“Vignettes” by Sunil Sharma

This poem is political and is dedicated to all the workers, male and female. The struggle of these workers is grimmer in a developing, post-colonial, Asian country but things are improving slowly.

Vignettes

A middle-aged female worker
sits on her haunches under the
shade of a frail tree, middle of an
open ground, near
some shops, rudely constructed,
asbestos sheets for roofs, where
lean men toil
for a bleak livelihood.

Craggy and broad visage,
hair matted, eyes blank. She
lights up, inhales deeply,

coughs her lungs out,
yet, persists in smoking,
on this Sunday morning,
hot and humid.

After some time,
she gets up unwillingly,
wipes forehead,
walks slowly to a
low-paid job
in a vertical house
unsmiling,
in dream-city Mumbai.

Her recess over.

On old cell phone,
she sings softly:
Coming, madam!
Coming!

Two teenage girls.

Under a wide
red umbrella,
in the courtyard
of a food franchise;

they casually
light up and
banter simultaneously,
their boyfriends, equally
loud and bawdy.

The young group unwinds and
enjoys the cool breeze, being
served by lean-faced servers,
otherwise invisible.

The lucky consumers
of pizzas, coffees
and ice-creams

wear brands and
indifference on sleeves,

light years away
from the grim
struggles of
another India,
working at the cash
counters or outside
in a sun that shines
extra harshly over
them.

Inspiration for This Poem:

These twin scenes were witnessed in real-time and provided an impetus to a recording mind. They are a kind of documentation of the contemporary Indian life in metros and extended suburbs.

While smoking is a fatal release for the gaunt woman, it is fashionable for the young women, kind of assertion of identity in a repressive culture. A subtle but injurious-to-health rebellion.

This poem also shows the freedom of the women in public places and an openness, otherwise denied in smaller towns, for women.

 

Author Bio:

IMG20181222110526Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry, two of short fiction, one novel, a critical study of the novel, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.

Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal, Setu, published from Pittsburgh, USA:

 

Find Sunil’s Writing at:

Sunil’s Blog

 

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