Poem: Road-side Artists by Dr. Usha Bande


Road-side Artists

(Familiar scenes on Indian Roads)

(i)

Standing in a never-ending queue
for an ever-late bus, bored, I look around
When two urchins in rags
Unwashed, barefoot, tangled hair, noses running
Beat a Thali, announcing their show.

The boy, eight maybe,
Somersaults,
The girl, six perhaps
Twists her frame
Through a ring
And ..Head, Shoulders, Torso, All!
Out she comes.

Some toss a coin or two,
Some avert eyes
Daily commuters
Mutter incoherently.

The artists depart, collecting their wages
Thrown scornfully.

And, I brood, wondering…
Will this girl,
Now twisting her frame
So easily through the iron ring,
Be ever able to
Come out of the ring of life,
As a grown woman?

              (ii)

Bright red tomatoes,
With yellow lemon
And a peeled onion turned pink
Arranged in enticing rows
On the tiny parapets of their
Road-side counters.
And the green chillies stuck upside down
with their stem
In the formation of some leafy branch!
I marvel at
Their logic of colors, and aesthetic sense
To display their wares!
These Chatwallas standing near
Strategic places, enticing you
With their mouth-watering recipes!

(iii)

On the road-side
He sat, with a pot and a few cones
O, no! not the beggar
But that mehandiwala

Perched on a plank

And
A bevy of belles
Surrounding him.
I watched his expert hand move
Drawing elegant patterns
On delicate hands.

Dr. Usha Bande is an Indian writer and critic. She writes in Marathi, Hindi and English and translates short stories from Marathi into Hindi. She has several research papers and more than a dozen books to her credit including Writing Resistance: A Comparative Study of Women Novelists.

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