Monday, 1 October 2012

On the way to Bishnupur*

Hired car on traffic clogged monsoon roads
the narrow nap of asphalt worn away by rains
and torrents of humanity.  The driver slows,
the level crossing ahead closed, some train’s
panting felt on the air nearby; and then annoyed,
too impatient to queue, he swerves and flows
around the waiting cars and blocks the lane.


We who sit inside being driven, are a varied lot
of car-owners and law-abiding folk that scare
easily when the laws are followed, and when they’re not;
and so we hunker down and keep quiet in there
hope that no-one will notice this brash car
let the driver drive, hopefully he’ll find a spot
to nose in discreetly again somewhere.


We make mistakes, and then compound them with hopes;
just a few yards away from the final barrier
a righteous uncouth thug jumps out and gropes
the hood and makes it loudly and amply clear
this is where the buck and the car both stop
get right behind! reverse, go on!  pushes us back the slope
with a violent maelstrom of words hard to hear.


Blah blah blah two wrongs can’t make a right;
‘course they can, keep the ruddy windows up
don’t talk now, he doesn’t understand polite
notions of delivering justice. But he’s too rough!
It’s our mistake, he probably carries a knife.
Everyone just be quiet and sit tight
how long will he curse and push and shove?


The child shudders in a mix of fear and surprise
nestles closer as the car backs down.  Some taboos
have been broken, a film in his eyes
of unshed panic.  We have so little; but still it’s too much to lose
trust and innocence in the melee of grown up quiet
something feels false about this whole device
must a wrong be righted with so much scathing abuse?


Those coarse hands on the hood violate
the space inside, the knuckles rap
not on metal but my body, the weight
and feel of rings as fingers push and  grab
the grille, that’s my throat my lungs, they suffocate
all but an equally uncivilised, scorching rage
the window’s down, and I’ve finally escaped the trap.

That rough youth, half my age, twice my size
doesn’t reform or mend his ways
because I make one sharp request, criticise
his language. His hands and gaze
lose no venom, tone down nothing of the spite
in his vindictive diatribe. But my peace lies
undisturbed now, on the child’s tranquil face.


*Bishnupur is a small town in Bengal famous for its old 17th century terracotta temples.

Shared at Poetics@dVerse


  1. Fascinating -- having lived in India and felt the insanity described here, I feel the dilemma. Nicely penned.

  2. ugh...not a nice situation...i can imagine that you were scared and glad you said something for the child's sake...just gave back some security...

    1. was quite glad the driver was corrected...but upset at the meanness with which it was done...sad that children have to see adults being mean.....thanks for reading

  3. intriguing....whether laws are followed or not you are worried...and compounding it with hope....interesting...ugh on the situ as well...i am glad you spoke up....

    1. bad competitive traffic makes one vulnerable whether one follows rules or not...anywhere in the world...thanks for your feedback

  4. What else can we do? We try to keep the peace. I am glad the child was soothed.

  5. "We make mistakes, and then compound them with hopes"

    So true, so very, very true, and it is the youth that make us regret, back down, speak up. The innocent undenied.

    Wonderful, as always!

    1. Definitely the youth is a major trigger for most actions...hard to be indifferent when they are around..thanks for reading and the feedback..

  6. Well captured, Nilanjana! I can identify with all of it :)

  7. Beautifully written. Very deep, profound and thought provoking. So much meaning and thought embedded in those brilliantly woven sentences of yours. Traffic sense is indeed in a real bad state and every day in the road sadly presents us with more proof of the same. :(

    1. Too many cars...too few roads...poorly trained drivers and a competitive spirit gone a little berserk..means eroding courtesies on the road...a metaphor for urban living... thanks for reading and the feedback...n welcome to the blog :)