Poetry in the city.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The Delhi Walla arranged to meet poet C.P. Cavafy at his office in Rail Bhawan, the headquarters of the Indian Railways in Central Delhi. At the age of twenty nine Mr Cavafy took up an appointment as special clerk in the Third Circle of the Ministry of Railways. He circulates his poetry only among a select group of friends. “I meet them every evening in Nehru Park,” he tells me.
In his early 50s, the clerk-poet, who writes in Greek, lives with his mother at a two-room apartment in Janakpuri, West Delhi. He shares a poem with us.
Two Young Men, 23 to 24 Years Old
He’d been sitting in the café since ten-thirty
expecting him to turn up any minute.
Midnight went by, and he was still waiting for him.
It was now after one-thirty, and the café was almost deserted.
He’d grown tired of reading newspapers
mechanically. Of his three lonely shillings
only one was left: waiting that long,
he’d spent the others on coffees and brandy.
He’d smoked all his cigarettes.
So much waiting had worn him out. Because
alone like that for so many hours,
he’d also begun to have disturbing thoughts
about the immoral life he was living.
But when he saw his friend come in—
weariness, boredom, thoughts vanished at once.
His friend brought unexpected news.
He’d won sixty pounds playing cards.
Their good looks, their exquisite youthfulness,
the sensitive love they shared
were refreshed, livened, invigorated
by the sixty pounds from the card table.
Now all joy and vitality, feeling and charm,
they went—not to the homes of their respectable families
(where they were no longer wanted anyway)—
they went to a familiar and very special
house of debauchery, and they asked for a bedroom
and expensive drinks, and they drank again.
And when the expensive drinks were finished
and it was close to four in the morning,
happy, they gave themselves to love.
[Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard]
As part of the series Delhi’s Bandaged Moments, The Delhi Walla is searching for poets in the city. If you are one, please contact me at email@example.com.