I remember sitting in the backseat of the old Ford,
as it snaked its way towards the Nilgiri Hills,
we passed field after field—both barren and lush,
and watched the farmers pick their crops
under a spiteful sun.
Seeing them, filled me with both wonder
and melancholia, and I said, “This is India.
A country of beauty and abysmal poverty.”
They used their sickles, and their calloused palms,
they wore traditional garments that
only made them sweat more,
they found no solace in the rich green as I did.
The sky was just the sky, and not a giant aquamarine eye,
the wind was just the wind, and not a gentle caress from
an invisible lover,
the earth was just the earth, and not the heart
to which every organism like myriad arteries is
connected to,
the sun was just the sun and not a raging tyrant
ruling over flesh and bone,
the rain was just the rain and not tangible whispers
from the heavens.
Everything just was while they toiled and toiled.
I, on the other hand, listened to John Mayer and looked
for a peak experience, which providence gifted me
as rapture descended from above and coated my heart
with peace, but amid Hallelujahs,
and Your Body is a Wonderland; my thoughts went back
to their draining routine, their work ethic and their exhaustion.
There I was, complaining of loneliness and the four beige walls
of my dusty apartment which reeked of cigarette smoke
and the previous night’s fling, and there they were forced
into marriages, destined to the life of a carthorse,
damned without redemption.
Opportunity knocks at my door like a mendicant
without a home; they knock at his door because he’s
their zamindar and Lord.
Forgive me, Father, because I don’t count my blessings,
forgive me because I decide to waste away,
forgive me because I’ll write this, smoke a cigarette,
and read; pretending as if gathering knowledge
is as hard as work.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Photo by BBH Singapore on Unsplash

9 Replies to “Work”

    1. Very true Bruce. And the poor here have very little hope because of numerous things like landownership, the caste system and poor working conditions and equipment.

    1. That’s very true. Which Chelsea am I speaking to btw? The clone or the real one? How can I be sure you weren’t already a clone?

  1. Wonderful, Nitin………..

    I may have been asleep for decades but in the past few years what has begun to amaze me is the number of people – young and youngish, I admit – who are looking for the non-chemical buzz aka ‘transcendence’ aka a sensation of’ ‘peak performance’ without realizing that, usually, you have to exercise discipline – voluntary or because you have no choice about it – before you get there. Discipline in whatever it is that stretches mind or body or spirit or all three.

    I have connected this development – perhaps I should not have – among other things to not understanding the subject matter of this piece. Not all worlds are equally real no matter what we like to believe. Not all ‘work’ is work and real work is still necessary to build the world and feed it and clothe it……..

    This is not exactly the subject of you piece. But your piece led me to this.

    Thanks! Sarah

    1. Thank you Sarah

      That’s a very generous compliment. I’m glad my piece led you to this. I think peak experiences just occur. Nature helps. But maybe there is a certain discipline involved. Perhaps the discipline of letting go and embracing the present fully. The discipline of being thankful for what you have and not seeking more than you should. You’re right. All worlds are not alike. Not all work is real too. But this postmodern world goes one step further and denies reality itself! You should read Philip Levine if you get the chance. He’s one of my biggest inspirations. He wrote about what real work is, and lived a hardworking life.

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