Poem By Jagannath Prasad Das

Put away the road maps now.
To go there,
you do not need
helicopters any more;
wherever there is hunger,
there Kalahandi is.

The god of rain
turned away his face.
There was not one green leaf
left on the trees for supper.
The whole village a graveyard.
Cracked ground,
drab river sand.
All the plans failed;
the poverty line
receded further.

Wherever you stare,
there Kalahandi is:
in the sunken eyes
of living skeletons,
in rags which do not
cover the frail bodies,
in the utensils
pawned off for food,
in the crumbling huts
with unthatched roofs,
in the exclusive prosperity
of having owned
two earthen pots.

Kalahandi is there everywhere:
in the gathering of famished crowds
before charity kitchens,
in market places
where children are auctioned off,
in the sighs of young girls
sold to brothels,
in the silent procession
of helpless people
leaving their hearth and home.

Come, look at Kalahandi closer:
in the crocodile tears
of false press statements,
in the exaggerated statistics
of computer print-outs,
in the cheap sympathies
doled out at conferences,
and in the false assurances
presented by planners.

Kalahandi is very close to us:
in the occasional contribution
of our souls,
in the unexpected nagging of conscience,
in the rare repentance
in empathy,
in the nightmares
appearing through sound sleep,
in disease, in hunger,
in helplessness,
in the abject fear
of an impending bloodshed.

How could we then walk
into the celebrated portals
of the twentyfirst century,
leaving Kalahandi behind?

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