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    IN INDIA by Nissim Ezekiel

    Always, in the sun's eye,
    Here among the beggars,
    Hawkers, pavement sleepers,
    Hutment dwellers, slums,
    Dead souls of men and gods,
    Burnt-out mothers, frightened
    Virgins, wasted child
    And tortured animal,
    All in noisy silence
    Suffering the place and time,
    I ride my elephant of thought,
    A Cezanne slung around my neck.


    The Roman Catholic Goan boys
    The whitewashed Anglo-Indian boys
    The musclebound Islamic boys
    Were earnest in their prayers.

    They copied, bullied, stole in pairs
    They bragged about their love affairs
    They carved the tables broke the chairs
    But never missed their prayers.

    The Roman Catholic Goan boys
    Confessed their solitary joys
    Confessed their games with-heeled toys
    And hastened to the prayers.

    The Anglo-Indian gentlemen
    Drank whiskey in some Jewish den
    With Muslims slowly creeping in
    Before or after prayers.


    To celebrate the year's end:
    men in grey or black,
    women, bosom semi-bare,
    twenty-three of us in all,
    six nations represented.

    The wives of India sit apart,
    They do not drink,
    they do not talk,
    of course, they do not kiss.
    The men are quite at home
    among the foreign styles
    (what fun the flirting is!);
    I myself, decorously,
    press a thigh or two in sly innocence.
    The party is a great success.

    The someone says: we can't
    enjoy it, somehow, don't you think?
    The atmosphere corrupt,
    and look at our wooden wives ...
    I take him out to get some air.


    This, she said to herself,
    As she sat at table
    With the English boss,
    Is it. This is the promise:
    The long evenings
    In the large apartment
    With cold beer and Western music,
    Lucid talk of art and literature,
    And of all "the changes India needs",
    At the second meeting
    In the large apartment.

    After cold beer and the music on,
    She sat in disarray.

    The struggle had been hard
    And not altogether successful,
    Certainly the blouse
    Would not be used again,
    But with true British courtesy
    He lent her a safety pin
    Before she took the elevator down.

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