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This was the only way I could express my grief at the way of life for some of the women who live in slums. Though it was a Hindu woman who came to mind fully realised—a woman at the end of an exhausting life—the same sentiments can be applied to so many women who've never known a different and easier life outside of the south Asian slums.

* * *


This life, fresh beginning, imposed on birth,

But nothing fresh was I. Sour, stale story

Of suffocating hovels and starved dreams.

In poverty no glamour, no glory.


This cage, decayed shack, clay ovens that spat

Singeing ashes, choking smoke, obscured door

Guides guests of raw sewage. My rutted ride

Through misery, a rickety rickshaw.


This fate, black hole bound, destined why? I was

The typhoon's eye, void, exempted from zeal.

Samsara said Be! Solely in shadow;

Life swirled, spiraled around me, smug, surreal. 


This mind that wondered; pondered on sunrise,

Sunsets, that conjured the ripe scarlet sky.

Hunger, disease, unease; dragged droughts, and then

Swamped souls surface in submerged worlds. And why.


This earth, leeching land, gruelling ground. I was

The Royal Bengal tiger, hunting home.

Sapped steps on parched terrain, thud, thud, I was

The burdened elephant, grey, restrained roam.


This labour these hands inherited, with

These corrugated roofs, fears, fables old.

This wretched form, versed in fatigued function.

Gauzy, moth munched saris veiled scars untold.


This hunger, bound me in chains, to survive,

To stay alive, thin tongue behind caste bars.

I was the dancing bear, muzzled I danced.

This soul lost, seeking deities, searching stars.


This Mother India, Nehru’s Bharat; 

Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea.

Blessings, mystics, folk dance, the Taj Mahal,

But it was not this India for me.


This need now to be heard, a mute sound. No

Lotus blossom candles on the Ganges 

For me, but pile high my funeral pyre.

Heavy soul begs kinder re-birth, prays ease.


This journey, ended. Namaste all life.

My dues are paid, discharge now my last breath.

Let go this vacant vessel. Welcome this

Release at last. This end. This sleep. This Death.

* * * * * * * * * * *


Samsara: Hindu/Buddhist term for the endless cycle of Death & Rebirth.

Bharat: Hindi name for India

Namaste: Hindi respectful greeting, a common spoken salutation.

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