Havana Sweet

When CIA declassified
A bunch of files on Berhampur —
Oh yes, my little seaside town
Was worth a couple local spies
To CIA’s ongoing watch
Against the rise of communists
In Cuba, China, Russia,
By way of Berhampur-on-sea —
Allegedly, allegedly.

So, yeah, when they declassified
A bunch of files on Berhampur,
I finally, then, understood
Why Russian couples coupled here
And left a little ghetto street,
So full of “Anglo-Indians” —
Allegedly, allegedly —
Who smelled of books and something else
My uncle called “Havana Sweet”.

I finally, then, understood
Why Russian novels sold so cheap
In road-side stalls across the town,
And every man of “cultured taste”
Had shelves and shelves of Russian books
In red or wheatish leatherback.

I finally, then, understood
Why Burmese teak was used to build
These ornate crates for libraries
Of certain naval officers
Who steered their ships on certain days
Away from currents in the sea.

The CIA reports revealed —
Allegedly, allegedly —
Discrepancies in volume, weight
Of shipped-in crates of sugarcane
On cargo ships from Cuban coasts.
Allegedly, allegedly,
Evaporation was the cause,
Along with all the “chipperings”
Of rodents on its dried-up leaves.

The sugarcane unloaded here
And sat with “Anglo-Indians”
Who also owned their own produce
In greenery of Ganjam fields —
The Ganjam fields that got their name,
Allegedly, allegedly,
From yields and yields of Ganja green.

The Burmese ships that brought the books
From mainland China, Russia,
In ornate crates of Burmese teak,
Returned towards the Comrade States
With sugarcane, et cetera,
For comrades sporting thin cigars.
And Cuban ships returned their way
With crates of priceless literature
For farmers signing with their thumbs.

Alas, the Winter of the World
Was soon to freeze Atlantic routes
With missile-loaded submarines.
And Globalising India,
Was soon to freeze Berhampur roots
In greenery of Ganjam fields.

Alas, the little ghetto street
Is left with “Indian fishermen”
Of questionable ancestry —
Allegedly, allegedly —
Who smell of fish and something else
My father calls “Rangooni Gills”.

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