It was held somewhere in Andhra Pradesh,

 On a campus that felt abandoned, the fig trees

White with dust, the green buildings seeming


To tremble in the sun, as if they hadn’t decided

 Yet whether to be. But we entered them as if

They were real and went up the stairs


To classrooms in which papers were presented,

 The oscillating fans making the pages flutter

In the hands of professors of statistics


And microeconomics and political science,

 Lithe, mustachioed men who could sit on their heels

For hours. At night, we gathered on the porch


Of a house that might have been

 A farmhouse had it been out in the country,

Drinking big bottles of Kingfisher beer.


By way of explanation as to why I was there,

 I must have told them about my father who,

Right then, was waking up on the other side


Of the earth to milk a hundred Holsteins,

 And they must have known that, if I was there,

There was no danger of him killing himself.


I loved those professors who, when they agreed,

 Would rock their heads from side to side,

Ear to shoulder, as if trying to clear them of water


So as to better hear each other, and who’d spend

 Their whole careers toiling in the fields

Of forlorn Indian universities. I recognized them


As the bookish sons who’d left the farm but who

 Kept going back through math or poetry

Because even while we were drinking beer


A man was struggling to lift a plastic drum

 Over his head in order to pour the viscous red

Poison down his throat, committing suicide


By drinking pesticide, not to protest Monsanto,

 But because it was the deadliest thing

He had at hand. I think now of how when


His son turned him over, he must have

 Looked like those old women who smiled at me

In the street, their teeth stained red with betel leaf.