Santahar | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 17, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:29 PM, June 17, 2017

Poetry

Santahar

(For Azfar Hussain)

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No, I've never been to Santa Fe.

And I haven't been to Santahar either.

Two hallowed syllables in common,

and a gently curved line

twelve thousand miles long

to link and set them apart.

Santa Fe conjures up

Wild West reveries

on muggy monsoon afternoons,

ghost towns, rattlesnakes,

rustlers, barroom brawls, 

gunfights at sundown, 

raiders on horseback

ambushing a train,

the sheriff's glittering tin star,

all in Cinemascope and Technicolor.

And Santahar?

Not a name to conjure with.

Perhaps my fascination

is just a private vice.

All I know is that Santahar,

a small-town around 

a railway junction,

its braided steel

forged in the furnace

of the Raj, and stained 

with the blood of history,

is just another place

where everyday life goes on,

people get off and get on

and go off in another direction.

Santahar, I sigh,

yielding to the magic 

of “ah”, the primal vowel,

repeated three times

between delicately poised consonants,

why, it's only fifty miles,

and I'll need no visa to visit. 

I must go there one of these days,

I say to myself, and lazily

Google it on Youtube

and find an amateur video:

trees, rough roads, jerry-built 

offices, schools, homes,

hospital,  ponds, railway station, 

bazaar, crowds in lungis,

just what one would expect,

with a sentimental tune playing

and an abrupt end 

with the scrawled legend:

“We love it, miss it, 

& wanna die in it…”

Unawares,

a catch

in my throat.

Now I know what Santahar means:

it's any place you want to go back to

so you can die in peace.


Kaiser Haq has received the Sherwin W. Howard poetrt award for 2017 from the journal ‘Weber- the Contemporary West” for the poems reprinted here. He is professor of English at the University of Dhaka.

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