A Photograph
By Narendra Jain

The house that was razed in the last war
Has no roof left
Walls almost dilapidated
And the window panes
Have shattered down on the debris

A black and white photograph
From several years ago
Is still hanging
On the bedroom wall

The house
Has been turned into
A memorial now

The houses of new settlements
Have sprung up around it

This is the only house
That is in ruins
Now a black and white photograph
Lives in this house

By Narendra Jain
(For novelist Albert Camus)

I almost live in Oran these days
Oran,though, is an imaginary town
Struck with plague

The town is imaginary, and perhaps the plague too
But it is a fact that
People are killed unrelentingly

I feel sometimes
That I left my town and entered
Oran, founded by Albert Camus
Oran, seemingly a town
Made of real stuff

Saw so many faces of the epidemic
Relentless decay of values and things
Just like what dental caries do to one’s teeth
Arrival of bacteria and vultures
Countless rodents running in and out of ratholes

You transgressed
Geographical boundaries
And came here
Just the way I come to you
Every so often.

(Translated from the Hindi by Bharatbhooshan Tiwari)

Narendra Jain has had a quiet but significant presence in Hindi poetry for close to four decades now. He has published seven collections of poetry – Darwaza Khulta Hai (1980), Tita Ke Liye Kavitaein (1984), Yeh Main Hoon Patthar (1985), Udahran Ke Liye (1994), Sarai Mein Kuchh din (2003), Kala Safed Mein Pravisht Hota hai (2010) and Chaurahe Par Lohar (2012) – and two collections of stories, Ekaalap (2008) and Punaravalokan (2003). He has translated several poems of Ernesto Cardenal, Nicanor Parra, Carl Sandburg, Nazim Hikmet and WH Auden into Hindi.