By Mangalesh Dabral
This number does not exist.
Wherever I go whichever number I dial
At the other end a strange voice says
This number does not exist yeh number maujood nahin hai
Not too long ago at this number I used to reach people
Who said: of course we recognize you
There is space for you in this universe
But now this number does not exist it is some old number.
At these old addresses very few people are left
Where at the sound of footsteps doors would be opened
Now one has to ring the bell and wait in apprehension
And finally when one appears
It is possible that he might have changed
Or he might say I am not the one you used to talk to
This is not the number where you would hear out your grief
Wherever I go numbers maps faces seem to be changed
Old diaries are strewn in the gutters
Their names slow-fading in the water
Now other numbers are available more than ever with and without wires
But a different kind of conversation on them
Only business only transactions buy-and-sell voices like strangers
Whenever I go I desperately dial a number
And ask for the voice that used to say
The door is open you can stay here
Come along for a while just for the sake of it any time in this universe.
Translation from original hindi poem Yah Number Maujood Nahin Hai by Sudeep Sen. The original poem appeared
in the collection Kavi Ne Kaha (2010) by the poet.