At last I know I am in hell.


The peak-hour crush of humanity

overruns the little station,

surging out like a mass of ants.

Scurrying hither and thither in frenzy,

they disperse through the rotten streets

and dingy lanes, into apartment blocks,

congested chawls, tenements, roadside shacks,

or hovels of cardboard and corrugated tin.

Some more emerge and cram into buses,

while the rest squeeze into connecting trains.

The over bridge shakes as the stuffed locals rattle by.


Inside a compartment, the all too familiar scene:

jostling, sticky people, sitting squeezed,

or standing shoulder to shoulder, crammed

into the lurching coach.  At every stop

some get out but more desperate ones enter.

And off we go again, rattling infernally.

On either side of the tracks,

Huge slums colonize the waste lands.

Here people live in leaking, stinking hovels

without sanitation, electricity, or water.

Every morning they squat at the tracks

to defecate.  They urinate against walls,

on footpaths, against trees--

all of India is a public urinal.


On the streets, hutments encroach into the traffic

spilling out of footpaths.

Occasionally, the entrance is even decorated.

Here children, grubby, naked, and restless, play.

By the flyover, some new families have settled.

They live in the open, without a roof over their heads.

When the light turns red

the children interrupt their game in the dirt.

They scramble to windows of taxicabs and cars,

beg, beg, and laugh.  When the light turns green,

they resume play.  At nightfall,

in small dirt fires the women cook meals

on dented and blackened aluminium pots.

Here they copulate and here their children are born.

And abandoned on the streets, a new generation

learns to live by its wits.


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  Copyright © 2005 - Makarand Paranjape