Evening. Dye from prayer flags mounted on bamboo poles runs into the western sky. They have fluttered here for over a century now and it is impossible to imagine the landscape without them: the mast of bamboo, the spinnaker of flag, the hulk of shack and the rudder of plough steered by a boy through scalloped earth. My jahajibhai. My shipmate. Though on terra firma, he still sways to the raga of the sea, preparing the land for the advancing season. Draw near him and you see that his skin is salt, his hair kelp, his fingers coral and those are the eyes of a drowned man. The sea. Sagar. Kala pani. Five generations of howling at it has left an indelible mark on him. Now it is a habit, this howling. The sea: sponsor, foe, lover, tormentor. You left him in transit between Calcutta and Nadi, between state and state you left him stateless. Why? The scrolling waves publish dumb sheets in reply. As always. No dues, no riddles. The boy tilts the rudder; he is guided by the earthworm, the koraning cicadas, the sun now the pallor of kavika, the starapples ripening against an olive sky. His sparring with the sea is familiar to both of them, but sometimes he forgets if he is pushing a prow through clods or a plough through surf. For the earth is like the sea here, always moving beneath him. It is leased. They call it the Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Act. He calls it a disturbance in his soul.
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