An ode to the millions of migrant workers across various states in India trapped in big cities, unable to go home because of the lockdown
They say that they care for us,
but only as long as we are not crying.
They say we are a part of their world,
but leave us alone when we are dying.
They say our lives are important,
but leave out the part where they mean
we are allowed to exist only as symbols —
metaphors to add meaning to the scene.
The scare of a global pandemic means nothing
to us, who work with blood, sweat, and bare hands.
For while it isolates them from their entertainment,
it keeps us away from our homes, our lands.
Those ten-minute news items on the TV
do their best to convert our pain to politics.
The Opposition cries that we’re spreading the virus
and the Police disperse us, beat us with sticks.
Hear our plea, we’ve nothing left here.
Send us home, we cry in our slumber.
Let us leave before our bones turn to dust,
before our daughters die of hunger.
But, they say their buses are full
so we pack up what we have and walk.
A hundred miles, a thousand more,
and cry, for there’s nothing left to talk.
In another land, where our brothers were killed,
they asked us why we slept on the rail track —
as if it was a pastime, a leisure, a moment of luxury,
as if we didn’t so desperately want to go back.
Our existence is reduced
to a few minutes on the news,
but with the TV turned off, we’re forgotten.
And likewise forgotten are the bricks we lay
that act as foundation
to this developing nation.
When it suits their own selfish needs
they approach us, as if for an embrace
but we who have been trodded upon know
those arms could well wrap around our necks.
Invisible — that’s all we’ve been to them,
even now, in our pain, we are alone
the scorching sun does burn our backs,
there’s no end in sight when this will be done.
Invisible — that’s all we are to them,
as if our existence is the nation’s shame.
Only during elections, the leaders remember us,
and toss us about, playing the blame game.
But, when foreign presidents come to visit,
they build a wall to hide our homes from sight,
so they can pretend nobody is hungry
that without our “dirt”, everything is alright.
To you, we may be mere statistics,
but our lives to us are real.
We don’t ask for your sympathy
but at least, let us breathe, let us feel.
And let us go home, for that’s all we have left
for even if we die of poverty
at least, we will not die alone,
at least, we would be with our family.
Author’s note: If you liked this piece of work, you would definitely enjoy my best (and previously unpublished) poems which are curated in my book: Stolen Reflections: Some Stories Are Told in Verse. It is a collection of 100 poems exploring 15 different traditional poetry forms, including the haiku, tanka, limerick, palindrome and the modern free verse.