Bring back the queen of jealousness,
I intend to embrace again;
I want to interrogate that false promise of the cloud.
I want to pave those paths undiscovered yet,
I want to kill that other self of mine and feel proud.
The star that was born with
So much innate elegance and glory,
Why he is shackled in this incessant drudgery.
And then some more unnoticed wrath of life;
Why is the silence so prevalent when there is a query.
Bring forth those false kings of the shallow wit,
Who credited to themselves the insipidness of the common man.
Those whose names have been inscribed in history;
Those God-likes, but have been no-human.
I want to ask these questions of grief and pain,
Why is there perpetual poverty in the man who blessed,
And eternal hunger for the man who is blessed.
Why can’t we get it the other way again?
© Amaresh Swain
They say the feeling during snow fall is heavenly; not for me. The weather has been bad since morning. I have been having a very bad day on the foot path. No one has come out from the morning; I couldn’t beg. I haven’t had a loaf of bread from morning. I am going to lose hope if it continues for one more hour. My body is freezing. It’s difficult to move my legs. I have pulled some carton boxes from the dust bin of a nearby store and am trying to cover myself as much as possible, adjusting my body under the outer staircases of the shop to save myself from the snow fall. There is no one to help me. I have been lonely lately.
I am not aware of my father; Never heard of him. As far as I remember, my mother was saying that we were not from this place. My family was nomadic and had moved here after my birth. The reason behind moving here was the nearby market where we could beg and get something to eat. For first few days, the local people didn’t like us. They would look down upon us and try to send us away; sometimes by threatening, sometimes by informing local police. After escaping few attacks and surviving with struggle, my family decided to have a safer place to stay. There was a garbage dump in the locality. Due to the foul smell, no one used to visit that place except the garbage dumper truck from the municipality. We moved there to live under an old tent left by someone. I grew there. One morning I was very hungry. My mom had gone to find work. I went to the nearby market thinking that some kind hearted person would give me something to eat. When I came back, I found my life in a toss. There was a gathering and people were shouting. My mother was lying on the road. No one helped her with fast aid or tried to take her to the doctor. A car had hit her and run over her after she fell down. She was bleeding heavily. I cried loudly and dragged some people to help. No one bothered to help me. I was small. I couldn’t do it myself. My mother succumbed to death in front of me. I cried for the whole day and the night following that. When I came back the next morning, my relatives were not at the tent. They had moved to some other location. I was alone and didn’t feel like staying in that large tent. No one was there to take care of me. I moved to the market building, in the hope of getting some food to eat and a veranda to sleep. It’s painful for an orphan to survive in this society of cruel people.
Since my mother has passed away, I have been very afraid of the road. So, I keep off the road. I have been ousted by the shopkeepers many times, but I don’t know any other place where I can get food. No matter how far I travel every day, I am stopped by that one step: “If I forgot the way back, what will happen to me?” and “what if I go very far and do not find any other market place where I can beg and have no energy to come back? Will I die like my mother?”.
It’s late night. I am starving. From under the staircase, I could see only one escape. The building on the opposite side of the road was huge. There was an watchman standing and guarding that gate. He was also freezing. I thought he must understand my pain and let me inside for a warmer place. That hope added little energy to my legs. I crossed the road carefully and reached him. His eyes were following my each step while I was crossing the road, as if I am there to steal something from his master. He was getting ready to beat me when I decided not to go any further and stepped back. I came to the shop verandah and waited there. A big car came after sometime. They stopped by the dust bin of the shop and threw something wrapped in a plastic cover. I was happy with the thought that I would take the food as soon as they leave the place. I did so. I grabbed the cover and tore with me teeth. I had no time to open it slowly. To my disappointment, I found something slimy foul smelling thing; crap. I cried loudly for long, in disgust, at the insane people and their behavior towards the less privileged. Someone inside the closed warm room on the other side of the road would be rebuking me for my loud voice outside, as it must be disturbing his sleep. Gradually my voice went down with tiredness, pain and hunger. I hobbled into the carton again and slept hungry.
Do you still think puppies are cute? I have a bitter life. I do not want to be called a cute puppy from far. I need food and care to survive.
© Amaresh Swain
The day dreamer’s blank page
Is filled with the scribbles.
Not understandable but intellectual it seems;
Sleeping on the carpet,
Smelling the dust and room freshener,
Waking up to the hustle bustle, he grins.
Counting the two over head tube lights
Through the perforated frame in the ceiling;
Or listening to the shush of the Air conditioning vent,
Reading numerous times those sign boards for Exit;
Thinking of leaving every moment, but never, in time, he went.
Papers of importance pinned to the desk
Have never been read so far,
While leaving for a last time,
He glanced through it for hours.
Remembered the ergonomics,
Exercised for 2 minutes,
Had tour of the floor,
And felt it’s time to go;
And with the last letter on his table,
Another common man left us quietly so.
It started like this.
I was on call with my boss. She asked to prepare a deck for the customer meet on Monday. I was imagining my weekend as the deck would take a day to prepare. It was looking like the class room in my high school and my boss as my teacher. I started,
“Once upon a time, not sure if long back, there was a king in the kingdom of Abotacasa. The king had 17 wives and all were very unique in their characteristics. The king had collected them by different means, from his world tour. All of them were par excellence and were proud, arrogant and snobbish because of their talent. They were always involved in some conspiracy against each other to become closer to the king. None of them was able to have to a good time with the king, as the others would play a spoil sport. The Minister became worried after observing this for years. He warned the king that if the same continued, there would be a day when his majesty would be old, with no heir to take the reign. The king called for the pundits to discuss this matter. All the intellects failed to suggest a sustainable solution. The minister then suggested to pass a rule that whoever woke up first in the morning would be with the king for the whole day and others can’t come outside the room.”
Then I thought isn’t it boring? Shall I go for the king’s story in such an advanced age? Who will read that? I encountered this problem which has been there with me from the days I was being considered a kid. The problem of stopping in between and then proceeding in another direction. For example, I do not know what I am drawing until I put the pencil down. At some point of the time, there will be quirky lateral tweak that will knock and request politely to allow a late entry and most of times, my tender heart will say YES to it. I observed that every time I type a key on my laptop, the water inside the bottle kept on the table had some vibrations. Then with the small ripples, this idea came. I suggested the king to present each of his queens a smart phone so that they would get on hike as they got a gang. The king became happy and married another queen and lived happily ever after.
Then it came to my mind, “why the king? why don’t I write my story?” I promptly prepared for that. I remembered as much as I could and tried to figure out where to start. I took a paper and a pen to note down the facts and figures; like how many times I followed her, what dates did we meet, what we ate together, what places we visited together, what things we shared, and so on. Then I remembered the fights, the understanding, misunderstanding and miss-understanding moments. Nothing sounded like I was in love ever. When it was mine, it was not love; we were just friends. When it became love, I had no stories; because we fell in love just like that. When I had stories, it was not mine; she had fallen in love with someone else and was sharing the stories with me. That’s my love story.
Oh! Where is my boss? I am at home and my brother has got this new super-bike. I am alone with no one to help with my work. I have to go now. I have to pay my electricity bill, call the laundry guy, prepare the deck my boss has asked for, pack something for lunch and then go to my MBA coaching classes. I hate these weekends. God, don’t give me weekends. Sorry, sorry, I take back my prayer. Please give me some peaceful weekends. I was on my knees and pleading with my fingers crossed. God slapped me tight and told, “Oye! Pagal! It’s not weekend. Wake up and get ready for the office” – it was my idiot roommate.
© Amaresh Swain
It was a cool Friday morning. I was so excited. It was my first day at work. I was about to meet her after finishing a part of my work. I called her to confirm if she is available. I went there as planned and reached in time. I had a gift for her, in my hand, perfectly packed and addressed. As she works in an MNC, I had to wait outside her office campus. I called her after reaching. She didn’t pick up. I tried after 2 minutes. She picked up and told that she was in a meeting, in a nonchalant voice. It didn’t sound like she cares; neither for me nor for the gift. After waiting for 5 minutes, I called back. She told me that she will get free in 5 minutes and will be right there. A smile appeared in my face. The sun was high and it gradually started being unbearable. Waiting is one of the toughest tasks to anyone. I still waited with the gift and a smile on face. She called me again and again in intervals, keeping me waiting outside, but didn’t come in next 1 hour. I was hungry and frustrated. I called for a last time and what I was feeling was clearly evident from my voice. She mentioned that she couldn’t come as she was very busy and had lots of work pending. I hanged up the call without a next word, kept the gift inside my bag, and started back. She called back and asked to come to her home the next day and texted me the address. I was expecting a “sorry” at least; but nothing as such happened. Still I made my mind to go to her home, as it was nearby.
The next morning, I started little earlier than my work hour and reached her address. She must be getting ready for office that time. As I was sure about the address, I didn’t call her. When I reached, it was a surprise for me. The watchman told that lift is not for outsiders. I had to take the staircases to reach the 4th floor. I used half of the energy I had started my day with. I reached on the floor and rang the doorbell. She was sleeping. I was not aware that Saturday is holiday for her. After repeated ringing, she opened the door half asleep. I wished her good morning and handed over the gift with a big smile. She looked happy and said a forced “thank you”. Before I could tell anything more, she banged the door on my face and went back to sleep. I think a smile would have made my day.
I felt bad that I waited for her the previous day. After I left her office, I had 30 more packages to deliver. As I was late and unsure if I would be able to do it, I shared few packages to my brother and his college friend. They made it by night. While climbing down those 64 staircases, I was thinking, “She said she was busy, she had lot of work pending. How was it different from my situation? I also had lot of pending work; I had meetings with several people; I had critical deliveries by end of the day which could affect my career. When I make sure that their packages are delivered in time at the right place, don’t they have the responsibility to respect my job as a courier boy?”
I decided to forget the moment, marked a tick against the list and called the next customer; with a smile.
© Amaresh Swain
She was upset. I handed over the chocolate box. While her upset mind was dragging behind, the uncontrollable hands came forward to open the wrapper. She looked into it. There were two bars of chocolate in the big box; equally alluring and lavish to inveigle anyone into doing the mistake. One named worries and the other was smile. She was so upset that her mind wouldn’t care to decide which one to take. She blindly chose the smile. She was looking at me while having the smile and I was thinking that we always have a choice.
© Amaresh Swain
It’s 1:23 AM… I am counting 1,2,3 with the hum of some alien song that is running in mind from the last morning and waiting for that moment. My mom is accompanying me. There is no exam tomorrow morning and I am not a college girl; it’s been years I last encountered a book or something for more than 5 min. There is no boy going to visit me the next morning that I am sleepless in the excitement and fear of my marriage. There is no travel plan or any rituals early morning. We are just sitting silently, looking at each other; sometimes whispering a word or two which wouldn’t go beyond the circumference of the bed. Mom is here for 2 days only, but I can’t talk to her, even knowing that there is no one to disturb. We are feeling little sleepy, but can’t sleep. I am sitting in one corner of the bed, slouching a little forward on the support of one hand so that I can run my other hand over her head. The little one is still not sleeping. I am trying all means to put her to sleep. Only a mother can understand my helplessness. My mother is suggesting me many alternatives and I am trying them one by one. None of them have worked so far. We are still waiting. I have been running my hand over her soothingly and singing a lullaby my mother sang to me; in the repeat mode. It’s been so routine work that I do not find it different from worshiping; like I do the prayers in the morning while preparing breakfast and thinking of other things while singing a lullaby. The song and the work or the thought do not interfere; they all go parallel. I have been continuing this for last 2 hours and have been thinking of many things.
I have been so busy with life, going through so many different phases and performing so many different roles in past few years that I had no time to focus on my life. I have been a daughter and college girl 4 years back; a job holder and would be bride 3 years back; a wife and daughter-in-law 2 years back; a mother 1 year back; and no clue about my status for last one year. In fact no one bothered to ask; not even me. Life becomes so short after you focus all your thoughts, actions and priorities on one thing or one person. The living room has been so unattended that anyone would get the same question at the first glance, “do you live here?”. I couldn’t resist that repeating question in my mind every time I enter the room. After so many attempts, I managed to get 2 hours’ time this morning to reorganize things in the room. Dusting the room, separating the unnecessary stuff, packaging few articles those have not been used in a while, changing the curtains, removing the vase from the corner, shifting the glass shelf, cleaning the decors, etc.; in short, too much of work. Thank God, my maid helped me with few things. The planned 2 hours got extended to 3 hours, that too for finishing the major chunk; few other things are left which can’t be noticed in the first look, which is a relief. After putting the bundle of newspaper aside, the maid asked if she can take them and sell for some money. I agreed. She smiled and I could see her increased interest in work. She got stuck on something while dusting the books; a book cover perhaps. “Madam, the handwriting on this note is so attractive. whose is this? Looks to be old one. Shall I keep it or throw?”. I grabbed it from her hand and looked at it once. My dear old friend – my diary. A simpered and quickly wiped it myself and kept aside. “This is mine.”. The ownership in my voice would have convinced her that she can’t get it.
Mom offered to prepare lunch today and suggested me to take rest, as I was tired after this tedious work. I couldn’t miss this freedom of the moment. I had a quick bath and was ready in few minutes. The little one was sleeping. I slowly ascended the bed without disturbing her, moved nearer and kissed her. Then tried to sleep. I was not aware that the diary had already released a good amount of serotonin. I couldn’t sleep. I thought of going through it while lying flat on the bed. I opened it while thinking how busy I am and I don’t get time to write my daily journal these days. Coincidentally got this page where I found my sleep patterns. Kept on reading:
I woke up at 8:30 in a lazy morning. After being scolded in class for sleeping, I have started completing it in the morning itself. While I was trying to merge my body with the bed adjusting my position of sleep and avoiding noise by putting two pillows over my ear, I could still hear Dad shouting from the other room “sleeping will give you nothing. Lazy are the losers.” with pauses for the sip of coffee and continuing “I have been telling this for years. No one listens to me in this house.” and mom addressing this with her stereotype humor “who tells you to preach when no one listens? You should have learnt early and changed the verse.” with that mixed smile and haste to change the topic before he feels bad. “Now she is done with her studies and we should find a match for her. Finding a good boy these days is very difficult.”, to which Mom replied, “She will find her own match.” Father was silent for a while. He must be looking at Mom with surprise. “How will she manage after marriage if she sleeps so much?”. She was preparing for breakfast and replying to every question, “She will manage. You will never get a complain. I know my daughter. Let her sleep for some time when she is with us at least.”. I was telling from under the blanket “Thanks Mom, you get everything done for me. How can I manage without you?.”
I was lost for a while, remembering all those sweet days of sleeping without worries. Mom tapped on my shoulder and whispered, “She is asleep now. You can go to sleep.” I became alert and gave a sleepy smile; stretching my neck and yawning. My mom was still waiting for me to sleep. Then I silently appreciated my mother. She would have done the same for me when I was a toddler and she has been continuing till date. I am in my mom’s place now. I know that the little one will not remember any of these when she will grow and I have to tell her these as stories describing how she was keeping me awake for nights. She would continue to do the same for her child. Diaries will be filled with the same story for generations; the stories of mothers who are so fond of sleeping and sacrifice that for their children.
I looked at the clock. It’s 2:47 AM. I need to go to bed so that I can wake up early and start working. I need to prepare breakfast, pack lunch for him and myself, go to work, prepare dinner, take her to sleep and plan for the next day after every day. That’s the magic of life. You get enchanted by its charm and get trapped for millenniums.
A long walk
Down the shore,
Watching our shadow
Moving along side,
Your hand in mine
Distant yet loud.
Dipped in sand.
Watch us move,
High above the land.
Rest our bodies
Against the rock,
Move our eyes.
Sweet old lies.