Clancy of the Punjab

(With apologies to A.B. Paterson)

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Ganges, years ago,
He was backpacking when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just “on spec”, addressed as follows, “Clancy, of The Punjab”.

And an answer came directed – Hindi writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in henna)
Twas his cricket mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
“Clancy’s gone to Pushkar camelleering, and we don’t know where he are.”

In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-pilgriming “down to Goa” where the Western hippies go;
As the goats are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them chewing,
(For the camelleer’s life has cheap tobacco, that the townsfolk never know.)

And the Thar Desert has friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the Ganges on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting bazaars.

I am sitting in a dingy IT-office, where a stingy
Tourist barters as he struggles feebly, at a market stall,
And the polluted air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Settles gently at the shopfronts, spreading amoebic dysentery over all.

And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of rickshaws, taxis, and more cattle, making hurry down the street,
And the language of the Hindus, (including Sahibs, and Sikhs and Sadhus),
Comes constantly and mingled with the sub-continental heat.

And the sales people they daunt me, and beggar faces haunt me
As they are bolder for the Rupees in the bumbag at my waist,
With their eager eyes and needy, (and some forms selling weedy),
Verbal jousting is an art form, that must be daily faced.

And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at camelleering where the seasons come with no pub,
While he faced the round eternal of corruption and the triplicate journal —
But I doubt he’d suit the office, Clancy, of “The Punjab”.

Clancy of the Punjab


Melbourne, Australia

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