No one dies in the city during a festival,
amidst fervour sponsored by gods
who were enemies not very long ago.
The run is long, from season to season,
banner to banner;
the holidays and their sacred profanities,
a trade festival, a music festival,
an autumn festival, a literary festival, an art festival,
a shopping carnival, a beauty pageant…
The air does not stir in astonished breath
as headlines fleet across the city’s eyes,
lightly scrawling death’s watery letters
on that grave of short memory.
Those who do not exist cannot be killed;
they cannot die.
People have to be happy during festivals.
Even cold intellectuals have something to fatten their talks with;
the smug sale of piety and crisp skies,
the landscapes of mist, rain and stories,
all that eating, drinking and forgetting.
The old man whose only son was burnt alive
in the market square a fortnight ago,
sits somewhere atop a hill, far above the noise,
watching a prosaic march of candles;
the red lights roving in the dark streets
never to find the culprits.
It is quiet here, among the stars, already winter-touched.
In this silence, he may listen to the colour of truth
and read the charred gurgle of a child
against the eloquent condolences,
the prompt promises of justice.
A shaft of remembered light
from young eyes enters his aching world,
and he cries for a while.
Then, he looks long at the stars,
exhaling into the stillness around him.
He is an outsider but he knows things
as deep-rooted trees know the earth,
the miscreant whose identity
is that it will always be unidentified,
the look in this city’s eyes as it mourns his son.
and will forgive the killers.
A Farmer’s Death
With fingers struck forever
in a salute to the sky’s bureaucracy,
the ribs begin to howl
at the touch of a fallow.
Two wells stare at him,
left wide open by death.
Time was a rain-cloud,
always too thirsty for his blood.
At the fag end of the beedi,
a body will burn out,
the plough will be put to rest
in a corner.
Life was a loan,
waived off as a token
of his death,
life was pittance
thrown at him
when he sold his head
to the wholesale rack,
were hybrid seeds
patented by overseas gods.
Nothing will grow
out of plagued furrows
of his country’s forehead.
Now his gut only
makes for a rope
he’ll hang himself with;
it couldn’t make it to
the ektaara of land.