Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Breast Tax

In my faraway homeland of Kerala state,
There used to be tax, records indicate,
Called Breast Tax, a tax on breasts
On women who cover their chests.

One day, Nangeli covered her chest,
The Pravathiyar grew wild and upset,
“Pay the tax, at once,” he said,
“I will not,” said Nangeli, unafraid.

“You defy the law and thus your King,
For this you will do some lamenting,
You shall be whipped and made to pay,
The price of trespass will come your way.”

Grabbing breasts, she cleaved it with sickle,
Watching people cried, “Don’t be so fickle.”
Laid them on leaves, presented to Pravathiyar,
“Here’s your tax!” she said, as he watched in horror.

Nangeli died, whereupon the tax was withdrawn,
“It’s not right,” said the owner of the crown.
“Women will have all rights in my kingdom,”
Thereafter, it’s said, women were harassed seldom.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

“The Jungle,” Calais, 2016

Here we die slowly, he said, in our land it’s quicker,
Slow death is our choice, as the pain is bearable and boring,
In "The Jungle," at least, we are alive and breathing in the cold.

A thousand bombs rained on us in the desert and children cried,
Their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, disappeared every night,
A million shrapnels in their bodies, a cry frozen on their lips.

Here, it’s cold; our lands are hot, sweltering,
Reeking of gun smoke and smell of cordite burning,
The mornings we forage for food and water amidst the ruins.

In the refugee camp our bones slowly chill with the cold,
Our flesh freeze, we submit to the endless hostile gaze,
The batons of power rain blows on us, but, that's okay.

It’s no different this land and the one we have left,
It’s both ruled by powerful men with guns and tanks,
War lords who are lobbied by ruthless corporations.

Yes, we die slowly here, so that our children might live,
Sleepless, they stumble out of our flimsy tents into the cold,
There’s no place to play tag or learn alphabets here.

We never asked for wars or guns in our lands,
It's their endless wars fought in Councils and Assemblies,
They sold us guns and when the money was gone, sent food packets.

"The Jungle," Calais, France, is not far from Paris,
Twelve dead in the Charlie Hebdo shooting made big news,
In my country one shell kills twenty, and, they say, it isn't news.