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73 Meters, 73 Years

By Suman Kumar

I know that I was birthed

By a mother once--

I was flush red and too fragile

So that you were too afraid--

Too afraid to hold me

Lest your skin wounded mine,

She bore me like a warrior princess

Though she worked as a maid-servant

In the Saheb's household,

My Baba brought me up

Along with my sweet brother

And fed us his handmade jalebis

So that we were the sweetest kids

In the whole village,

I took our cows to the fields

Where the peacocks roamed,

And I, with my moo-ing cows

Roamed with them,

We danced alongside them

When the Monsoon arrived,

When I, with my curious eyes

Compared the strip of rainbows

Across the skies

With peacock feathers down below,

The latter reigned supreme--

They filled my mind with

Wonderfully surreal dreams.

But then the world around

Engrossed in the game of 'othering'

Lit up in flames,

The fires raged and raged

Until it consumed us all--

Consumed my warrior mother,

Consumed Baba and his sweet Jalebis,

Consumed my young brother, it did,

The Cows, the peacocks, the rain

And the rainbows went with it,

Only I remained,

It scalded my very soul

But, I don't know why

It left my body unharmed.

It was the year 1947

And I was all but 13 years--

13 years and so innocent

That the 2 cows cried

When I was traded for them,

Now, I was the cow,

Converted I was by incantations

In some foreign tongue,

I was kept in lease for

Some 50 years

As the knot they tied

Was very tight,

So I followed behind him everywhere,

And bore him - my master

All of 7 calves

And yet I rejoiced

When he breathed his last,

Though I must confess

That he was nice.

But I hated the noose,

I hated the knot,

Hated that ill-fated life,

And I cried my eyes out

Every night

Trying to forget it all--

How they hunted Baba

And my Munna wild !

How they sliced open

My mother's tender throat!

Cut it open wide,

And in doing so

They sliced open our small patch of land

Made hostile enemies of

The very people living

On my familial lands,

Demarcated on it a border

With barbed wires.

And I see Baba in my numerous dreams,

Look at Munna's ever-pallid face,

But my mother remains forever shut,

Her Wordless cries numb everything else,

I see them standing on

The other side of the barbed fence--

All but 73 meters of distance,

And all but 73 meters of this distance

Is what I haven't been able to cover

In complete 73 years,

They stand there

No matter what season comes

And they smile and die in that

Very spot--

Our green land- the family patch,

And now when I am at my own end,

How I wish I had been burnt

As my parents did!

How I wish I was murdered

As a victim of a fallen world

Before I became the trophy-

A form of symbolic revanchism!

But I am not to be burnt now,

To be interred is my fate,

For I'm no longer

Of my parents' faith,

I am no longer 13,

I speak nothing

But that foreign tongue

And though it's my home here,

Though it's my family's here,

How I hope Baba and Munna

Did survive!

May be they hid

In that dark cave

Where gory ghosts howled

As everybody said,

And they kept them

Hidden behind their deathless capes

Seeing how men cut men in ghastly jest!

How I long to see

Munna's pallid face

And the faces of his

Children - seven!

His seven children and their children

And Munna himself--

They all must now be roaming

With the peacocks now,

Dancing alongside them

In the heavy rains.


My stony eyes can hardly

See this world anymore--

A world with divided green lands

And sliced open throats,

Through which rivers of blood flow;

Where I'm alive,

But as a vengeance's namesake,

And my feet have moved thousands

Of miles by now

But they can't carry

The weight of my heavy heart,

So I've numbed my senses

I've closed my eyes-

And reached there in 1947,

Where I've kept hidden

A part of my past life,

I've chosen to stay there

If only in parts--

Where I am 13,

There's mother,

There's Munna,

There's Baba and his sweet jalebis

And I'm myself, not some tradable cow.

By Suman Kumar

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