Dear Leader,

© Sudeep Chakravarti

Do you see, Dear Leader?
They look to you
with their eyes of thirst and hunger and absence of life.
They look to you because you promised them
the sky and stars and all the mendacious magic in your kingdom that
once had no king,
When all they wish for is a bit of the earth,
to live in, to lie on
while the trees of your kingdom
offer shelter and succour.
It’s not a fair trade.
They ask for a future.
You want your kingdom.
Do you hear, Dear Leader?
They do not ask of their fill.
They ask for leftovers,
the waste from your bowl,
when you will it.
They will believe you, in your greatness that you still proclaim
As you speak to them, offer them a breath at a time as if you
Own all the air they breathe.
They will light a lamp for you
With the last drop of their lives.
They will celebrate you by turning their empty utensils into
temple bells.
Bells in your temple.
They have subsumed their many gods into yours –
Even unto you, their king.
Would you give them what they ask, even a morsel of your false hope?
Kings are sometimes known to be generous.
But it could be that you, omnipresent, omniscient,
are made deaf by applause you seek –
For simply waking.
It’s a king’s ransom.
What is the colour of your blood, Dear Leader?
Royal gold? Quicksilver? Purple? Or purest saffron
from the valley of imagined flowers
and imagined people?
It cannot be red, like theirs,
flowing freely from fear.
It cannot.
Because you are now immortal.
Your legends are not of their legends.
Your every breath (your courtiers may tell you)
is a gift of life for them.
Your every word (say your courtiers who adulate you)
is the resonance of the universe.
Your every gesture (say your courtiers who celebrate you)
is a wash of sharp cleansing daylight in this time of blight.
Your blood cannot be their blood.
Like immortals, your blood
Must be ice.
White when frozen.
And, like ice,
Terrified of the thaw.
Do you know of anger, Dear Leader?
Not your anger.
Their anger.
Indeed you do:
You became a prince among princes profiting from their anger,
And then, a king.
A god.
An immortal.
But anger, like heat, diminishes with height and distance.
You could ask your courtiers.
There must be one who can look you in the eye –
Even immortals need a confidant.
Perhaps this mortal who lives in your encroaching shadow
may tell you:
A time comes for all kings,
For all kingdoms,
To return to the time before kings, before kingdoms.
History speaks of it as rise and fall.
But history is sometimes told incomplete, as history has
an appetite for illusion.
The fallen are swept away by the rise of the fallen.
When spring comes you may sense it,
This beautiful magic without illusion.
Do you know of fear, Dear Leader?
Ask the mortals.

© Sudeep Chakravarti, May 2020

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features

Migrant’s Daughter talks to Mother

Keki Daruwalla

Where’s that planet Ma, the one you speak of?
Is it Buddha, Sukra, or Mangala?
Where we need to walk just twenty
miles a day to get to our hut, fata fut?
Daughter, please sleep, I am tired.

That planet ma, where it’s  cloudy  even at noon
So our heads won’t burn soon,
where roads are so smooth you said
no feet ever bled
Where we may even find a dukaan
and I could get sandals, hey Bhagwan!

Beti, I am tired, sleep.
How many more miles Ma in these wilds?
Four hundred forty three child!
Is that more than what we’ve done till now?
Child we  walked just four hundred, and how!

Beti, thank the mantris we are in a truck
We won’t get stuck
I know the crush won’t make you gush
Still thank the mantris they take such care of us.
CRASH !! That was an accident daughter.
Who are these Ma, they don’t move
They traveled with us, now they are dead.
We are twenty miles nearer our hearth.
Have we reached a planet Ma?

Child, we are on our planet, Prithvi, Earth.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features