Long Poem : Shadows Of Shame

I drove my lady out a Sunday, a monthly routine that the young man in the house undertakes. What with all that transpired here, there and everywhere, it was late in evening when we found ourselves on the return leg. I suggested eating out, so she wouldn’t have to spend time in the kitchen. And, boy… it had to be street food !

When we were full and quenched, I calculated we had spent a grand sum equivalent of 2-and-half dollars. Aha, Ahoy … I exclaimed to myself ! Why the hell do I rail against the govt policies, the inflation et al, when I might have great food at such fantastic prices compared to what it would cost anywhere else in the world ?

Indeed, why… because who among 60 % of India’s population can afford to spend Rs 120 on street food and entertainment fare ? On chat – samosa – tikki – golgappa – kulfi ? Which is why. I find it insolent of people when they judge the economy relative to other economies, or to their fortunate solvency, or by what their colleagues in business and govt service opine.

Here’s my introduction to Les Miserables that I have recorded right off the scene I encountered on a city street in Calcutta, soon after I had started on a career …


The city avenue is agog today.

The sun is set

Traffic crawls

And a class war begun

By the quaint lamp

From colonial past

In its yellow light

And dim cast.

I heard the screams first

In local din

Before walking up
To drama high

That caught my curiosity

Kept me mystified

I say, so very…

A man chest bare

In pajamas

Thundered with a cracking voice :

” The bitches ! The thieves !! “

” The bitches ! The thieves !! “

” Mo-fuck bitches !!!

” Guttersnipe thieves !!!!”

Accusing, without a pause

Charged, within his compound wall

Looking over with a flushed face

Popped eyes and killing stares

At two women, their three kids

Threatening dire, at them each

Pounding the ground

With explosive fury.

He rushes back to huddled shade

Where the parents stand

And family, all lined up

To watch him sally forth

Again and again

Bursting out, emitting yells

Full-throat, trembling with rage

Causing tremors with a finger shake

At those ladies accurst

And I told myself :

This would hurt serious …

‘Twas a heart foaming vulgarly

At the pavement dwellers’ family

With a mind so disjointed

Spewing aggression

In fear’s sway !

He raves without pause

Pacing up and down

Brow stressed with rants

With quaking furrows

Meaning aloud, louder

To knuckle dust proper …

I look at the wretches

On this side of gate

In full glare they stand

By their homeless shade

A tiny makeshift tent

Of polythene sheet

With kids behind them

Cowering, ill-clad

Apprehensive but stuck

To their grounded feet

Watching …

The man lunge, cane in hand

To family’s loud gasp

And old parents’ recoil

But the ramble peaks

Teen brother in tow

Lagging to restrain

Looking lost

Diffident and tame

His unease covered

In shadows of shame …

The tall woman this side

Now lets out a shriek

Curdles the blood

Of onlookers, I see

She thrust forward the girls

Little – shy and naked

Sad pouts, looks aground

And hovering in tentativeness …

The crowd is mute

As jury glass eyed

Attentive to lawyers

Spar on either side

Waiting … to write

On books open just then

To see through the drama

And record their judgment …

It’s the younger woman’s turn

To step up the stage

To ” strip the monster “

With her accusing lance

A finger outstretched

And wide sweeps of arm

Histrionics real, I find

So brilliant of her

Spitting fire from close

Quick to back into home

Pleading sharp their essence

Their poverty, homelessness

Plain alibi, she gestures

Of their innocence

Her pitch querying appeal

To mango men in jury …

Insinuations dart from stares latent

I observe the verdict’s clear

Among the gathered men

Quiet, erect, listening intense

Spreading their sense

When the aggressor halts

Unsure sudden, in ebb

Now looking around

Bewildered, afraid …

There, he buttons up in

I read his confidence thin

More, a terror writ large

With the brother expressing

Tugging, hinting escape

And pulling at him

And the man himself

Shows his coiled up anguish

Stealing a retreat

Thinking, “How incredulous !”


Chafing, tapered

Pausing just once

To make it clear …

But the destitutes right then

Go for the kill

Flaunt their rags

Their bellies caved in

And pinch the hearts

With wails, convincingly

Run the foe aground

Down and down

And the fray’s done in

The parents shrink enough

To issue their call

” Damn the wench !”

” Filth they are …”

Righteousness misplaced

I felt, the manner was small

Face blackened, it seemed

And the dignity was false

The man recedes heavy

On benumbed steps

His sense now laden

And ears were plugged

Bellowing yet in mind

Being unrepentant

Though the frame was slouched

But his eyes were up …

* * *

Soon, I hear

Chatter fill the mansion

Rum to shore up

Feudal pretensions

Nursing the defeat

Under influence

To power built up

And willed violence

Letting out a yelling storm

On weak and uninformed

Through unreasoned bawls

Innocent questions unformed…

* * *

Outside, the unscathed dwellers chirp

Of stagy victory

And people content, disperse

The poor abode regained is open

On three sides :

Rooms are imagined

Mats tattered

And few utensils black

Dented, most mattered

The older one, calm

Now sweeps the ground

The pot’s on fire

Exhorts the kids around

Up, up, girls !”

Boiled rice in warm whey
And a pinch of salt ! Hey …”

Encore :

Boiled rice in warm whey

And a pinch of salt ! Hey …

Monotony come alive

Like a playing record stuck …

The younger one

On a low stool, sighs

Spits copiously out

Holds her face for long

In her two palms

Staring straight

Into vacuum …

Then, heaves up sudden

On her feet

Looking at her bosom

And her boobs extend

It’s body time,” she nods to herself

To put the breasts

To livelihood due –

To be the goddess, verily

To the one now waiting

For her cue…


One thought on “Long Poem : Shadows Of Shame

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s