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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 4, New Delhi, January 9, 2021

Ode To The Year 2020

Saturday 9 January 2021, by Sagari Chhabra

We thought we were done
With wars, famine and the plague,
When something so vague,
Without so much as a look
Simply overtook, our lives.
A couple started walking with bundles of clothes,
Their sleeping child atop a trundling suitcase;
They left in haste,
At a frantic pace;
For home.
They were not alone;
Thousands left
Walking the road for miles,
With no food, no water;
Gnashed teeth – a smile.
Beaten callously by the police on the way,
Some reached, a few fell to the sway
Of time;
The child tugged at his mother
She was not to be awakened,
She was gone;
We watched, locked in our homes
Feeling oh, so forlorn!

This was no Dandi march
It was a desire to reach home,
When all livelihood
Even the right to life
Had been taken away;
And we were told not to reason, but to obey.
We did; we banged thalis and lit lamps
For our frontline workers
Short-staffed with no PPE,
But it was not for us to see;
We were told to cheer
Our leader, nothing was amiss
As we were led like lambs
To the precipice.
Hunger, stunting, wasting and malnutrition, mounted;
We remained blind-folded, bounded;
As our borders were infiltrated
We wondered who had said,
We had left, plague, hunger and wars for dead?
Surely we must now head,
Towards making salt
And face the assault,
This time from within.

Those who grew our food
Took to the freezing streets, seething
Against the farm bills
Ordinated against their will;
All they wanted was a minimum support price,
But they said:
Protest is not so nice,
We have a majority
You must follow our authority.
Women, activists and political dissidents
Were in jail without a trial;
One denied a sipper,
His glasses and a pair of slippers,
But was I going to be Cinderella
Looking for the perfect match,
Or would I smash this prison
And snatch,
Back the mindscape of my beloved people,
Before love-jihad became the law
And no one could choose
To love, eat or pray anymore?

Last years’ words:
‘cow-smuggler’, ‘urban naxal’,
‘Desh ke gadaar*’,
The words entered deep and far
Lynching my soul with a crow bar;
But this years’ words
Await a fresh voice;
Soothing words with a balm,
Words of wisdom, words of calm;
Into that era may my people awake safely;
With no harm.

Sagari Chhabra

31 December 2020

(Sagari Chhabra is a poet, playwright and an award-winning author & film-maker. She is director of the ‘Hamaara Itihaas’ archive)

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