The Man Bends Again

A man, naked, stands divided in river. He bends his back just enough to immerse his head in it. He remains there holding his breath, and in that profound moment of mortal reality can hear the river. He chooses not to.

He stands there, positioned precariously, finding a fish. It looks difficult. It is difficult. People watch in anticipation. A man with a camera, aware of the picturesque significance of the act, stands still as a scared little rabbit. A woman, probably from China, sits amidst amused men, like Buddha, her eyes half-open. A small girl, wearing yellow, selling flowers, looks too.

After moments, which seem like loathsome decades, the man locates the fish swishing past the pale river. He throws his hands in the water, joins them to make a small cage of sorts, and heaves them out almost then. He stands erect – divided in river – looking at his hands. The man with the camera looks. The woman sitting like Buddha looks. The little girl wearing yellow looks.

His firmly gripped hands drip water. The fish survives. A hint of exasperation swells a little spot above his temples. But soon it vanishes. The man bends again.

In one of the many middles of the darkening river, someone rows a boat. “The river has been calm off late,” he tells the girl looking at him in amazement. “Or it would have required more men,” he elaborates to tell her that rowing alone is not that big a task.

She looks away at a distant lighthouse. He tells her it is haunted by ghosts. She looks at a distant Ghat. He tells her it is for burning the dead. She looks at a train on an old bridge. He tells her he has never been on a train. She looks at him, again. He looks away.