I Seek Him



___The string cots are lined outside, lined side by side. But my father is not there. Do you know where my father is, where my father can be found?

___My mother is there, my brother is there. But there is no sign of my father. Do you know where my father is—where my father can be found?

___“Papa,” I call.

___He does not answer me.

___“Papa,” I call.

___He does not answer me.

___“Papa,” I call.

___There is silence (only silence).


___I walk the streets in search of my father.

___“Have you seen my father?” I say.

___They look at me.

___“Have you seen my father?” I say.

___They look at me.

___“He was wearing a white shirt, white pants.”

___One of them smiles. Perhaps he thinks it is a joke, all a joke. But do you think he answers? Do you think he helps—even tries to help?


___My mother lives in a daze.

___“Mother,” I say.

___She does not answer me.

___“Mother,” I say.

___She does not answer me.

___She goes to the kitchen, she boils the water for the tea. She goes to the kitchen, she makes food. All day she is in the kitchen, making tea, making food.

___“Eat,” she says. “Are you ready for your food?” she says. “You are small children, the children must eat.”


___Food and food, there is so much food in the house. There is enough food in the house to last us for a month. But my mother is not satisfied. “Bournvita,” she says, “where is the Bournvita? Children do not like milk, do not like the taste of milk by itself. And if they do not have Bournvita, how will they drink?”


___My mother is concerned—concerned for the food. But my father, does she not care for my father? “Come, children,” she says. “Eat, children,” she says. “The children are hungry (always hungry). The children must eat,” she says.


___The string cots are lined outside, lined side by side. But my father is not there. Do you know where my father is—where my father can be found?


§


___I lie on the string cot, I think of my father. One time (a long time ago) my father went to Madras. It was dark outside, it was raining—the snakes might come—and I was afraid. Before going to sleep I said my prayers. I pulled on my ears three times, and I said my prayers.

___“I am afraid, dear God,” I said. “Take care of my father, dear God,” I said. I pulled on my ears three times and I said my prayers.

___I woke up, and my father was standing next to my bed. “Hello, son,” he said.

___“Papa!” I said.

___“Hello, son,” he said.

___“Papa!” I said.

___Outside the rain fell. But now it was not so dark. It was not morning, and it was not night. But now it was not so dark.


___I lie on the string cot, I think of that night. Now is it the same way? My father has not gone away, not really. He has gone on a journey (that is all). And soon now (any day now, any minute), my father will be back!


___I go to my mother (she is in the kitchen), I remind her of that night.

___She looks at me.

___I go to my brother (he is in his room), I remind him as well.

___He looks at me.

___Why are they so rude to me, so indifferent? Do they not care, do they not see?


___My father, my father (I seek him). Do you know where my father is? Will you be kind, will you be helpful? Can you tell?


§


___Fathers are great men (is it not so), are they not the best people in the world? Fathers are fathers, without them how can one live?

___One time I had to write an essay on war.

___My father helped me. “War is a curse,” he said.

___I had to write an essay on happiness.

___My father helped me. “Happiness is not a sellable commodity,” he said.

___I had to go to school, learn all the difficult things of the world.

___My father took me to school, on a bicycle himself he took me.

___The other children were rich, they came in cars, they came on scooters. When they saw my father (the bicycle he rode, the hole in his shirt), they laughed. “Is he your servant?” they said. “Your servant, does he not shave?” they said.

___They were cruel children, I hated them their cruelty. But then I was too young (and too ashamed myself ), I did not speak up.

___But now I am older (is it not so?). I will find my father, I will do it. The world may laugh at him, make fun. “No, no, my father is a good man,” I will say, I will insist. “My father is a good man. He is good!”


___And yet, this father I speak of, where is he? The string cots are lined outside, lined side by side. The bedding has been put on the string cots, how nice the white sheets look. A cool night it is, there are clouds in the sky (the kind moon). But there is no sign of my father. Do you know where my father is, where my father can be found?


§


___People come to the house, they ask us for some tea.

___My mother rushes to the kitchen, she boils the water for the tea.

___People come to the house, they ask us for some Coca-Cola.

___My father saved all the money he earned, he bought us a fridge. Proudly I walk to the fridge, I get these people the Coca-Cola they want. I put the Coca-Cola on a tray, I put the glass there, the ice in the glass.

___I walk to these people, I offer them the glass, the ice. The people are impressed.