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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 37, September 3, 2011

Conversations

Tuesday 6 September 2011, by Sagari Chhabra

I was on the eleventh day
of my fast,
tired and weary,
with a film floating
over my eyes,
I began wondering
when would every child
get enough to eat
and go to school.
We had replaced the
Empire with another
and they had tried
their utmost to turn
us into subservient tools.
 
Just then an old man appeared.
I knew I was hallucinating,
but in exhaustion, I said,
‘Go on, speak!’
He offered me a packet.
‘What is it?’ I asked with suspicion.
‘Salt,’ he replied with humility.
‘Salt!’ I spat out the words:
‘Must you rub salt on my wounds?
Don’t you know I am on a fast
and haven’t eaten for days?’
‘It’s what I struggled
with the Empire,’ he replied.
‘This fast must not now go on
it’s easy to die for your country,
but you must now live.
This salt is all I have to give.’
 
As he was walking away,
I ran after him
and grabbed him
by his loin cloth;
it was coarse.
’What are you wearing?’
my throat was parched
my voice hoarse.
‘Khadi,’ he said,
‘it was the warp and weft
of our struggle, which led to
the Constitution,
you now seek to amend.’
 
‘Khadi!’ I cried scornfully,
‘it’s a relic of the past
we long foresook;
they’ve thrown the weavers out
and brought in the poly-global look’.
 
The old man looked at me sadly:
‘it took us many years,
many hands to spin;
the women who spun
entered the struggle
as did those who wore it.
The cloth was cut
to our measure, now
you must find
your own measure.’
But is measuring alone
the only measure of our times?
 
‘Who are you?’ I asked
measuring my words slowly.
 
‘It’s wonderful you have
brought the people
to the streets,
but remember,’ he said,
‘amidst the heat,
if you choose to walk
in ahimsa’s footsteps
you must remain non-violent.’
 
‘And what if something turns amiss?’
I retorted.
‘Remember Chauri Chaura,
remember this.’
‘Ah, but now the ‘chors’ are
in the Upper House
and Lower,’ I said,
lowering my eyes
to his clumsily built sandals.
 
He was walking away fast,
But I shouted after him,
‘Is this a global village?’
‘It’s a global pillage,’
he responded over his shoulder,
‘but now each of you
will have to find your own way
of doing satyagraha.’

August 26, 2011 Sagari Chhabra

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