It is the evening of the first day

Of a new year, a new decade:

The water sparkling, green as jade

The waves lash at rocks and spray

Tiny drops my eyes can’t see.

My boys run down, leaving me.

Alone, staring at the ocean

Where land ends, and the nation,

And the continent, reaching limit,

Recedes, aware of the loss of time,

Of space, an era, the youth’s prime,

Ten years gone, in a minute.

The light will fade, the sun will set,

The Vietnamese kids are laying bets.

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They think that we have brought

our food

Being Indians, on a picnic,

It’ll lift: A fog-shrouded view of San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge.

We’ll have wine, the company’s good,

As we walk to a quaint sushi bar

Determined to leave the car

Even when we are in California:

Teenagers, kids, men, mama mia.

But that is later; it is certain

We are getting ahead of the tale

Of those weeks with friends in the vale,

In the shadow of the mountains

Of Ansel Adams, the High Sierra:

His lens makes icicles into a tiara.


The beach is now shrouded in mist:

It is hidden so well, says the woman

Who carries a thick printout of a list

Of sights to see, as she touches her bun

So that her boyfriend with the wide-angle lens

Can picture her, in front of the fence.

She smiles but has to squint her eyes

The sun still warm, the moon to rise.

We live in a digital age, so she can see

What she looks like in the photos he took.

She is angry, you can tell from her look

She needs good shots. She turns to me

Asks if I’d do a better job

Of snapping her smile. Yes, but with Bob.


I say I want both in the shot

Together, with smiles, because their friends

Will expect them happy, whether or not

They will be together as their journey ends.

We part, they walk their hands clasped tight

I hope there’s a gap before they fight

Again, as she will complain and scowl

Because she does not like the wind’s howl.

I enjoy their absence, walk on the rocks,

Listening to the birds’ conversation

About people, and their observation

Of our folly, its humour, pain, and knocks.

“Where are you?" I hear my friends ask,

Finding me has become their task.


I wave, they laugh, their voices rise

The valley resounds with their laughter

They ask if I’d like some rice

At the sushi bar: I want to go after

I’ve seen the sun disintegrate

Like scattered seeds of pomegranate,

Trembling like millions of fireflies,

Meanwhile, the waves fall and rise.

The pointillist image before my eye

Like a landscape on a canvas

Of Seurat, with dots shaping a mass

Of water, rocks, the sea, and the sky.

The wind turns icy, the light fades.

The unseen dominates, as in Hades.


The trees sway gently, their leaves rustle.

The squall thunders, the sea roars

I find today’s San Francisco Chronicle

Whose edit page is written by bores.

The state is torn and divided—can two men

Marry each other? Or two women?

If that comes to pass, is it not the end,

Of civilization, and who can mend?

Kim Tarvesh would sign the petition

That respects choice if they want to marry

But Bible thumpers want the proposition

That would force Sally to kiss only Harry

And not Jack with Ennis or Thelma with Louise

They insist they’re right. But in love, who is?


Ah, love: its mysteries unknown

To mere mortals who suffer and pine,

Driving through valleys, often alone,

Looking for warmth, kisses, and wine,

Through windy roads and forests deep,

By the Big Sur, with valleys steep,

The city with a thousand lights

Promising glitter every night.

During the day, when the fog

Decides to come out and play

Its game of hide-and-seek by the Bay,

Brave women step out to jog

Wearing their tight, day-glo leotards,

Pounding the road, quick as leopards.


I find the sushi bar by the smell of wasabi

Where friends have sat and chosen to wait

Before ordering: Empty glasses of sake and Asahi

Remind me what I’ve missed, being late.

I opt for the safe starter: tempura

Washed down with chilled Sakura

Vishal is bold, wants a roll called Avatar:

A trendy innovation in the sushi bar.

The food is fresh, you feel the nice

And crisp batter around the shrimp:

The waitress pops up, like an imp

With hot sauce, certain we’d love the spice.

The salmon delicate, fine and pink

And Jiten says he will not drink.


For he will drive through a curvy road

Listening to NPR, Monterey to San Jose

Shreeya has Chipmunks on her iPod,

Fine, all things considered. Tomorrow: idli-dose.

Then, Alicia says, Vietnamese pho

Which isn’t as mild as Japanese miso

But nor spicy like Mexican gazpacho

The soup to have, if you are macho.

The symmetrical fields bristle with variety,

Of fruit and garlic and oranges and wine,

Such a joy it is with friends to dine,

With clinking glasses, moments of gaiety.

Dawn—fog returns. The Golden Gate disappears.

Moments later it lifts; the icon reappears.


I think back to another time

At Half-Moon Bay, another sunset:

The pale sky gleams, yellow as lime,

My friends have just seen

Jab We Met

The beach looks serene in that twilight

My sons decide to walk to the edge

Of the water, near the rocky ledge

The silhouette they form, a divine sight.

I find leaving that evening hard

Others walk. I wait and stare.

Waves crumble, I despair,

Over things unsaid, and memories’ shards.

The foam all white, the rocks are dark

I pine for what’s not: the skylark.

Write to Salil at detours@livemint.com