Mainstream, VOL LV No 6 New Delhi January 28, 2017
Tuesday 31 January 2017, by
I tried to write, but the word shuddered,
Looked over its shoulder in every direction,
Then broke into letters.
I tried to speak,
But the sentence hung in mid-air,
As I tried to give it utterance
It broke into a stammer.
I walked out to witness
What with a hammer
Had brought my people
Onto the streets;
There were no protests, no clamour,
I saw my people silently standing
In long lines,
Their faces taut,
Their lips drawn,
Their dignity smashed,
On bended knees
Awaiting their own cash.
I saw a man with a walker,
He had dragged himself
With that four-legged contraption,
But for him there was no compassion,
Not even a fraction.
I saw another, with a bag filled with urine
Attached to a long, dangling pipe;
No one gave him any succour;
He just waited for an ATM machine at the other end,
He had a diabetic wife, an ailing mother
And four children to provide bread and butter.
Then I saw a woman
Her face covered with her sari’s pallu;
She waited while the wind whipped her brittle bones,
It mattered little that she returned to the line the next day
Only to return home emptyhanded, her face forlorn.
Her children cried, asking her for food.
She couldn’t bear their tears
So she lit a fire,
Then set herself aflame;
To you she was another hapless dame,
But I ask you,
How do I douse the helplessness
You have set upon our people
Only to perpetuate your own name?
(Poet, playwright and filmmaker, Sagari Chhabra’s latest book In Search of Freedom—Journeys through India and Southeast Asia has been awarded the National Laadli Media award)