by Cornelia Rohde

In the snaking gullies
of Nizamuddin,
a cochineal-robed fakir
moves softly on bare feet,
winding his way
through pungent smells
of moradabadi biryani,
dahi butter chicken,
stalls of sweets: kheer in earthen bowls,
virulent orange squiggles of imarti,
hawkers of jasmine garlands,
rainbow bangles,
ubiquitous paan wallahs.

Body hung with holy beads,
hair twisted wild,
holding a staff wound
with many colored ribbons,
strings of prayers
tied to his wrists,
his eyes present and distant,
still and volcanic;
a wandering ascetic
whose only demand
is to draw near to God.

I find his iridescent spirit
in yearning gawwals
sung at Dargah. 
I hold their longing
close within me.


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