Caste

Poem: What Goes Past Me Is What I Go Past

(Or, to wit, The Aadhaarless Story of a Taxpaying Nagarik of Asswachh Bharat)

I often go past men lowered into mansized manholes that admit one
man at a time when opened generously, knowing that the ones that enter ]each
Aadhaared[ are forced to intimately know the septic leftovers of savage enemies.
I’ve never been there right when the rope snaps, or in the aftermath of when someone
is gassed by our unrighteous insouciance, whilst another, playing saviour,
as if to affirm the abstraction that it’s but human nature to be human, and that
when trying to save a life it’s not your own that must matter, jumps right in right after.
Without effort, all this is lost on us. He is was and will be commaless, never one of us.

It’s a brutish narrative I’m driven past every day bearing witness to my own brutality
in a world where anyone that survives such an ordeal does not even get a bit part
in news cycles as heartless as my rotten heart ]quick to apologize for the laziness of an
italic[ for to so survive is to die a social death. No flag flies low, no posthumous medal
comes—rookie reporters hone writing skills on the gassed till they land better beats.
There’s no heroism in such life or death. He’s no soldier nor lover, nor the one
that left behind a spectral letter submitting that we administer NaN3 to all at once.
Not that the survival of even one such ever occupies someone as preoccupied as I.

The politics I play is a poem to study. Those that die come in handy, each a testimony,
faceless in death as in life, to berate a big-chested god who takes no shit yet knows
how to turn shit into gold, and with the wit that makes us outthink the yet unthought,
it would be easy to peddle this on the Supreme Leader on the University of WhatsApp,
]Institution of Eminence[ which, like dalit, is a word in a sentence to come ]hi Shomo[.
In all this, my culpability is dim, the chance of my bluff being called nil.
I can take my morning shit reading all this reported over and again on my phone,
forever touching that which is most familiar with my touch these days.

Thank god one friend reaffirms the desire for love amidst the clamour for revolution—
surely those that die in sewers would also have loved and been loved—and let us let
such consolations define the gracious ways of our disgrace, opening the means for us
to savour song and dance, food and drink, and the desire to speak of that which
we can’t stop being part of despite reserving the righteous right to be lawless ourselves.
So when Anand, starved of touch, breaks into song, does it pass for an act of love?
When does love stop being true? How do words for love make up for the lack of love?
What is it to be the image that looks every gaze in the eye, marking each indifference?

For Bezwada Wilson, whose calls I no longer know how to take or return—though he has not given up on what he thinks I still have in me.

S. Anand is a poet, translator and the publisher of Navayana books. He is working on a book on raga music.

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