Written after the horrific incident at Dadri in India where an enraged mob killed a man who allegedly injured their religious sentiments by consuming beef, this moving poem speaks to not just that tragic incident but all situations in any country where a person or community is demonised and subjected to violence, or worse, in the name of religion or honour
We sat outside in the verandah,
Sipping tea with hot samosas.
We laughed and shared stories of life,
After tilling the soil.
Our grandchildren giggled, squealed and came running to you, “Chacha, chacha, pass the ball!”
Sometimes we chatted about cricket, irrigation and dry farmlands till dinner was hot and ready.
On Diwali, we sent you farsan, rabdi and jalebi.
Your wife admired the colourful vivid patterns of rangoli.
“Diwali Mubarakho!” you smiled.
We invited you in for mithai, while our kids launched rockets from empty soda bottles and watch the sparkling skies.
Soon it was Eid, and it was the same street.
Our mouths watered with the wafting smell of flavoursome biryani.
Kebabs and Sevaiyan tingled our palates.
“Eid Mubarak!” we smiled.
Mannu’s ammi wouldn’t let us go,
Till we had our fill of all the tasty preparations before.
The offer was too irresistible so we sat on the charpoi and had till our buttons burst.
Then one night, we heard stories about you.
There were whispers you had the forbidden meat,
So we stood and watched while our children made you bleed.
You were no more their chacha,
You were no longer the man who tossed them their cricket ball,
You were no longer the family who sent sevayian and had jalebis.
You were the enemy.
We’re sitting out in the verandah,
Every night I hear your wife and daughter cry.
People are farming, laughing and chatting.
It was an “accident” they say,
Our children will soon be released.
So we carry on with our normal lives.
Next day, we again pass through your street,
Sniffing to check if you are eating the right meat.
Your blood is brushed on the door and walls.
Doors are locked.
Now, the order is restored.
— Mumbai, Oct 3, 2015
Tulika Bathija is an English as a second language (ESL) specialist and teacher at Ecole Mondiale World School, Mumbai. She writes stories and narrative poems for children and has done extensive research in children’s narrative writing. In search of her Sindhi heritage, she ardently participates in Indo-Pak peace initiatives and hopes to write stories about Indo-Pak peace and communal harmony for children and young adults.