It was at Caf Grand long, long ago. I was talking enthusiastically of Verlaine to a senior student known for his snobbish taste in literature. I recited the last lines of the Streets: De rien refleter que la brume, / Meme alors que l'aurore allume, / Les cottage jaunes et noirs. ({The water on the pavement} reflects nothing except the fog, even as aurora lights the yellow and black cottages.) He raised his eyebrows and smiled, as if to say: "I knew you would never grow out of that." Well, why should one grow-out of something he likes? I have no desire to grow out of it even now, almost fifty years later. Yes, even today, if on a lazy afternoon, I reach out for a collection of French poetry, it is usually Verlaine or Rimbaud. It is not Baudelaire. Well, what is wrong with the poem? J'aimais surtout ses jolis yeux, / Plus clairs que l,etoile des cieux, / J'aimais ses yeux malicieux. (I loved, above all, her pretty eyes, brighter than the star in the heavens, her malicious eyes.) It accompanies a dance and so should be as it is. I think Ghalib was a very great poet. Each time one opens his Diwan, it's a feast of joy. But I also believe that, in pure lyricism, Firaq is a greater poet: Ye bazm-e-aam bhi, / Ae dost bazm-e-aam nahin / Nigahain uthhti hain laikin kisi, / Kisi kay liye. A man and a woman. They approach. But must the situation be always wrapped in Kantian terms? The Caf Grand is closed now. Whenever I cross into the city, I pass by it. Further on, there is the Zelin's, also closed and boarded up. Caf George, with more plebeian attendance, now sells electronic goods. Why do we recall with sadness the cafes, the restaurants that we visited in our university days? Perhaps we recall ourselves and our friends from those far-off days. What is there to recall? An infatuation with a literary-minded girl, who married a military contractor? A friend who read short stories, bit by bit, in the literary magazines in the book stalls because he could not afford to buy them? Another who married a sedate girl and settled down to a respectable life? Or a revolutionary, who became a success in a bourgeois sort of way by calculating every move and every word in his long life? Well, all of them. Most now dead, the rest scattered, some "gone abroad." But memory removes the mist of time and brings back fresh faces, sparkling eyes, dreams of change. Et dans les longs plis de son voile, / Qui palpite au brises d'automne, / Cache et montre au coeur qui s'etonne, / La verite comme une etoile.-(Verlaine) (And, in the long folds of her veil/ that are ruffled in the autumn breeze/ hides and shows to an astonished heart/ the truth like a star.) If I could have again met my old, senior friend, now dead, I would still recite Verlaine to him and enjoy his warm condescending smile: Tu na aae yaad, / Laikin main tujhay bhoola nahin.-(Firaq) The writer is a former ambassador