For Rohit Dev Goswami, Six Days Old Today

By Amitava Kumar

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Fertility rates in many places are dropping rapidly, especially in the richest countries, where, to put it simply, any two people are not producing two more people. New York Times, November 2, 1997.

I cheer for you,
one so little,
for taking on the New York Times
so early on in your
career. This should make the news in your own
grandfather's paper in Assam,
Janambhumi, The Birthplace.

In Texas, you arrived around sunset
while in India
it was already dawn
the Brahmaputra red like your name.

The whole nation that night
did celebrate Diwali, the festival of light.

According to The Hindu,
which I read on the world wide web,
Indian schoolchildren
on the day of your birth

took an oath to not use fire-
crackers during Diwali
as a protest against child labor.

Also that day, if you're interested
in matters of the weather,
a full 28 mm
of rain fell
in Thiruvananthapuram, but Calcutta for some reason
remained completely dry.
Oh, was I boring you-don't cry....

Your arrival was announced
in the homes of your family in Assam
by the ringing

of the telephone. From Corpus Christi, the good news was e
-mailed to me post-post-haste

I don't want to mess
with Texas, but even India,
sometimes, is only a bit of electronic data on my computer.

The photograph of your face
will forever be
for your grandparents
their only passport.

The land of your parents' birth
you will receive
in the bright shapes
of postage stamps.

When I see you at play
I hope the faraway fairyland in the stories they tell you will always have
mangoes in it.

Later I'll tell you
that even in this TV global-nation
that joins Boston with Bombay, only twenty miles
from your home, more and more people try to cross the border, doing
what only the bull from Merrill Lynch is allowed to do.

Today your mother
placed outside the door
an oil-lamp, a coin,
grains of rice, a bowl of water

and a pen.
For that's how Destiny
comes and writes one's future in Assam.

I can only add
to those invitations:
a toy car, an Olajuwon jersey,
a Tickle-me-Elmo,

a can of Coke, a computer disk.
When you can rent a video

from a desi grocery store.
Promise me, you'll find
Nargis beautiful

and Dev Anand
dashing. In doing this
humor your parents'

and remember
they actually like Batman and Demi Moore too.

Make of your parts
what you will.
Visit us often
in ours.

Handprint design by Sherazad Jamal.
Redux Handprint
Amitava Kumar
Amitava Kumar is an author. His books include: No Tears for the N.R.I. (Writers Workshop, Calcutta) and Passport Photos (University of California Press, 1999). He is the editor of Class Issues (NYU Press, 1997) and Poetics/ Politics (St Martin's Press, 1999).
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