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Children Of The Light

Pretty little January has just arrived

And she’s brought her friends with her;

The sunflowers.

Oceans of gold and green

Draping the rain-blessed healed land.

The modern highway splits the ocean apart,

Threatening encroachment upon

Those innocent golds.

Yellow petals and brown heads

Dance all day long obeying the sun,

Ignorant of the world of man.

They smile and look their best

While the farmer Children of the Light

sheds tears for life;

The human world of pain and lost dreams

Is just too much for their frail beauty.

Passers-by stop and stare,

Some take selfies with the golden children,

Some pluck, some paint, some write poetry

But all acknowledge their beauty

And fail to see the truth –

Blood, sweat and dreams gone dry

As greed-ridden men suck the poor

Like vampires lusting for more,

Nothing remain but bare white bones

Scattered in a land lost to the future,

Bleak, withered and dying,

Fading into the dusk of tyranny –

The golden angels wave their petals

At ambition, pride and greed.

Do they welcome the triumvirate of tomorrow

Or say adieu to the peace of yesterday?

The sun slowly lowers his head in shame

To the reigning darkness.

What has he to offer the night

But brilliant light that she despises?

And his followers, the light pixies

Turn dark, awaiting a brighter tomorrow

When there is none.

The children of the Light fade away

From this world of misery and loss,

Hoping, they wait in vain in the dark

Tossing their yellow-gold heads with impatience

To bloom again.

2. The Coliseum of Numbers

Question papers to be set?

Here we sit racking our brains…

Couch potatoes that we are.

What to include, what not to,

To write or not to write,

What for multiple choice,

What ‘brief’ answers –

The answer is ‘brief’ always –

What analysis, discussions and illustrations?

Half-asleep, we cook our brains in their shells

And bring our tempers to the boil.

We nudge into pathetic words;

Words that sound big

‘Elucidate’, ‘Present’, ‘Examine’

And worst of all ‘Critically Analyse’

When the test is critical indeed.

Neat printouts and handouts

Submitted on time; we grin

Like the Cheshire Cat.

Who cares about the massacre

In the exam hall?

That modern Coliseum,

That amphitheatre where souls die

In combat for numbers.

Red ink splashed on paper,

Innocent blood on ancient stone walls.

The parents cheering them on,

Expectations to be met.

Atlas has to be Atlas

To carry the world.

Man and beast clash

Nails vs claws and fangs

They who are about to die

Curse us.

The blank sheet remains glaring

While Innocence is slain

And creativity slaughtered.

3. ‘Now’ what is it?


Those ‘holy’ days that sin,

Those days that trap us

Into a void,

A void of inactivity

And illusions of happiness.

Am I happy?

My problems pack their bags

And keep me company.

The devil does peep

Into my life every now and then.

Travel? See newt things?

But tomorrow always comes.

There’s always a today,

There’s always a ‘now’.

An imp jumping up and down

Old bones and chilled spines.

Every man has his ‘now’.

Well, waste not, want not.

But want ‘now’.

Because it always comes

But never comes back.

4. My Precious

Where is my smartphone?

Where is that rascal?

I’m looking for my relative’s house

And no Google Maps. Impossible.

What’s the cost of petrol today?

Gold? Silver? Onions?

Can’t even order a decent takeaway.

What are my appointments today?

The ‘devil’ only knows. Reminders?

No Bixby.

I’ve forgotten them all.

I don’t know the phone numbers

Of my parents.

Curse my tech-dependant memory.

Hell, all my class notes are in there!

My research!

Four years of mind-wrenching work

All gone up in the air

(Perhaps that’s what they mean by cloud storage)

What’s the time? What’s today?

I can’t even watch TV;

The monster controlled the TV and the AC.

Lost my contacts, my books

(Did I order anything on Flipkart?)

My subconscious speaks.

Emails? Messages? Calls?

My salary statements are in there.

What in the world?

A beep-beep followed by a whirrrr…

I sit up in bed. That alarm!

Oh, what a nightmare!

The little devil glares,

Its LED smiling

Under my pillow all the time.

Ah, my precious!

Why did I sound like Gollum?

5. What is this life, if full of care?

We have time to stand and stare

Not at the beauty of nature

But at our smartphones.

Life without Google

Would be a dreary desert indeed.

What fun it is

To type in my new tab

While the old notebook and pen

Weep their goodbyes with dust.

My old hardbound books

Sigh with neglect

As I read pdfs in comfort.

What is this life, if full of care

We have no technology to spare?

Ten years from now

There won’t be paper

And there won’t be poetry.

Thoughts will be captured

By devices.

Death of the author, indeed.

We are a new species,

We won’t be a ‘we’

But something between ‘we’ and ‘it’.

What is life, if full of care,

When life does not have life to spare?

6. The Funeral of Truth

Let me not mourn the loss of truth

But let me rejoice the rebirth of ancient knowledge.

Truth is lost but knowledge lives

In a world where wisdom is not real.

Let me celebrate the rise of illusion

For truth has died in his arms.

Bitter, infuriating and a thing of the past,

Let me not mourn the death of reality.

Love is but the brainchild of greed,

Seduced by the touch of wealth.

Where is that thing they once called compassion?

Lost in the desert winds and ocean caves

But let me not muse upon the loss

For ambition stands waiting

In the place where truth once stood.

Let me not keep him waiting

For he is a cruel taskmaster

Who helps survive in this hostile world

Of falsehood and treachery.

He provides when all else fails.

Let me not shed a tear for the departed

For greed watches with envy.

All are leveled in ashes

And in death shall truth be reborn.

But where is the crib that will hold her?

Only a dusty coffin remains.

7. The Flag Seller

Get your Republic Day flags here!

Two for ten rupees only.

Patriotism, bhai sahabs and mem sahabs,

Remember to get your flags here.

Don’t you want flags today?

What will you wave

When the big flag goes up?

Offer your respect, sahabs

And remember

Nowhere will you get this offer

But here.

No, no, for ten rupees, not less;

Alright, I’ll give you this sticker

Just for five rupees.

Both of us are happy now,

Which is good for business.

Areh, wah! What a speech!

It must surely mean something

With all the emotion and clapping!

And that is good for business too.

2 flags for twenty rupees only!

These foreign sahabs always paaymore.

What did he say? Uplifting the poor?

Then bhaiyya, why am I here?

Flags! Flags, buy your flags here!

8. The Forgotten Neem

‘Don’t burn the garbage below the Neem,’

Said mother.

It was scared.

‘You’ll be punished if you don’t listen,’

The filth burned beneath another tree.

Neem remained sacred that day,

Green leaves dancing with the sun

And singing with the evening breeze.

Days slipped off the calendar sheets,

Neem went on unkempt and neglected.


But put up a great fight for life.

Draught, pollution and the lumber workers,

Hot air and axes

Got the better.

Great Neem lost the battle

And yielded to the furniture-makers.

A sacred new armchair in the great hall.

Mother, old and frail, dozed in the chair

One bleary afternoon.

‘It’s so hot. Where’s that Neem?’ she asked.

The air conditioner whirred it’s monstrous

Cold heart within.

9. Stare

With hungry eyes and a thirsting heart,

He stares.

The boy by the gate,

Selling flowers to college girls

And tender coconuts to thirsty travellers.

Where does his heart travel?

The girls giggle and laugh,

Books in their hands

And the joy of youth in their minds.

Carefree, they trot.

The boys stares…

The golden gates of education

Permit those who pay

Green money for raw wisdom.

The flowers wilt and curl

Under a merciless summer sun.

The sun goes down

And the boy packs up

His poverty tugging at his back.

Hand-in-hand they walk.

Books and learning are far off castles

In a fairyland paradise.

Pen and ink will never feed

All too many wailing mouths

Waiting by the cold hearth.

All those letters in those dreamy books

Are not a match for paper money,

The red-eyed monster

That sees all, knows all

And conquers all.

10. Squirm

Hey, you! yes, you there, red shirt! Stand up!

The student squirms in his worn-shiny old bench;

He stands up and braces for impact.

What’s your problem? Can’t you listen?

Poor mother slaving at home,

A drunk dad beating her up,

A little sister working in the factory…

Say something man! Are you deaf!

No respect these days!

Work after college;

Back-breaking work binding books,

All that useless wisdom lying about his feet

When none can put food in their bellies.

Why the hell do you come to college?

Get out!

He shuffles out quietly, heart in his throat,

The whole family slaves for this education,

That worn bench and those second-hand books.

What for?

I’d rather work full time in the press,

More money, more food,

The family will be better.

Why come to college

And listen to the barking teacher?

He shuffles out, heart in his hand,

Ready to take on the world.

Books about the feet are better

That books in the hand.

11. Scorched

This is the sun-caressed land of black sand,

Scorched on request

By the Eternal Sun.

Drought and summer;

Hard, cracked, parched, dry beyond dryness…

Oh, for a drop of rain!

But wishes go as far as wishes can get;

The toiling farmer prays hard

And the corn springs up in December,

Dry cold and grey sand,

Grit in the eyes.

The farmer kills himself

And the corn withers.

Thorn bushes as far as the eye sees

And a bleary dust-rimmed horizon

Where the crowned Sun commands

With fury.

Hackers before April,

A short but sweet life for sunflowers

And the immortal barrenness begins.

Farmer women rip the thorns apart,

Dark and wrinkled like raisins,

Children mewling on their backs.

They learn that life is hard and merciless

In the hardest way possible;

Drought is their master.

But we remain, with hope,

Because this land has taught us,

The dry land, the mother of hope

And our God.

12. From abroad

Our rich uncle is coming today!

And from UAE too.

Where is that?

Who cares? He’s bringing gifts!

Mom is preparing a grand feast!

The kids remain kids till night.

The uncle arrives;

Large, smiling and very round,

Proud and hearty.

Here you go kids!

He displays the gifts on the mud floor,

Chocolates, perfumes, dates…

His webbed hands heave from his bag

Till they wobble and stop.

Remember kids, these are costly things,

So don’t share.

And remember. They’re from abroad

So they’re a hundred times better

Than what you have here.

The glitter from the foreign things

Settles in the eyes of the kids.

Now, who do you want to be like

When you grow up?

Like our uncle from abroad!

13. Shadows of Progress

City of pearls, sang the lays of yore,

The city of sparkling beaches

And blue skies

Where Love danced with

The crests of foamy waves

And fragrant palm groves.

Come today, the city is in the shadow

Of its former self.

Rows of factories, chemical industries

And power projects

Run by the government

Squat around the now grey beaches.

Gone is the tide; the sea is a lake.

And the groves are now

Dumping yards with stinking waste.

The sky is dark, it is eternal night,

And wisps of smoke float around

In the shoes of white clouds.

Huge trucks empty their bellies

Into the swallowing sea;

Her mouth is forced upon;

The air is thick with progress.

There are no cows or sheep

Only fast cars race past

On the indifferent smooth highway.

There are no birds chirping around,

The horns of trucks wail with want.

The past didn’t have glassy stores

Or colossal hypermarkets

But they had life, hadn’t they?

The shadows of progress flit past,

They squirm like hungry worms

But where are the bodies that cast them?

Lying drunk in the cartels of modernism.

14. The Paradise of Sweets

The confectioner’s shelves gleam

With the dreams of little children.

Chocolates in silky paper, rainbow candies,

Wobbly jellies, sticky gums, chewy toffees,

Pink marshmallows, crunchy wafers,

Ice cream wonders, creamy treats,

Twisted mints and love on sticks!

A paradise of sweets and sins.

The magnetic aroma draws kids,

A toxin of business and temptation.

A little more to spend,

A little less to afford.

A hard earned penny

For a sweet little indulgence.

What’s this?

The price has gone up.

The price goes up everyday.

The sweets from paradise appear sweeter

And more colourful, they call from their shelves…

The little price tag

On the ear of each candy

Is a pretty little sight indeed.

Of course, we could spend a little more.

It’s just a little more.

No harm.

The bill rolls out of the counter

And the sweet sins are in their pretty parcel.

The only way to resist temptation

Is to give in.

This is what the corporate goes by.

This is how they rule us.

Then again, it’s a trifle,

Isn’t it?

15. Watery Woes

His birthplace is the legendary mountain,

The resting place of demons of old

And his life ebbs out now for demons of today.

Green fields of flourishing rice,

Yellow gardens of childlike corn,

Fragrant spices along his banks

And plantain trees,

All nurtured by his gentle hand,

Have gone to God knows where.

Industries of progress in their place

Thrive upon his crystal life-bearing water

To breath out smoke into the sky

And paint his blue-green face

With toxins, ash and soot.

Singing farming maids have no farms

To sing and work in.

Singing birds have no trees

To nest their lives in.

Infestation by humans

Extinction by self.

The river murmurs quietly by

As he descends to his watery grave.

16. That new summer sky

That new summer sky is up

Clear, blue and bright.

Each day is longer than night

Each breeze hotter than before.

New born flowers are razed

With heat waves,

Little drops of water in lakes

Dry up like cowards in battlefields.

Birds sleep by day and feed at night;

Owls, they have all become.

Humans prey on everything

And everyone;

Predators they are.

Heat waves leave them alone

And torture the others.

Clouds melt away

Like ice creams.

Dust wafts by like snowflakes.

Only, it isn’t dust

But industrial exhaust.

Everyone totters by with

Black-rimmed eyes and wheezy breaths,

Modern evolved beings we are.

That new summer sky laughs

To see us changed thus.

How we have changed ourselves

By changing nature.

By U. Fathima Farzana


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