Chasing Shadows


Fourth-highest civilian award, Padma Shri, in India. Always announced on Jan. 26

It was 1961. Jan. 26. I knew the night of the 25th, when a reporter called to tell him. I was next to him as he tied a starched dhoti on me, as we got ready for some wedding dinner or some such. He cried.  It was only 14 years after independence. This then was a big deal. There were 26 recipients that year. There are 102 today.

What I internalized over a half century and more ago was of my doing. The struggle of the ego and self-esteem. He did what he could. Much more than I had any right to expect. I was 11 then. He was 44. I chased him up the hill but I knew long ago that I’d never catch him. Not that he was running away from me. This was who he was. Gifted, maddening. Loathsome and loving. 

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets

And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes

Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? ...

I should have been a pair of ragged claws

Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” ( ~ Eliot)