Mukul Kesavan

From Lutyens’ stupa to the Stadium,

Runs Rajpath, stalked by Kingsway’s ghost,

This central vista cut in half by Janpath,

Queensway’s modern host.

The king’s road rallies, surges on,

And loops around a sandstone arch,

A broad colonial course on which, a young

Republic’s armies march.

Past India Gate — close-written with, the names

Of dead men killed abroad, in foreign wars,

They couldn’t name — march desi troops

In India’s cause.

In cravats, cockades and epaulettes, they

Hup-two-three to a canopied space,

Once occupied by George the Fifth, badshah

To the human race.

Stone-glazed in marble robes he stood and glared,

At the pillared piles that Baker built,

Indifferent to the nation state which asked,

For post-colonial guilt.

Unhoused, exiled to Coronation Park,

From Kingsway to an older Kingsway Camp,

Unroofed without his canopy, George stands,

Hot, shat-upon and damp.

To fill the king-shaped hole he left behind

The Nation toyed with Gandhi as a mascot;

(As likely as M. Karamchand in tails,

In bronze, at Ascot).

That didn’t work, the space remains to-let,

But Rajpath now has patriots for tenants,

As khaki fades to olive green, men die

For national pennants.

A royal totem yields to Nothingness,

Which, patient, waits for Edwin’s dome to fall,

To make, as Clemenceau predicted,

The finest ruin of them all.