From an Election Diary

Dedicated to this Election

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Now that all is over, I mean this election
Isn’t it time for some patient reflection?
Queued is a frustrated India waiting for a hopeful resurrection,
In an election fought hard and bad with words filled with objection.

Some leaders you disliked and many you worshiped; they all fed on your affection,
When rallies traveled to far-off places of voter action
Moods fluctuated, colors changed and glamour waned when warned of inaction.
A silent reminder, it was, of the power in that voting button selection.

Oil and water were people they claimed and split in to bar charts on television,
Would never mix these elements claimed experts of misdirection.
Will the experts stand in front of people’s jury for introspection?
Ha, they were showmen raking TRPs like casino-goers doing point collection.

Those empty stomachs and quiet wails without a vision,
Will benefit from our proud selection,
Is but a dream waiting to be real for years in collection!
This is but another chance waiting for course correction.

Now that all is over, I mean this election,
What will I eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with no spice on TV for selection,
Curd rice in canteen now goes back to that stale plate of infection,
and with colleagues, I wonder, what will be my common point of discussion!

Now that all is over, I mean this election,
Can I go back to work and strive for that promising promotion?

 

  ~Trilok~

What’s in a name?

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Why this question now? Of late my friends have been asking me to explain the funda regarding my strange ID. It is being used in my blog name, domain ids, my GitHub Id, my tags etc. So what exactly is this? I stumbled upon this idea during my school days while learning algorithm. It is just an alternate representation of my name. People have been calling me Threelok, ThreeLog, Trilock, Trylock etc. One of these misspelled representation or mispronunciation gave me this idea to think of my name as a mathematical expression derivation of which is given below.

LogRCubed = Log [R]3

                          = 3 Log R

= 3 Lok R

= Three-Lok R

= Trilok R

Hence the Name and the Strange ID! Phew… Thus explained this mysterious name.

So again, what is in a name? Many a things, most importantly “being you”…

Signs

 

Kavitha murmured the second lesson of her Malayalam Textbook titled the “The journey of a brave kid.” It spoke in over four pages a fictional story about a boy and his adventurous journey in search of his mother. Kavitha’s wide, beautiful eyes, resembling her mother’s awaited someone. They often wandered away from the book towards the porch. In the distance, a playful sun hid behind the wavering plantain leaves. The blazing yellow coloured incandescent lamp on the porch attracted the pestering insects, the rain flies born from the evening drizzle and the omnipresent mosquitoes. They buzzed behind her neck, humming their irritating, yet mysterious anthems that bothered her.

“Amma (Mom), light the mosquito coil, no. I am unable to study!” She shouted out while her hands frantically shooed away the air near her neck and ears. “When is Achan returning?” She added in the same breath.

“Girl, within an hour… Mosquito coils are over. Call Achan and remind him to get some. Also, ask him where he has reached”. Kavitha’s mom replied.

“For now, I will burn some coconut husk and the roots which we brought from the village.”  Her mom added.

“Acha, where have you reached?” Her sweet voice asked inquired over the mobile phone.

“Kavithoo, I am nearing the temple bus stop. What are you doing?” Her dad inquired.

“About to study. Don’t forget mosquito coils. And…(pause) Did you buy it?”

“Of course. I have got both. Ok? Ask you mom to lock the grille till I come.”

“Fine. I will tell mom. I am impatient to see the gift. Ciao.” She reported the matter to Mom and settled back at her table.

The front door of their three room rented house on the outskirts of the town remained open but the grille on the exterior was safely locked. Her mom would often repeat, “To close the front door during the late evenings is considered inauspicious”.

Kavitha sat watching the setting sun snacked by the hills in the distance. The scattering light soon painted the sky in an “Orangish” hue on a canvas of floating clouds and a faint moon. Light was fading fast and the street lights flickered to life somewhere in the distance. It was nearing half past six and she thought that the clock face with its outstretched needles made a sad face.

Meanwhile, Mom emerged clean and fresh from the bathroom and proceeded to light the greasy oil-lamp in front of the glass-framed pictures. There were a dozen different gods precariously perched on the shelf inside their kitchen. After applying Tilak above her Kumkum, she decorated the pictures with a shoe flower on top of each of the wooden frames and placed a garland strung out of jasmines near the lamp. Its fragrance immediately filled the room. Then she lit a few incense sticks and stuck it in to an empty nail hole in the wall. Closing her eyes, she prayed silently for a few minutes.

Kavitha joined Mom without the usual invitation. She silently thanked the gods for reminding her dad about the doll. Returning to the dinner table that doubled as her study table, Kavitha resumed her lessons.

“Meow… Meow…” A black cat trotted on the porch. It was a bad omen. Her grandmother used to tell her that if a black cat crossed the path then something terrible was about to happen. She signaled her Mom to shoo it away immediately. Mom quietly took the broom, turned it upside down and drove it off the porch into the vegetable garden. The cat sped away, its tail upright! A few more agitated Meows and then its sound died.

Mom kept another lit oil-lamp outside the front door on the verandah and switched on the Vedic chants on her mobile phone. Meanwhile, she had found enough time to burn a couple of coconut husks with some medicinal herbs and place it near the entrance. Winds toyed with the flame creating shadows of many kinds. Kavitha despised shadows, all of them. The dancing, waving, flickering, shapeless ones, those resembling animals, birds, dancing serpents, the ones with human-like heads devilishly laughing on formless bodies like genies emerging out of its bottle of entrapment, or those with headless bodies, sharp, moving, approaching, mocking, running, faint, fading, limping and the like; all of those frightened her.

The seven year old mind of hers did not have the courage to inspect the source of those strange shadows. She would rather run away and hide under Mom’s sari, or cover her face with Dad’s large reassuring palms. She forced her thoughts back to the story of the lone boy sitting under a tree by the side of an empty road.  “As he sat weeping underneath the small banyan tree, the tree quietly grew behind him. The branches morphed into wicked hands and the leaves turned blood red. Branches swayed menacingly and the shadow danced like a witch. From the monstrous tree emerged a “vicious looking” lady. The setting sun bounced off her silvery white hair and the edges of the protruded teeth shone devilishly. Her blood colored makeup with the fearsome figure grew to an enormous size in no time. She grabbed the boy and flew up on to the top branches.”

Kavitha’s heart palpitated and a sweat drop wet the text book. From the corner of her eyes she checked out the shadows. This time it was a woman dancing with her hair locks open. The spectre reminded her of the frightening Mudiyettu kolams, an eerie figure with a blood colored makeup spinning wildly to the tunes of the percussions, her hairs loosely bound, with a sword in her hand, performing in the nearby Bhadrakali temple.

“Meow… Meow…” She cowered startled by the noise. She was about to blame the cat when she noticed that it was just the SMS ringtone on Mom’s mobile. She opened the message. It was Dad. He had got down from the bus and was near the temple.

Her dilated eyes returned back to the text book, to the boy under the tree and the terrifying witch. “Surprisingly the small boy was not the least bit scared. Neither the tree nor the witch bothered him. He looked at her unperturbed. The witch hissed, ‘Aren’t you scared? ‘No’, the boy managed a reply. ‘Then why are you here?’ she questioned. The boy bravely responded, ‘You see the past, the present and the future? You have the answer to my question. Where is my mother? What happened to her?’  The witch grinned revealing her long bloody canines. ‘I won’t tell you. I shall show you some signs to find her.’ The witch added”.

“Kavithoo… Dad’s baritone voice echoed in her ears. She instantly looked towards the front door. There was none, not even a shadow. The conspicuous absence of shadow felt mysterious.

“Amma, is Achan home?” asked a perplexed Kavitha.

“No. I told you, right? He is on his way.” Mom sounded a bit terse and angry.

“But I guess I heard him…” Kavitha was unsure.

“Do you want to eat dinner or not? Let me cook. You read something for tomorrow’s class and do not disturb me.” Her mother responded from the kitchen.

A few slow minutes unwound and she heard it again – “Kavithoo…” This time it was louder. She was sure. As she turned her head towards the entrance, the familiar shadow of Dad holding a doll in his hands approached the front door. She fleeted towards the grill door, shouting “Amma, Achan is here. Open the door.”, only to be disappointed upon reaching the door.

There wasn’t anyone outside. It was just the shadows of the plantain leaves and the flame, she thought.

Her mother came with the key to find no one in the verandah. “Kavitha, don’t play with me. I have many a chores to complete and it is already late.” Mom rebuked her.

The little girl was confused and dejected.  She settled down at the desk and grabbed the mobile phone to play the snake game. She could hardly concentrate on her lesson. She ran inside the kitchen to check on her mom. Kavitha’s mom was tidying up the kitchen. Kavitha pestered, “Amma, I saw Achan’s shadow on the porch. I am not fooling around. He might have gone upstairs to check the water level in the tank.”

Her frustrated mom scolded her and dragged her out of the kitchen to the table and sat with her.

“Where did you stop reading?” Mom asked. Switching off the mobile she started out reading the lesson to Kavitha.

“Amma, he might be there on the terrace watering the flower pots on the low roof. Let us check it out.” Realizing that she was getting cranky, Mom grabbed the phone and followed her upstairs to the open terrace.

It was empty!

Then they inspected the backyard vegetable garden and outside the main gate of the compound. There wasn’t anyone around. Not a single soul in sight. Not even that spooky cat.

“Kavithoo…” Her dad’s voice again floated into her ears with the evening breeze as she started walking back from the gate. Kavitha became uneasy. Her thoughts ran wild. She was not able to comprehend the events? Was it just the story playing on her mind or was it her imagination? Whatever it was, she couldn’t quite comprehend what was going on! The black cat, the eerie shadows, the strange story in the text and the voices in her head frightened her.

She snatched Mom’s mobile phone and pressed the fast dial. Irritated and angered by her actions, Mom snatched the phone back, cut the call and gave her a not-so-soft slap. Kavitha bolted into the house with tears swelling up her eyes. Immediately overwhelmed by regret, her mom followed her and tried to solace her, all in vain.

They both sat restlessly on the table, one reading the text book and the watching the clock. After 10 minutes, there was the noise of metal hitting metal. It was from the gate. They paced to the verandah. It was Kavitha’s dad. Kavitha noticed in the street light that Dad was limping a bit. As he neared them, she noticed his soiled and torn clothes’. His bag was also missing. He had only a white polythene cover with him.

As soon as he entered the house, both of them in one concerned voice asked, “What happened?”

“Get me some water, cotton and after shave lotion.” her father said, taking off his shirt and revealing a bruise in his left hand and a gash near the navel. He lifted his trousers up till his knee and a few specs of dried blood showed up near the knee cap.

Mom instantly disappeared into the house only to appear with the dressing material for the wounds. She started cleansing the wound.

Dad heaved a sigh of relief and said, “We will change this house soon. We will move back to our previous apartment inside the city.”

“Again!!!” Mom looked at him, surprised.

“It has barely been 2 months since we moved in here. And living inside city is expensive, isn’t it? But that can wait tell me what happened to you?”

“Robber.” The moment of silence pronounced by their own missing heartbeats!

Her dad took a deep breath and explained, “I was on my way from the bus stop. I couldn’t get an auto-rickshaw. So I decided to walk all the way. I took the shortcut near the temple – the road with huge temple walls on both sides. I was near the bend before the temple pond where the street lights are notoriously missing for a small stretch. Suddenly, a guy appeared with a handkerchief tied over his face.”

“And…”

Kavitha tightly gripped Dad’s arm. She could feel the heightened pulse in her dad’s arms and the sweat in his palms as he narrated it. His eyes flashed the fear he had experienced.

“And, what else? He flashed a knife and asked me for my belongings.”

“Oh my God… Krishna… The next time I visit you…” Mom started.

“Enough. Now don’t you start praying a list of pujas to all the temples around?” Her dad cut her mother’s prayers short.

“Be happy and thank God that nothing much happened. We have to do some Puja and give offerings at the temple for sure.” She insisted.

“Alright. We will go this weekend.” Dad agreed.

He continued with the incident, “When I tried to resist he shoved me on to the road. I gave our wedding ring, purse and the bag. He wanted this cover thinking that it was some costly stuff. It has Kavitha’s toy packed in a gift wrap. I told him to spare this at least as it was just a toy for my daughter. He threatened to stab me and flashed the knife very close to my body, accidently cutting my arm and belly. I dropped the cover on the ground and backed off. He then asked for my mobile phone.”

“And…”

“As I was giving him the phone it rang loudly. So loudly, that he panicked and darted off in the opposite direction. I am not sure what would have happened if you had not called.” he finished; his breathing returned to normal.

“But, I never…” Before she had completed that sentence it dawned on her that, Kavitha “speed dialed” his number from the terrace a few minutes back.

“Kavitha…” She had opened the gift wrap and was carefully winding the singing doll. Kavitha raised her head to find her mom and dad staring at her!

~Trilok~

Selected words with meanings

Malayalam – A South Indian language

Amma – Mother in Malayalam

Achan – Father in Malayalam

Acha – Dad (colloquial)

Tilak – A decoration, often a white sandalwood paste, traditionally worn on the forehead of a Hindu believer.

Kumkum – A decoration, often a red dot, traditionally worn on the forehead of married Hindu women and now also by other Asian woman and girls

Mudiyettu  kolams – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mudiyett

Bhadrakali – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhadrakali A violent and angry form of an Indian goddess.

Krishna – Indian god

Puja – Hindu rituals

Soliloquy of a Stillborn Life

Soon I shall be gone

Will there be anyone to mourn?

There will be nothing but a stone

Resting on the bones of a life, stillborn.

 

The pages of my torn book,

The manuscript that no one would look,

Would litter the boneyard

Like leaves swept by a solemn wind, southward.

 

Time would stand muted, holding the empty end

Of a broken kite-string that it failed to mend.

The destiny, the dream, both wounded from a life-long fist fight

Would sing the requiem of a life’s plight.

 

The meaning of my work, hard to know

When I am alive and shouting now

Would in the end,  dawn on this world

When beneath the earth, silently I curled.

 

~Trilok~

The Lucky Pencil

Birthday celebrations in my home are minimal and predictable. The day would not differ much from the rest of the days in the year except for a few additions to the food menu, one pack of chocolates for my classmates, a handful of toffees for me and a mandatory visit to the nearby temple. I would be forced to wake up early in the morning, have a hot water bath and visit a few of the nearby temples. By the time Appa and I were back from the temple Amma would have made some sweet rice pudding besides the usual breakfast. There were not any birthday gifts in all those growing up years. However, my 7th birthday was a bit different. I remember it vividly. I had decided to feign illness and skip school on that day to enjoy a relaxed and princely lunch. However, amma was not feeling well on that day. Therefore, there was neither the sumptuous meal in the offing nor the rice pudding in the morning. After the usual temple visit, appa packed some curd rice and tender mango pickle in the tiffin box and dropped me at school. I tried to resist but my efforts were in vain. “It is better if you are at the school. She cannot take care of you today. She needs to take care of herself first!” prescribed appa as I got down from the motor bike at the school gate. “OK”, I moaned gently.
Just before I took off to my class, he surprised me by giving me a new pencil. I had asked him for a new pencil a week back as mine was almost reaching the end of its life-cycle. It was the first time I had seen a pencil like that. It was written S-T-A-E-D-T-L-E-R. I did not know how to pronounce it. It felt different from the Nataraj and Apsara pencils that I had used until then. I grabbed the pencil and ran off to the classroom. I desperately wanted to try out the new pencil. Borrowing a sharpener from Arun, I carefully sharpened it. By no means, I wanted to break the delicate graphite head on the first try. Amazingly, like butter the reels of wood peeled off. I collected the long ones and carefully placed them inside my pencil box handling it delicately like the wings of a dead butterfly. It would find its place on the “hall of fame” inside my pencil box. Green-eyed folks on my bench gazed at me. Slowly but surely, my grip on the pencil tightened.
Our class teacher, Miss. Marina had just walked into the room by then. The first period as usual was English. The Gulmohar textbook for English learning was turning out to be a difficult one to master. The words were getting tougher with each passing day. It was Lesson 2 dictation test and my heart palpitated. I had not studied a bit since I had planned to skip the class anyway. My palms too perspired and the pencil slipped in my hands. After the attendance check, and when the dictation test sheets were being distributed, I brought out the toffee pack filled with 100 Cadbury’s Éclairs, stood up and announced that it was my birthday to the teacher and the class. I wanted to slow down the scheme of things deliberately. My friend, Arun’s eyes lit up with glee as it meant he would get a few more chocolates since there would be more chocolates than the strength of the class. For some unknown reason, I started giving two of them to each one of them, leaving the toffee pack nearly empty. Arun was visibly disappointed. I gave him and my bench mates whatever was left in the pack after saving three for me. Meanwhile, the determined teacher proceeded with the dictation. An irritated and mood-off Arun decided not to let me have a look at his answers. He bent his head over the answer sheet and blocked my view with his body. I tried to peek into his answer sheet but then his handwriting was unusually illegible to my trained eyes. Each letter resembled the legs of strange birds and animals running away from the paper, scratched so fast that the sheet nearly tore in between. I had no other choice other than to guess the spelling of most of the words. I had that bad feeling in the lower part of the stomach of familiar butterflies flying after screwing up an easy exam. ‘If I ended up in the last five today I had to either suffer caning or write all those words 10 times by the next day. In the worst case both!’ my mind worked out the probable outcomes. I prayed that the new pencil would work some magic and save me from embarrassment!
After 10 minutes, Miss. Marina announced, “Time up. Swap your sheet with those of your neighbours and correct it. The solution is on the blackboard.” and she started writing out the answers on the blackboard. Arun, squint his eyes and reviewed my answers. He started striking every written word with a repressed anger. I clasped my hands and breathed a quiet prayer. I decided to use my trump card. Opening my pencil box, I let Arun have a good look at the extra chocolates that I had saved and pushed the box towards him. To my surprise, he did not yield. Focusing his head back to the textbook, he continued correcting the paper with a cold face. I corrected Arun’s paper matching it with the solution on the board soon realizing that he had everything right! ‘What a mean-spirited fellow!!! What about me?’ The only solace was that the teacher would not cane me since it was my birthday. Instead of caning, the punishment was an unwelcome and unavoidable imposition – write each of the words ten times by the next day.
“Any full marks?” ma’am inquired. “Arun”, I replied hesitantly. She gave her toffee to Arun. Then, she asked, “Who all are below 4?” A few hands shot up. The names of the regulars were announced. One by one, she caned each one of my classmates who scored below the cut-off. To my utter disbelief, Arun did not announce my name. “Good god! How did that happen?” In a flash, I took the still unconsumed toffee and dropped it on Arun’s lap. He looked back, perplexed and collected the toffees happily. We exchanged back our answer sheets and I stared at the answers for a long while. ‘Surprise!’ I really had six correct answers out of the fifteen. Correct in the true sense, that is without any help from Arun. My guesses turned out to be perfectly right. I had only one thing to thank – My New Pencil! Otherwise, why would I have any of those baffling spellings right without reading the text even once! ‘But, my toffees…?’ They were gone.
After that incident, I had only one tale to narrate during the lunch break and I had only one tale to narrate at home that evening – “The awesome power of the yellow and black striped lucky pencil”. Of course, none believed me. My friends were initially eager to hear to about the incident, but laughed heartily when I told them that it had some special powers. My parents dismissed the entire episode when I told about this incredulous event. It was on the last day of the comprehensive exams that year would I come to know the entire truth. Meanwhile, I wrote my notes, shaded the pictures in the textbooks, drew many new pictures, added horns and moustaches to the illustrations in the text and ask what not. I did everything with a confidence never before felt for I had this wonderful new pencil! A few days after a problem of a different nature arose. Before I realized, my pencil had become the size of my index finger. “Now what?” Soon it will be unusable. I was not ready for this. I complained about the waning pencil at home every day. My frustration compounded when my friends started mocking at me alleging that my marks, my performance and enthusiasm were just by-products of the new pencil and would vanish with the pencil. I wished that I had inherited a magic fountain pen and an ink bottle instead! That would have at least lasted longer.
After much thought, I decided to discuss this with my parents. “Appa, my pencil will become too small to use in a few days. What to do now?” Although initially he tried to console me saying that he would get me a new pen, once he realized that I was inconsolable he bounced the question to amma. She found an opportunity in this and coaxed me to recite the prayers in the evening without fail, keep the pencil near Ganesha statue before I went to bed after completing the homework every day. “Rest everything leave it to Ganesha. He will help you out. After all he is the remover of all obstacles.” Reluctantly, I agreed to the suggestion, though I despised praying and studying for long hours. There was no other way to regenerate that pencil like a lizard’s tail. Nothing happened the next day and for a few more days. I was getting impatient with every passing day. The pencil had become half the size of my finger. I attached a broken pen to its back and continued using it. I made it a point to use the pencil only for the most important exams that year. My handwriting that had improved began its retreat to older ways, so were my marks, all south bound. It was the day after Ganesha Chathurthi. By then, I had given up all hope when on the morning of festive day the unbelievable happened.
“Boom!” There was a new pencil near the statue similar to the one I had kept yesterday. The one I had kept there was gone. It had my name etched on one side just the same way I had done on my previous one with a razor. One letter looked a bit different. Rest all the same. “Brilliant!” I thanked god, looked around me. Having ensured that no one was around, I recited a silent prayer. Amma was in the kitchen. I ran elated and told her the superb news. She smiled at me, patted my head and whispered, “See I told you, no. If you have faith in God and recited the prayers faithfully he will help you out!” I grinned ear to ear and ran to the veranda where appa was scanning through the newspaper. I somehow felt that he was expecting me at that moment. I beamed, produced the pencil and jumped in front of him like a circus dog on two legs waiting to catch a bone. He responded rather oddly, “Enough of fooling around. Now that you have your pencil go and study!”
From that day onwards, I started studying with a renewed vigour devouring my textbooks. To my surprise, the whole activity of learning and spending time with books was increasingly pleasurable and rewarding. My mark sheets reflected this renewed interest. I was cracking every exam out of shape. My friends and teachers were amazed. My parents would just nod and continue as if there was nothing new. Every month I would continue getting the new pencil until the last exam of that year. On the last day, instead of the pencil I got a strange hand-written note. It read, “You have done well this year and proven that you are a good boy, smart and well natured. Therefore, I have moved the powers from the pencil and moved it to your brain yesterday night. You would not need the pencil any more. Go ahead and write this exam with any pen or pencil. Good Luck!!!”
I was heart-broken. I had no other way other than to believe the slip. It was too late to find a way out of this new conundrum. The handwriting looked very familiar to that of appa. I ran to him with the note and shouted, “Did you take the pencil and leave the note there?” Was he pulling a trick on me? He acted ignorant about these and added that he would not come between me and the elephant faced god for these silly matters. “Silly!” ‘How could he call this silly?’ I thought. To my biggest surprise mom had nothing new to tell me other than to convince and reassure me. She furtively glanced at appa in between the conversation. In the end, I just sharpened my old Nataraj pencil and hurried to school since I had no time for a debate. After getting the question paper, I recited the prayer once and peeked at the paper. Questions looked familiar and answers seemed possible. I started to believe that the letter was indeed right. I wrote the answers double checking the final answers before submitting it. I did that exam far better than the earlier ones.
Appa was waiting in the veranda when the school bus dropped me back. He held a cardboard box. I jumped, grabbed and opened it expecting a new toy or something else interesting for being an exceptional student this year. As I tore it open, inside I found all the finger-length pencil stubs that I had kept near the Ganesha statue yearlong and the sheet of paper that I had read in the morning! I stared at him astounded. Amma came out and asked, “How was today’s exam?” “Good” I stuttered. She explained, “See. We wanted you to realize that it was nothing to do with the new pencil but your own effort. You had never put so much effort earlier. This year you had put so much of effort thinking that it is the magic of pencil but then you had studied so well that you do not need the help of that stupid pencil anymore. You can write any exam with any pencil and clear it pretty well. That is why we planned all of these! Now come inside and have the Ghee Dosas before they are cold. I will tell the complete story then!” Appa brought out a pen box. It was engraved P-A-R-K-E-R on it and looked a lot classier than the other pens that I owned. I threw my bag on the sofa and rushed to wash my hands before trying it out. It wrote on the paper as my fingers rode on amma’s silk saris. In a few minutes, I had all but forgotten about “the lucky pencil” and was feasting on the delicious dosas. I had many more questions and it would take me a few more days to grasp my parents’ master plan to get me interested into learning! The Parker pen was safely clipped to my shirt and the thirst for knowledge to my heart. It would stay that way for a long time to come!

~ Trilok Rangan ~
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Appa – Dad
Amma – Mom
Dosa – South Indian Rice based dish

Published – http://www.indianruminations.com/contents/fictions/the-lucky-pencil-%E2%80%93-trilok-rangan-karnataka/

Hunger

Faces lit up with weary smiles amidst their gnawing pain,
As the men walked hurriedly in the crowded refugee lane.
Hunger cried softly in a broken melody,
Of frail wails from a newborn’s malady.
Repressed moans of a dried breast,
Or the suppressed appeals of a weak chest.
This strange noise unheard before,
Rumbled in the Man’s body unsure.
Like rats clawing on the inside He felt
When on empty stomach they whimpered heartfelt.
Babus* of the center gyrated the enfeebled figures,
Like vultures waiting for the bad news to augur.
Twenty six rupees* shouted the white shirted Man,
Phased out twenty five pennies* He was gifted in a milk can.
Hunger, Hunger, the hungry shout;
The voice fails for the weak singer now mute.
No more noise when the lives fall but a buzz
Of scavengers and cannibals shooing the swarms of flies with a sizz.
A pair of hands brought His moving legs to a stop,
One was the insect fingers of a dying hand’s hope,
And the other that of a long forgotten conscience
Whose soul wept in a language that tried to make no sentence.
His tears crowded in the aisles of the constricted eyelids,
The trembling hands opened the lid of His water-can filled.
Their eyes twinkled as if salvation arrived,
In the jar of water His hands promisingly held.
Drops of nectar a spoon of water should have tasted,
As on the loaves of the shared bread the famished love gestated.
What is life?, wondered the Man as his hands funneled the nectar,
To the parched throat of the fellow human spectre.

This has reference to the setting of income limit for the poor and hungry in India, phasing out of 25 paise coins and the ever hungry masses in this country. The Man – He is a bureaucrat but with a soul who goes to the poor people to announce the income limit set by the government along with other government officials (Babus*). He is touched by the sight he sees, offers them water from his bottle and in the end wonders about life philosophically.

~ Trilok R. ~