Walls Listen

Kala Pani is Hindi for “black waters”,
unlike the white hands that sculpted it.
‘Build walls, not bridges’, 
is what they had in mind.
The treacherous sea serves a wall,
more invincible than Death itself
to shut out humans,
with them, the humanity.
The only bridge is one to the noose,
where the luckiest make it.
Fragrance of salt and metal cuffs
Hang heavy in the air they breathe;
Those seven hundred in a treacherous womb,
ready to pay the price 
To taste free rain.
With arid tongues that etch 
Countdowns and round maps on my empty skin,
With the brittle kohl of hope.
Dinu is one of them, yet another.
No racks can make him budge,
except one, and they know it.
So, when they bring her, 
half-clad and bleeding,
their last rack, I am little surprised.
His eyes flutter, the only betrayal
On his face of steel.
He spits on their stud shoes;
I can see the wound on his back
glistening with the salt.
One yields the knife, with which
They sliced open her saree,
and spits on his head,
now severed from a spine too stiff.
The silence which follows is louder than
Hungry waves gushing against the shore.
Calm before the storm. She clutches her bump,
all screams caught mid throat.
Cells shriek wildly,
with flailing hands crazier 
than the charged bars they shake.
Able hands that make salt by day, 
clean dung by night, unable hands
mapped with the whip’s kiss.
Hands that cut their own tongues,
to swear allegiance.
Then, there are some of their skin,
not feathers; their slippery tongues are what
got them here,
and there is one enemy, who looks away.
Perhaps, he is reminded of his own unborn
back home; his tongue is tied.
A humourless laughter escapes another
As he prepares-
To shame yet another smock 
Draped in tricolour. Another warrior dead
Before his tongue utters Vande Mataram.
The knife is forgotten. What they need now-
Are bare hands.
Some shut their eyes-
For whatever comes next.
But my eyes have no lids and
My ears can’t tell silence from screams.


• Kala Pani: Another name for Cellular Jail located in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India. Used as a political jail by the British during India’s freedom struggle movement.

• Saree: the traditional female garment in the Indian subcontinent.

• Vande Mataram: Mother, I bow to thee!


One thought on “Walls Listen

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