Poetry at Sangam



TO VIVEKANANDA, JR by Vijay Nambisan

Narendra, when the gods come calling
                Will you render strict account
Of all the times you might have fallen
                Off your high and mighty mount?

You perceive paths we’ve not seen yet;
                Still, the elephant is a beast
Who does not, will not, cannot forget
                Fright nor favour, fret nor feast.

The pachyderm on which you’re perching
                Is a thousand million strong;
Left and right alternate lurching,
                Straight the road it moves along.

When the gods come calling, Naren,
                Look behind and you will see
Where you thought you were you aren’t,
                What you made is still to be.

The sun is westing, but the east
                Is just as bright as all you feared:
What inglorious god has seized
                This time to creep up on your rear?

Though the mind is strong, determined,
                And the chest be five feet round,
Still the pachyderm is thin-skinned,
                Fifteen men make that funereal sound.

You gaze before with steel-rimmed eyes,
                Destiny seems to meet your gaze:
But what power in your glasses vies
                With Gandhi’s for a nation’s praise?

The bands sing out the ballots’ count,
                The voters vote and depart hence.
From up there, do you think you can count
                On a billion to display sense?

Easily you disdain, easy
                Rest the laurels round your biceps;
When you’ve fallen off the beastie,
                Will you so easily rise up?

But put these thoughts aside of falling,
                Perched so smugly in your howdah:
Until that day the gods come calling,
                Let the hosannas sound louder.

The democratickest custom, Naren,
                Is the gift of easy dreaming.
A dictator’s right is to arrange
                The dreams which are coming teeming.

Then let the salute royal ring out,
                The elephant raise his trunk and bawl;
Let the crowds ecstatic sing out,
                “We have all we needed, all!”