• accismus 34w

    (A Trigger warning because what is the evident reality of certain people will be too cynical for our heads, our space.)

    (All characters in these poem are imaginary. However, I often look at India and wonder, "Are they imaginary anymore? They are real now, real and dying.")

    (As the writer of this piece, I acknowledge that when people were struggling for hospital beds, I was privileged enough, academically and economically, to write a poem.)

    #pod #writersnetwork @allbymyself @nightwriter_i

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    बरेली की बर्फी

    Birju was looking blankly at his plate,
    an empty steel plate as round as the moon,
    a moon that was now panting at the bend of the sidewalk.
    Birju picked up his luggage, a tin can and two bundles of oppression and began to walk.

    He walked.
    He walked.
    They showered flowers on him.
    He walked.
    Birju smiled to himself,
    a speck of irony on his tanned lips.
    In school, the headmaster told him that since he was an athlete, they would hire him sooner or later.
    When he won the district finale,
    they showered flowers on him.
    He walked and laughed, lesser a laugh more a collision of legion of vulnerabilities residing in just one mortal.
    Birju could not pass on packets of green crispy prosperity under the tables.
    He never managed to secure the job.
    So, he blended into the scrambling population, carried brick, slept in squares that are smaller than the bathrooms which they flash on raunchy television commercials.
    Anni, his sister had died last night.
    He cremated her by the sidewalk where the moon was still panting with acute pneumonia.
    He only walked faster after her death because if he died now, his mother would be oblivious to all that had happened to Ratna Kaki, Anni, Anni's friend and names that he no longer wanted to recall.
    He had to be alive to tell her the exact names of people who survived so that she knew whose arrival she could expect!
    Do parents cry loud if the child is dead?
    Do they cry louder if the child is missing because then they are 'gnawed on' by the hound of death and the remnants of revival all at once?
    The flowers stuck to his hair, his unkempt, unwashed hair.
    The flowers stuck to his skin, his raw skin, charred, chapped, sore, swollen, crooked, perhaps bleeding.
    Does skin forget to bleed from exhaustion?
    No, that is the rhetoric of English students who were probably writing this poem to adorn their grade cards with an array of points. Birju's skin bled alright. Birju's feet bled like an average migrant worker walking home.
    The flowers stuck to Anni's dupatta that was tied to his waist to benumb the hunger.

    If Anni would have been alive for two more days, she would be sitting at the Bareilly stand now.
    Birju was the school athlete.
    When the bus stop was only a kilometre away, he began to run in desperation.
    He ran like wind, a wind pregnant with death.
    Flowers were stuck to dead Anni's dupatta.
    At the bus stop, they were initially lined up and later made to sit down.
    Before he could even organise himself, a man in a PPE kit sprayed them with disinfectant.
    Birju's eyes burnt. He coughed for a long minute. He lay down.
    Then, he crouched in one corner and ate the bread that a lady had given him yesterday. He cried.

    'Times of India' on March 2020, wrote "BAREILLY: In a shocking incident, migrants who were returning to their homes in Uttar Pradesh were sprayed with chemical on Sunday by a team on sanitising duty...calls made to the Bareilly district magistrate's office did not elicit any response."

    As for Birju, Ma had hugged him despite the strange smell of Sodium hypochlorite. On that day, his mother made him pledge to take up a job in his own town. He nodded multiple times.

    Birju finally died in April, 2021.
    India tweeted #WeCan'tBreathe.

    A volunteer was restlessly verifying links on twitter to arrange atleast scanty antibiotics, a can of oxygen if not an entire cylinder.
    The volunteer was on his fifth call when Birju, shivering with fever called out to him in a phantom's voice.
    Birju was however delirious.
    He chuckled.
    Soon, he died.