THE VOICE OF HUNGER

This post is a part of the blog-a-thon by World Vision India on Youth Ki Awaaz

Do you know what hunger feels like? Do you know what it is like to work without food and sleep on an empty belly? Do you know how those millions of people who struggle for every single morsel every single day of their lives feel? Through the story of a young girl, travel through the bitter palpable taste that shocks your senses into numbness:
 

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT (FOR POETRY)

Behind the curtain of brackish brown hair
Caked with the breath of a dying hope
Meshed like the wires of a broken basket
That I sometimes see that lady carry
Across the street, filled with apples
And apricots and cherries and all things good,
My mouth salivates,
But then,
I wonder how I must look in the mirror;
No, that lady didn’t bring that basket for me
Why would she?
I chant it like a broken tape recorder
She doesn’t know me and if she ever looks at me,
All she must see is one of those nameless faces
In the crowd, whose eyes peek out
In longing, like the fruits from her basket,
And she sneers; does she think we are thieves?
Well, she’s not wrong, we might as well be, if –
If we could get away with it, and as such
There’s been a thought or two in my head
That consumes my entire being
Whenever that eternal gnawing in my belly
Whenever that dull ache, whenever that stubborn throb,
Once in a while, becomes a mute struggle
Of not keeling over with pain,
I persevere, I persevere, I persevere
Nothing can be done;
I want to cry, but you can’t hear,
My voice doesn’t touch an apathetic ear
The tears have dried; my heart is hollow,
And I’m still standing hunched over a puddle of blood
Clutching my big bloated belly with bony hands
That are still bleeding from last week’s labor,
And now my mouth is also shining red,
I wonder how I must look in the mirror;
I am burning up,
My breaths are shallow, my head is dizzy
But I – I’m still working
So that I can at least fill my belly
With a stale bread at night
You see, I’ve stopped stealing half-eaten dinners
From the bins across the street
Last time my friend did it she slept
And in her sleep
She tossed, she frothed and she bled
And she never woke up again
Sometimes I wish I had been in her stead
Because I can’t bear this hopelessness alone
I can’t return from this godforsaken shantytown
Languishing in the heart of a merciless city
To my home in the village with my parents
Who a few years ago had sold me, the seventh daughter
To some company, for a few thousand dollars
And I – I forgave them, you would too if you saw their
Skeletal ghostly frames, hungry stomachs and lifeless eyes
Hanging onto this earth by a stroke of misfortune,
You see, we the poor, we the hungry, we the malnourished
We the society’s dregs who are kicked daily by the mercenaries
By the law, by the war, by our poverty, by your apathy,
We, who barely survive by the day at the precipice
And barely get sleep with this empty belly at night,
We either live like the roaches or die like the moths
We are as desensitized to life as we are to death
Perhaps that’s why I can admit that today –
Today, I’m feeling a little too drained
And dizzy and drowsy
I’m still burning up like the sun
And I think I might just pick up something from the bin
For I think this is my last breath, yes tonight,
I won’t wake up again, and I – I’d like it
Of my own volition, of my own choice, of my own desire
I’d like to be able to choose to die
As I couldn’t choose to live

-Akanksha Gupta

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

I’m two days late in posting on Teacher’s day. These two days were spent in shock. Well, usually, it would not be unusual to expect something of this nature from petty politics that imitates the utterly useless theatrics of Indian Soaps more than Indian families do. Yet, I was quite surprised that our nation can politicize even a day that honors, as Dr. Radhakrishnan said, “some of the best minds of the country.”

To be nameless or be named
Shameless will never be ashamed
As their grapevine’s political noose
Tightens around important news

It is difficult to be proud of a nation, that, on a day where it should be celebrating the unsung heroes of the nation, is busy arguing on the nuances of a name change. All God have various names, each symbol has a multiple connotations, every religion has different interpretations and a child often has shortened derivatives of his name. And you are rebelling against a simple name change?

It is difficult to be proud of a nation, that, on a day where it should be working on reviving the honor in being a teacher, is busy perpetuating hypocrisy. When Independence day can be called Swantantra Divas and Republic day Gantantra Divas, why is it a problem when Teacher’s Day is dubbed Guru Utsav? Why do we not see any hard-core, political, territorial linguist argue whether or not the government is imposing Sanskrit on all States or that Sanskrit influenced all Indian languages?  In fact, what is wrong in translating a name to a language that belongs to our country and has a long, rich and proud heritage from one that was ‘imposed’ by those who colonized us?

It is difficult to be proud of a nation, that, on a day where it should focus on improving the quality and accessibility of education, is busy creating a controversy regarding something as trivial as a ‘name change’. Yes, India has increased its focus on education in the past years. It is trying to spread the awareness among masses regarding the long-term individual and national importance of education. But, when we look at the bigger picture, we see our  failings too – the lack of access in many rural areas, the deplorable quality of infrastructure, the persisting child labor and the degradation of respect in the teaching career. In fact, while the schools strive to make teachers feel unburdened and special on this day, what does the government do to? It looks at the littlest picture and decides to politicize it by changing the name; though it would have been harmless had it not become an instrument for the opposition to protest and capitalize on.

But then, I’ve decided to be the bigger person and let go of this mockery, and do the best I can; pay an honest heartfelt tribute to all my teachers throughout my school, and now my university, life:

There is a hunger in our bellies and a thirst in our throats
Every time that you fill ‘em up, a burning emptiness bloats
And you, like those hardened warriors, stand tall and proud;
Custodians of knowledge; you shine like a beacon in the crowd
Heartily we salute your struggle to mold the future generation
Educating the youth comes not without its trials and tribulations
Ruing every deadline we are wont to curse and cry, but later
Savoring every moment with you we wonder how time flies by
Dear mentors, dear siblings, dear friends – you are all in one,
Articulating your desire that with wide eyes we’d run; run, run and run,
Yes, through a world where we’d make your pride burn bright like the sun