Chuckled on the window seat
of the bus, and then
Hid her face
In her hands

Was she shy?

Faint, dark, like a slate,

How could she
Have been otherwise?

It's two decades since
She was in class five
And I in two
In our village school.

On her cheek
The flush of self-confidence
To have learnt by rote
The alphabet.

Married to a dhoti-clad gentleman,
She is now in search
Of a suitable girl
For her son;

Persuaded by the villagers
She is now a candidate
In the local body election;

She said all this
Pressing her face
To the window-sill.

Gives the feeling
Of someone intimate
Like the torn pages
of an old book

From childhood

When eating porridge together
She taught me the art
of sewing sal-leaf bowls.

There was nothing more
To share with Satyabhama.

By the time I was in class five
And she in class two
The bus had left.

I do not know
If I will meet her again.

If only I had had
A fleeting glimpse
Of her face.

by Basudev Sunani
from Karadi Haata;
publisher: Eeshan-Ankit Prakashani, Naupada, 2005