Downpour Kolkata University

- Excerpt from Bob Holman's "INDIA JOURNALS"

Teaching at Kolkata University with Bhatri Mukerjee, a paying gig. University conveniently situated next to Coffee House on College Street where Ginsberg first met Sunil. So Subodh, Ram and I stop in for hadj -- wind up creaking memories stair to giant room, walls browned by coffee smoke, bored waiters, hubbub of intellectual conversation ebbing and flowering and bouncing. The eternal now of the Kolkota coffee house scene. Outside we are surrounded by hundreds of bookstalls, so jammed that books must arrive by rickshaws – no trucks can penetrate. Proprietors sit on stall, cross-legged, stall sevenfeet wide, thousands of books stuffed in all available space, make that no available space. Old, flaking, falling apart gorgeous University, with stained and faded photos of great professors of the past stretching from forgotten to oblivion, all the way to the ceiling. The students have all read Bahtri’s Jasmine – and she is a wonder, weaving together her Kolkata past and present, her romance in Iowa and the resultant ongoing happy, mixed marriage, her originating what is an now an entire genre, “immigrant fiction.” Students listen closely, well-behaved, smart, like a polite private high school in the States. Beatriz shoots, Ram too, and national TV is on hand. I’m on next, students get into modulation to performance, hiphop. Pay for teaching is $25 for two hours. Lunch is boxed tuna and pasty with cardboard cake. Then it starts to rain, as much inside as out, the old buildings barely standing up to the deluge, just let it pour through.

_________________________________________________________

DOWNPOUR KOLKATA UNIVERSITY

Halls hold scholars’ centuries
Photos yellow dust darkened walls
Swinging doors to the Dean’s Office
Pouring down wet precious liquid
Burble glurg pl’flow write
Outta the pipes—hold it! It is now
Increasingly rising over your feet wear
Sandals—lucky. Hoist your dress, graduate
Student in Aboriginal Behavior!
The shadows plummet! Total flood overflow
Rinses university. Boat drives by, open door
To taxi? water pours in!
Water drips from every department:
History, Literature,
Science, Mathematics.
Antiphonal raindrops,
Galleons subaqueous
Drowning in Wisdom