PRIYADARSHI PATNAIK                      

Uncharted Travel Diaries

No 24  

Shadows are often like memory.  In the indistinctness I confused the town for another.  So many details were familiar. They surprised me.  I almost felt I knew the people who walked in the growing darkness.  

Memory plays strange tricks.  I rested for a moment on an old bench and wondered if all towns were not the same.

Page 12
No 109  

These days I forget.  Earlier I made copious notes of the places I visited.  I took down dates. Indicated the hours of the day.  Years later I found I did not know the words, the quick sketches, the unfamiliar hand.  When I read them I imagined another place another time without memory.

Page 206
No 159

In Varanasi I searched for temples.  Among the heat and people I was alone.  Barefoot, worrying about my shoes, I stepped on old slippery unreliable stones.  

It did not feel real – thousands of pilgrims for endless years.  

Later, on Dussera ghat of Ganga in a brief silence I was crowded by ancient voices.  

As evening descended I composed a quick poem and left it near the water.

Blue hot summer night.
A moment on Dussera Ghat –
Shattered mirror.

Page 163
No 99  

For a traveler dates and time always come up. The season to travel to a cold place. The time of the day for shadows. With a watch on his hand he feels he makes history. My diaries filled up quickly.  Looking back, all I see are dates and time.  

Summer touches me today as if we have never touched before.  Or as if we never parted.  I used to think travel was all about difference.  Today I have done away with my watch and calendar.  My diaries, without memory of dates and time, are words that repeat themselves endlessly among seasons.   

Page 165
No 29

I blink at the sun
Look back and what do I see?
Shadow of a little monk.  

The barber was amused and curious like all small town folk.  “You don’t look the type,” he said after he tonsured my head.  I do not know what he meant, but the children followed me as far as the corner of the street throwing pebbles.  

Page 73
No 139  

Diaries write about people.  

Along with others I also believed this.  But when I go back to early pages I only see words among their own memories.  The I trapped in ink has nothing to do with the hand writing new words in black today.  

The water is cool here. I drink a bellyful. Wipe my hands so as not to get ink smudges.  And write again.  

Page 172
No 84  

I had been in love with her once.  We again wear the smiles that we once wore on our young faces.  Today they sit uncomfortable among growing wrinkles.  

I gaze at her ugliness and she looks at mine.  “I have to leave early.”  She seems relieved.  

I walk towards the station in the fading redness reassured that we burn the bodies after death.  

Page 153
No 96  

Relationships are difficult.  I have a fear of them – like a young eye that persists in your memory while out there it slowly grows tired.  Like my skin that shows wrinkles no matter how hard I rub.  Remembering is perhaps only remembering that.  

What have I been successful in eluding?  All my life I use the same words again and again, remembering their leanness, their hunger, their touch, or their fresh smell.  Running from my words I have only added them up again and given them another memory.




Priyadarshi Patnaik (b.1969) is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Humanities & Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, India.  His publications include two books of poems, a book of criticism as well as research papers, poems and metafictions.  His current interests include haiku, multimedia poetry and visual aesthetics.  E-mail: