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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 43, New Delhi, October 9, 2021

Conversations With Bapu | Sagari Chhabra

Friday 8 October 2021, by Sagari Chhabra


‘You now say consume less
For cardiac disease;
But there was a time
When you made fistfuls of me
And the entire Empire trembled in unease.’
I looked down,
a glistening grain of salt
Was speaking to me
From the shores of Dandi
And I was listening.
‘Face the assault,
Make salt your own way,
This flaky Empire will certainly sway.’

I was inside Hriday Kunj
Seated on Bapu’s white cotton bolster,
When his staff leaned forward,
‘Why have you stopped walking
to the bastis, you imposter?’
‘My left ankle hurts,’ I responded lamely,
‘Take me’ proffered the staff
Our people need a caring voice
As they have been left out
Of life and work,
Do not shirk
This final walk to freedom.’

Before I could atone,
My eyes fell upon the
Three monkeys cast in stone;
One removed his hands
From his mouth,
‘Listen to those who have no voice,
Speak of what they must endure,
Do not abjure
Truth, nor shut your eyes
For evil lies in a myriad designs.’

The charkha whirred
Its spokes in the wind,
‘Must you consume
until you have sinned?
What could be more sacred
Than to feed and clothe
the hungry and the naked;
My coarse cloth will smoothen the divide,
Do not hide
Behind the rhetoric of hate,
It is already quite late.’

I walked away and took
My daily dose of television news,
Coiffured anchors airing spittled abuse;
I saw the glitter of my city
And asked, ‘Bapu, where are you now?’
‘Look deep within
I lie inside of you,
Live simply
So that the others
Can simply live;
Learn to live together,
Learn to forgive.’

Sagari Chhabra
2nd October 2021

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