A humid afternoon in 1985
the reading room is almost empty,
the fan on long stem stirs air
as a long skirt pushes dust.
Steel ladders reach the racks above
where a lizard freshly hatched from an egg
balances on the spine of Ruskin’s
‘Seven Lamps Of Architecture’,
spasmodically jerks its hind
to shit a dark grain with white pinpoint.
Volumes of ‘The Tattler’ and ‘The Spectator’
stand heavy with dust,
pages brittle like sheets of glass
break on turned by a research scholar
from the Madras U.
The librarian reads Tamil pulp fiction
she picked from a lending library,
printed on cheap newsprint
the pages carry signs of oil
that trickled from her packed lunch.
on the pavement
a peanut seller holds out cones
Occasionally a crow
passes by for a snack
of the roasted nuts.
(This poem is inspired by ‘Bharati Bhavan Library, Chowk, Allahabad’ written by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra.)