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
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)