Partition: Word Problems – Amit Majmudar

If a boy bounces a ball on a moving train, and the observer is in a jute field watching him from a distance, is the train going from Lahore to Delhi, or from Delhi to Lahore?

If it is the autumn of 1947, how fast does the observer have to run to make it to the spring of 1948?

Two trains emerge from two train stations, one in India, one in Pakistan. If it is midnight in both countries, where are the boy’s parents, and what color is his ball?

If the observer is observed by a cartographer of a different skin color and no religion, sitting in a rattan chair and raising binoculars to his green eyes, how many machetes will disregard the Englishman and seek out instead someone of the same skin color but a different religion?

If the boy with the ball is my future father at age four and a half, how fast does the train have to travel west for my heart to start beating twenty-seven years later in the United States of America?

Assume the world of history is also the world of physics. Why do wars start when cannons fire merely to illustrate a parabola?

If two trains are leaving simultaneously from stations in two cities under curfew, why, on map tables safely elsewhere, are mysterious forces being applied to inert objects with human shapes?

Assume that in this world, a boy can’t ride a train without a ball the size of his heart, and that every boy’s heart is the size of his fist. Is the watch on the wrist of the arm holding the machete ticking as fast as the clock on the train station wall?

If two politicians have a problem with a boy bouncing a ball, what is the probability that freedom is a problematic word?

Assume the floor of the train car is uniformly covered in blood. How many times must the boy bounce the ball before the ball is uniformly red?

The observer is running at a rate of two miles per year while six machetes are sweeping parabolas through the jute behind him. How many nightmares will it take before he reaches the train tracks and stands there, out of breath, staring east at the vanishing train?

If the boy on the train grows up but keeps that ball in a suitcase for three decades, how many years old will his son be when he hands him the ball, still flecked and dusty, and teaches him, on a green American lawn at sundown, to catch, to kick, to throw a parabola east to west?

Amit Majmudar

Amit Majmudar is a novelist, poet, translator, essayist, and diagnostic nuclear radiologist. Majmudar’s latest books are Godsong: A Verse Translation of the Bhagavad-Gita, with Commentary (Knopf/Penguin Random House India, 2018) and the mythological novel Sitayana (Penguin Random House India, 2019). He has also served as Ohio’s first Poet Laureate.

1 Comment

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Prithvijeet Sinhareply
April 2, 2020 at 6:01 PM

You have penned a time travelling, expansive history of the wounds that every man -made war can wrought. The imagery and connections of a memory stick out as particularly stirring.

Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.