The Grandmaster

Arrival of this chequered guest
With specs he only wears for dress
Reminds me to beware of his
Interminable games of chess
He plays with pawns of uncles, aunts
And cousins close and far removed
And even their domestic help
And strangers in their neighborhood.

He keeps himself away for months
But come Diwali, Puja time
He shows up with tobacco teeth
And choicest fruits of winter clime
To sit and peel and chew and spit
Invented genealogies
Of ancient slights, fraternal fights
And yet unmade apologies.

He crochets up a yarn of time
Into confusing pirate knots
Of narratives that apparate
As Conan Doyle, Christie plots.
And then he waves his crochet wand
With flair of wizards masterful,
And holding knots in either hand,
Untangles with a single pull.

My parents, full of gratitude,
Declare they are so fortunate
To have him have their bullseye backs
Against the darts of envy, hate.
They shower him with sweets and praise
And tell me to be more like him.
I shut my mouth and meekly smile
With dimness of a knight on rim.

I try to see his board entire.
I know it’s but his zwischenzug
His move between the obvious moves –
Before his queen and pair of rooks
Coordinate and capture pawns
To grab more space – ancestral land –
But then I fail in making sense
Of how he has his endgame planned.

He has no wife, no legal heirs.
He lives his chequered life alone.
And though he’s only fifty now
He’s peeing through a bladder stone.
His BP’s low, his sugar’s high,
His lungs are often out of breath,
So even if he captures all,
How does he plan to deal with death?

I see. He too is just a pawn
In hands of mighty Loneliness,
Who keeps us all engrossed in some
Interminable games of chess.

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