By Trivarna Hariharan
Forgetting Places: A 1947 Partition Memoir
The train moves –
the silent breathing of the passengers fills
the musty compartments with an uneasy loudness.
windows are screened, shut;
no one dares to look outside.
the train halts in between,
not wanting to move at the
pace it’s being told to.
the men pretend to be working on
the women pretend to close their eyes,
their hearts crying at the sight of the children
dancing to the beat of the erratic movement of the train –
they don’t know what they’ve been subjected to yet,
then an alarm rings
and everyone is told to get down
and unlearn the names of the places –
they’ve grown up loving all their lives –
in a moment’s time.
At the table, no one talks too much.
The forks move back and forth – guiltless convicts waiting to be
evicted from places they’ve never wanted to be in.
At one side, two bottles of water lie untouched.
Grandpa, a lawyer, says that the thirst for more is what keeps him going.
At times when he talks after a lost case, his voice sounds like a refugee
calling out the name of his home.
His hands quiver slightly from lack of sleep; words hurtle down his neck
only to recede deep into the crevices of his heart, from where it’s difficult to make them resurface.
Only on days like these do I see a tall, proud man with a dense voice
stoop slightly, cry inside a velvet blanket and then affect an unnatural boldness in his voice the next morning, as if nothing ever happened.
when walls first began to be constructed,
their strength was unknown, and hence
people were unaware of how every ounce of their beings
could sap all the strength out of a person.
of how the bricks that seemed in place
were much more than mortar and cement and grindstone,
of how they could leave someone completely distraught
without even them realising it.
how they not only caged them
and made them succumb to their commands,
but also forced every breath of their existence to obey
their contours and edges and traps.
and that’s the worst anyone could do
to anyone. ensnare someone
without making them even
realise that they are inside a cage.
Trivarna Hariharan is an author whose work has appeared in various literary zines, journals and magazines such as Textploit, Writers Asylum, The Literature Studio, the BRLM, TheOriginalVanGoghsEarAnthology, Orange Almonds and elsewhere. She is the editor-in-chief at Inklette, a literary magazine for high school students.
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