AKELLA S. RATNAM

(13 AUGUST 1943 / VIZIANAGARAM INDIA)

The Loss


The Loss

Heinous crime it was
My grandfather said; though
The loss was marginal for the owner.
A sunny morning. My father who
Rides roughshod to his office and
In the office over his subordinates.
Noticed the theft and turned red:
Mouthed curses which, were he a saint,
Would have burnt wherever
The thief was to ashes.
It was the brass nameplate
My father brought from Aligarh.
Now, fifty summers later another loss.
Neither my father who in his old age
Ruminates over his youthful days
Like a priest who savours the memory
Of the sumptuous food offered at the feast
Nor anyone else in the house grieves.
My grandfather (May his soul rest in peace)

What he would have said about the present loss
I cannot think. The loss is not tangible
But substantial. Not one object but many.
Delicate but strong enough to sustain
The name of the entire family. Sad it was
The thief was never identified. Not
Because he eluded but because
The investigators cared not to probe.
Was it a theft? No. Negligence? Maybe.
Wilful indifference, say the experienced elders.
For causes of loss let the wise quarrel
But the loss half-heartedly established
All went busy with their chores as if
The loss was nothing more than
A failure of the monsoon for the politician.
To me, nonetheless, it is a loss
Not easily retrievable as
Substitutes and replacements hard to find.
[For the loss is that of morals and values]

Submitted: Monday, May 25, 2009

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