India comes of age—
an adage, not true
at a mere seventy five.
‘Great grandmother of legend’,
as she wouldn’t bend in time
‘and great, great grandmother
of tradition’ said Mark Twain, in rendition
of a homage long due
to wipe out red blots of white sins,
alas, all in vain.
From platinum positions in many fields
and with a glorious glint
India walked straight into mud.
First the West met on rocky seas
then ‘never the twain shall meet’ of Kipling—
the East and West met on coast and land:
seventeen, eighteen, nineteen were
numbers no more—but centuries,
which rocked on the waves
with guns, greed and loot.
Then India was strained daily in teacups,
beyond its starving point
and drained out in ship loads
of indigo—with malice and spice.
There was that slant-eyed cat of the Orient,
face to face in showdown with a
cunning and curious as a fox—
our doe-eyed India, stranded in between,
laying out its golden-brown skins in
turbans of salute and klit-clot of army boots
a handful ruled a sea of million tilling hands
starved in wars for their golden spoils.
And thus we moved to English—
lies, ties and tweeds
filling minds with wisdom (and some weeds)
just as our free-flow garments
with a flutter of yore—
the Vedic white sari-dhoti lure
un-stitched by bone needles, so impure
had slipped down the shoulder,
pelvis, knees and shins
when stitched pyjamas
pulled up with salwars.
We gathered more folds
in secular bazars
as we grew old
and got used to
being used more and more.
But we were always told
our India was a bird of Gupta gold.
So are we age old really?
Or only sixty-plus-fifteen years old?
A Modi hive at seventy-five, buzzing
with Nehru in the bin
switching to new sorrows with new sins.
Cleansing is good karma we’re told
in that India of the Gandhis new and old
monastic to dynastic, to chauvinistic
now sewing circumcisions
with saffron thread precision and Patel,
pulled from the tail end of freedom—
to our Statue of Puberty—
now hailed as a rocket in the sky
widens our reach and teach of history
thunders new visions from the high.
India, forever young and old
teacher to the world, but told off
as foolish and sold—for free.
Is our wisdom really gold, we ask—
or nebulous, tenuous, tucked in folds?
New histories will be rightly told
pulled from colonial holds
for us to build a new morale to put
Mother India in future mould.
Are we poor, are we rich?
Economists have never a hitch
to tell us we’re always in a ditch!
Are we about spiritual air?
Now brown as bake, for no one cares
We ate the cake without a thought
and now we have it not
nor are any guilty for progeny
or searing future pain
for India is only mundane:
cell phones and ring tones gaurakshaks breaking bones
Are we feudal democrats
with families of netas’ brats?
Oligarchic and anarchic, aren’t we bold?
In this land of peacocks
we are this and that—and everything
how can we just be pigeonholed?