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.
|Copyright © 2005 - Makarand Paranjape|