Palas Kumar Ray
To My Dearest Coolie Girl - Poem by Palas Kumar Ray
Long long ago, long long ago
when British Raj had just took the command
of India from the British east India company
and Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal emperor,
and a Urdu poet, had already breathed his last
in exile in Rangoon, Burma.
When the giant Indian Railway took its first breathe
from Bombay to Thane.
When Swami Vivekananda was born
but yet to break the barriers of ancient Indian mind
divided in castes and creeds
and yet to give a call for awakening
from the age old slumber of social discriminations
when Tagore was also born but yet to sing
his nationalist songs to bridge up the nation
and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
was just born to sacrifice his life fighting apartheid
and great Indian struggle for independence, till death
When Kazi Nazrul Islam, the Rebel poet
was very near to appear in our national horizon to write
'jatir name bajjati sab, jat jaliat khelcho joa
chole tur jat jabe jat, cheler hate nay tu moa'.
saying ' All these social bigotries in the name of race
is a foul play of the frauds gambling
Touching your body your chastity is lost!
chastity is not such a fragile thing'.
Ram, Lakhan and Rahim, Makhan and Madan
Ramprasad and Hariprasad, jainul and Kasem
from U.P and Bihar, from Rajasthan and Bengal
from Haryana, Himachal and Madras
thought it would be all better
to cross Kala Pani to reach a promised land unknown
where poverty won't eat their souls anymore
and whips of hatred won't cause pain.
They talked to each other and to their wives too
and some to their old mothers and young children
about a new land found, in their dreams
where there is no Raja, no Maharaja
no Zamindar or Nawabs, no Badshah
no war, no mutiny, no starvation, no tears.
Sita, Savitri, Satyavati, Rukmini
Bali, Simran and Padmavati
Ayesha, Reshma and Rucksana
Suraj, Chandrabhanu, Chotelal
far and near who lived
of Ganga and Yamuna river dales
dreamt the same dream with their sons
fathers and husbands
of dreaming no more but touching a real dream
just crossing the sea, or a small ocean nearby.
Where is there any life that Kala Pani will take?
Death even waits here to come home when we starve.
they told themselves, over many sleepless nights.
There they promise you works and to pay it for!
where have your own land here to grow crops?
Maybe this is the wish of Ramji
that we voyage to new land unseen
to create our own Ram Raj.
'Allah ki dua sath hoo
tu naseeb accha hi hoga'
Rahim told to Rucksana,
'If blessings of Allah is with us
our luck will be too good.'
So, it was a day within a week
or sometime within a month that they cried
once more but not for their own
this time, rolling on the ground
and pouring their hearts out
they cried once and last
for their dearest motherland
before leaving her forever.
Tears also rolled down from Kamdhenu's eyes
Ramprasad's beloved cow, as he cried
for she cannot be taken to abroad.
Parvati and Meera cried
as they packed some treasures in a putuli
like soil from their forefather's home
some water from the holy river Ganga in a bottle
some seeds of rice and wheat
which their forefather would grow
and some seeds of millets and pulses too besides
carefully packing some seedlings of aromatic herbs
and spices too, who knows
what may not be available there across the sea!
Crying they packed Ramayana and Mahabharata
and Quran the holy books in putuli
and images of lord Rama, Krishna and Mohammad
in their souls.
'Not too much, not too much, you just can not take
everything with you as you go' said someone.
'Hurry up, hurry up, ' the mukhia hastens to start
'the boats are all waiting in the ghat, hurry up.'
With the break of dawn, they start, in tearful eyes,
leaving behind, their hearts.
Reaching ghat they get into the vessels dumped
but somehow they accommodate to sit
keeping their putulis beside.
The more people from the nearby villages come
The more crowded the gathering becomes.
'Do not say no to anyone, we have no quarrel here.'say some,
' The more of us that reach Chinidad, the more strength we get
to struggle for life and to stand beside.'
Some people in a group sang bhajans
and some secretly cried
while some did nothing but observed with great surprise
from where did all the people come!
As the vessel slowly moved in time
a kind of silence suddenly comes.
Silently saying goodbye to their motherland
silently they prayed to their gods
for a safe journey in this new found coolie life.
O God, they had no idea where the sweet land Chinidad
or lere of Arawak's was
nor had any idea where the endless Kala Pani ends!
But from village after village and year after year
they came to board vessels, to take them there.
It'd take months to reach Trinidad
where they would reach at last
as indentured laborers, coolies,
to work in sugar-plantations
expecting to add some sugar
to their bitter experiences of life.
Year after year they went there but while going
no riches they took from their motherland
except some earth in their putulis
and an enchanting Ram dhun
engraved in their soul
'Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram
patit Pavan Sita Ram
Sita Ram, Sita Ram
Bhaja Pyare tu Sita Ram
Isvar Allah tero nam
Sab ko sanmati de bhagavan'
'Chief of the house of Raghu, Lord Rama
Uplifter of those who have fallen,
Sita and Rama, Sita and Rama
O beloved, praise Sita and Rama,
God and Allah are your names,
Bless everyone with this wisdom, Lord'
This is almost hundred years now
that the last boat has left our ghat.
Memory gets faded in such a long time
And more it happens when you yourself run
from place to places.
More it happens when you discover
yourself in a time when no one remembers.
O my dearest coolie girl from Trinidad,
you who ask me about Bali, a pretty girl
probably from Punjab and who was married to
a Gurkha boy Makhan, your grand father
I feel very sorry
having nothing to answer.
But, O my sweet girl from Trinidad
I feel so proud of your ancient Indian heart
and a forgotten soul Indian
which we now often find missing here or
find it not singing anymore in much unison.
Maybe your ancestors took it there
to send it back through you
for bringing our memory alive.
© Palas Kumar Ray.All rights reserved.
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