The friend who visits in my absence – Sundara Ramasamy


Today, too, as on a day in the past,
that friend seems to have dropped in –
when I was not at home.

When he had come by
on that other day too, a time
when my hair had not yet turned grey,
he vanished without revealing his name.

Beard, moustache,
reeking of sweat,
both hands hidden inside
the pockets of his dirty jubba
pulled down at the back,
dust-coated feet,
talks with a cigarette
dangling from his lips –
today, too, my wife
recited the same details.

I hear that he said:
I might come again perhaps –
never had the patience to wait –
why should my name matter?

For me, though, names do matter;
faces matter too.
I am also ready to wait patiently.
May he visit me again someday –
I should be home on that day at least, and hope
that my grey hair does not bring down its curtain
until that day arrives.

(Translated by N Kalyan Raman from the Tamil poem Illaadhapodhu varum Nanban; Originally published in India in Verse, The Little Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 6, New Delhi, 2011)

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