaves and catkin flowers
Too fall and bloom as guests
We’re all visitors here
Love it all just as they are
And keep on doing your best.

Durga puja* – A Bengali festival that takes place in every autumn.

© supratik 2023
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