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Reetika Vazirani
Reetika Vazirani
Born in India in 1962 and raised in Maryland, poet Reetika Vazirani received the 2003 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for her book, World Hotel...
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Independence

 
by Reetika Vazirani

Mussoorie, Uttar Pradesh, India, l947

When I am nine, the British quit
India.  Headmaster says, "The Great
Mutiny started it."  We repeat,
The Great Mutiny of 1857
in our booming voices.  Even
Akbar was Great, even Catherine,
Great!  We titter over History.  His back
turns: we see his pink spotty neck.


Sorry, the British leaving? we beg.
"This is hardly a joke or a quiz --
sit up and stay alert," he spits.
"It is about the trains and ships
you love and city names.  As for me,
I'm old, I'll end in a library,
I began in trade."  But you must stay,
we tell him.  He lived here as we have lived


but longer.  He says he was alive
in Calcutta in 1890.  He didn't have
a rich father.  A third son, he came with
the Tea Company:  we saw a statement
in his office. The company built
the railroads to take the tea "home
to England" so that Darjeeling and Assam
could be sipped by everyone, us and them.


They sold our southern neighbor Ceylon,
silk, pepper, diamonds, cotton.
We make a trade of course.  In England
there is only wool and salt and
snobs and foggy weather, Shakespeare.






This poem originally appeared in the Paris Review. © 2000 by Reetika Vazirani. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
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