“That man put on a new woolen coat and went away like a thought”

Vinod Kumar Shukla
Translated from the Hindi by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

That man put on a new woolen coat and went away like a thought.In rubber flip-flops I struggled behind.The time was six in the morning, the time of hand-me-downs, and it was freezing cold.Six in the morning was like six in the morning.There was a man standing under a tree.In the mist it looked like he was standing inside his own blurred shape.The blurred tree looked exactly like a tree.To its right was a blurred horse of inferior stock,Looking like a horse of inferior stock.The horse was hungry, the mist like a grassy field to him.There were other houses, trees, roads, but no other horse.There was only one horse. I wasn't that horse,But my breath, when I panted, was indistinguishable from the mist.If the man standing at that one spot under the tree was the master,Then to him I was a horse at a gallop, horseshoes nailed to my boot soles.

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Image of Vinod Kumar Shukla

Vinod Kumar Shukla‘s first collection of poems was a twenty-page chapbook, Lagbhag Jaihind (Hail India, Almost, 1971), the ironic title marking him out as a new voice in Hindi poetry. His novels include Deevar mein ek khidki rehti thi (A Window Lived in a Wall 1997), which won the Sahitya Akademi Award, and a volume of stories, Blue Is Like Blue (2019), translated by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra and Sara Rai.

Image of Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

Arvind Krishna Mehrotra’s books include Selected Poems and Translations and Songs of Kabir, both published by NYRB and Collected Poems published by Shearsman Books. His Ghalib, A Diary is out from New Walk Editions this month. His recent work appears in Poetry and The Common. He lives in Dehra Dun, India.

Cover of the Book, Future Library, Contemporary Indian Writing

Pasadena, California

A diverse and essential anthology of poetry and fiction that springs from—and is shaped around—the shared heritage that contemporary Indian writers claim across time, location and language.

This anthology brings together one hundred contemporary Indian poets and fiction writers working in English as well as translating from other Indian languages. Located anywhere from Michigan to Mumbai, the sources of their creativity range from the ancient epics to twentieth-century world literature, with themes suggesting a modernist individuality and sense of displacement as well as an ironic, postmodern embracing of multiple disjunctions. The editors present a historical background to the various Englishes apparent in this collection, while also identifying the shared traditions and contexts that hold together their uniquely diverse selection. In aiming at coherence rather than unity, Hasan and Chattarji reveal that the idea of Indianness is as much a means of exploring difference as finding common ground.

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