Fresh from nowhere, it came, baggage in hand,
All I could do was gape, just letting it stand,
Though invited, yet so unwelcome, it would never understand,
While every passing second was encroaching upon its land.
It looked me in the eye, but asked not for pity,
Only shelter for a while, in this now strange city,
Seems only yesterday, it had grown up in this lane,
And today’s sunrise was already mocking it again.
I let it in, harbouring the tiniest hint of a doubt,
And watched as it struggled finding its way about,
Seeing it stumbling around in its own home,
I wonder, all these days, where it did roam.
Relaxed and settled, it asks me what I want,
But this time, it is something even it can’t,
So I smile my best smile, and force myself to say “Nothing”,
If my wishes had wings, I really wouldn’t need anything.
But the tears are something that I still don’t remember,
For, asking it to leave, was the last I could remember,
Surprisingly, I had to be content with crying alone,
Because no one else would accept it as their own.
Out, on the road, it stood just simply staring at me,
Was it pity, sympathy, or merely anxiety for me,
I would never know, because I had to open the door again,
I couldn’t just live every night, imagining our common pain.
So, in, it came, waiting for me to kick it out again,
In this matter, there was nothing I could do to restrain,
Me, I have other things horrible to bear,
Atleast that is something, we both share.
This one is dedicated to Amol Gupte and Aamir Khan for giving this country ‘Taare Zameen Par‘. For showing people what mattered more in life, specially in this country. This was something that had been troubling me right from my childhood, when I would open the paper in my 2nd Standard and read of students hanging themselves to death for not securing a particular rank, or for failing in a particular subject. Right from then I have been wondering what kind of environment produces such parents who put the fear of life or rather sow the germ of death into their children’s minds over a mere number, that might even if true, be merely an addition mistake of the clerk, a printing mistake of the press, or worser still, an irritated evaluator trying to put a value over a year or more worth of the child’s effort within 15 minutes.
Alas such a system should exist where that was all a child was worth, just another commodity. My cow gives 10 litres of milk, my car gives 14 kmpl mileage, my company gives 12 days casual leave annualy, my child gets 98.32% marks or better regularly. Indeed that is what children have finally been reduced to, pawns in a game of oneupmanship with their neighbours. How much did your child get in Maths, do you know how much my kid got in Geography? Is that all there is to a child’s life? Get up in the morning, go for early morning tutions, get ready for school, return from school, get ready and leave for more advanced tutions on the same subject again and again, until the very numbers and words appear as monsters in their dreams.
This poem is titled after a memory of my own childhood, wherein upto the 4th Standard we were supposed to use only pencils, and everyday before each session of classes began, the teachers used to sharpen the 40-odd pencils and put them in the pencil box, for us to collect as we entered the class after the morning prayer. We would all rush to get our hands on the pencils first, rather than the books. Probably because, the books were all the same, but the pencils weren’t. Some were sharper than the rest, some were longer than the rest. Everybody wanted the sharpest and longest pencil for themselves. Weren’t the rest of them also pencils, weren’t they equally useful if not immediately in the condition they were. We never knew then. Atleast I know now. A child’s life too has become like a pencil in that box, there is that constant competition that is created to be the tallest and sharpest among the rest. Unfortunately no parent or teacher seems to realise that the more you sharpen a pencil, the shorter it gets. Alas they seem to care not, that the length of the pencil is its very life, its childhood.
Although this poem was initially supposed to cover my heartlfelt feelings on the subject, something deep within stoppped me from putting everything down immediately, it was probably too much even for me to bear. So it turned out into a very very very abstract rendition of the fight every child has to fight between following his dreams, and being reluctantly awakened to their parents expectations of them, thus being forced to push the dream from their lives and fill it with words and numbers. But not for long, as these dreams continue to haunt them everyday, in the many forms of other children they see, other children that they hear about, other lives they only wish they could live. This one is also for all those dreams that have no voice.
So this poem should only be treated as the first in a series of installments on this topic that I will soon be bringing out. Hope that will soothe my anxiety to more human levels.