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Eagles cartwheeled above illuminations
Of Independence Day, the dogs sniffed at
The electric bulbs which sizzled like fat
The tall grass the monsoons left on the mountains
Was aflame like corn in the setting August sun
Two stones collided, sparked. India began to burn.
At Mahatma Gandhi’ s prayer meeting,
Under Ashoka’s wheel on the tricolour,
The air intoning religious verses,
A man stood in the scabbard of the crowd,
A machine gun at the tip of his zealous tongue.
What well-tutored doves the politicians
Had released into the skies above Delhi
Had already blackened with the soot
Of communal hatred. The air chanted
The Bhagvat Gita, the Koran and the Bible .
Gandhi nodded, warmed by his goat’s-milk diet,
A moses and a Mohammed thinned
To the bones of a self-denying innocence,
Mild as foam on the tutored crest of his
People’s violence, straight as a walking stick
On the savage contours of his country
When the bullets hit him, his body was cut
Into the bars of jail he had never left,
His stomach shrivelled in another hunger fast.
A boy in the streets, sulking in his boots,
Kicked at stones and poured his lip at crows.
There was the shade to retreat to, the doors
To be behind. But the pride of mountains
Annoyed him, the neighing peaks loud
With thunder exhaling the smoke of monsoon clouds.
His nostrils twitched like a cow’s when a fly
Sits there. For the sea air of Bombay was
Salt, dry. And how could he describe his loss?
His desperately calm the landscapes were!
His heart, become a stone in the catapult
Of his mind, could have struck the foolish adult
Passions where murder and faith excluded each
Other. Through eagles still hung like electric fans
In the sky and the rocks suggested permanence,
The blood in the earth was not poultry-yard slaughter.
The boy cushioned his heart in the moss
Of withdrawal for his India and his youth was lost.