Saturday, 27 January 2018

Republic Day 2018

Vault over to some place where everything
was colour, glory, the parade in full swing -
thousands moving as one, the thud of boots,
overhead the roar of airmen’s salutes,
multitudes of faces, hands in the crowd
clapped to the marching beat and cheered aloud.

Once more then, through jamun lined avenues
the early morning fog in soft greys and blues
traffic sparse enough to step on the tarmac
along the wide boulevards as we walk back
to where lies, if uttered, were not-for-profit,
all men were heroes, at least, not complicit.

Even now, though age has coarsened my hands,
they still want to clap to those marching bands.
But meanwhile some of those jamuns are gone,
the fog’s forced to curl around a saffron con.
The tunes are just as brave, the wings in the skies.
But the grounds are mined with a web of lies.

Of course the decades turn, the sense of free
changes with time, as does the jamun tree,
and the road it shaded once. Some time ago
that morphed to a highway, but peak traffic’s slow,
and there’s a bridge and a brand new police booth -
more crime, less heroes, that’s the honest truth.

We walk in silence, each rapt in her thoughts
a gate, a date, a parade, and each one fraught
between the current and the past recalled.
As for myself, I struggle to place the fault -
is it mine or is it just circumstance?
There’s a hole where a jamun had swayed once.

Free us from hatred and the conflicts it breeds;
give us strength to embrace every tribe and creed
free from the past, not trying to rearrange
what was unpleasant - for it does not change
even if a name’s wiped out, a word dropped
out of visible discourse, a few facts cropped.

The march past I watch now, and also those
I watched long ago, both draw to a close.
The balloons rise, the guests begin to leave.
Glad my hands have clapped, but they also grieve -
this road’s widened but endless others shrink,
narrow the spaces to live, love and think.


  1. Sometimes progress isn't really progress, is it?
    And sad that patriotism has faded some as well, those that sacrificed forgotten.

    1. Quite a bit of our progress seems to be towards graver conflicts. Disheartening, sometimes.

  2. This evokes such strong memories. Things used to seem so much simpler to us, especially the children, fifty to sixty years ago when I was a kid. Sports stars and astronauts were true heroes and role models to us then. We had no real concept of what was behind the scenes.

    A comic book script of mine dealt with this long-gone innocence. The narrator, a fictional version of myself who was, like me, seven years old when JFK was assassinated, said the following: "All I know for certain is that JFK was a hero, to all the kids my age... just like the astronauts, and like Washington and Lincoln... and like Superman and Batman..."

    And yet, JFK was a "hero" to us primarily because he was the president. That was enough for us then, at least for us children.

    I can't recall the last parade I attended.

    1. Sometimes I wish it was enough for us adults as well. I wish there was a balance between transparency and the need to know, you know?

      The other thing is that as a kid you don't know what it like being led by someone who you didn't elect, whose policies you don't agree with, but nevertheless s/he is the elected leader and you have to put up with the whole environment s/he creates at least till it's time to vote again. Adult problems uff!! Wish I could write them away with a poem or two :)

      The last parade I attended was at least 35 years ago, if not more. But I've watched it religiously every year since, on TV/Youtube whatever I can get ...

  3. Hi Nila - the Republic all those years ago - much changed, much is still changing with much needing to be done throughout the world ...

    Love the name Jaman here ... the allowed, yet when displaced is an invasive tree ... but so much expressed here through your words ...

    TH Republic - let's hope progress continues and all are included whatever race, whatever nationality, whatever gender ...

    Thanks for this - cheers Hilary

    1. Delhi had these roads lined with massive trees... and low rise buildings on both sides so that the green was higher than the concrete mostly...

      Inclusive progress - that seems kind of elusive right now from where I'm standing...but, hoping for the best, as always.

  4. It's the darker nooks and crannies, the deeper shadows in your poem that are so strong. They resound over the snappy marches and show. Well done

    1. Thank you! the dark is always such a mixed blessing..