Motherless Children - Poem by Kewal Paigankar
Beneath the leaky roof they sit
In an empty carriage on unused track
Behind the crumbling pillars, the dilapidated columns
And the fading gothic architecture
Serving as a reminder of a glorious past.
They are the railway orphans
Motherless children starved of love and affection
Eking out a living on nothing more than
Boundless spirit and undiminished enthusiasm.
They come to the city
Dazzled by its allure
Its promise of infinite riches
The golden mile of twinkling lights, beautiful people and glitzy shops;
The curved sea-front, long and sinuous
Where other children build sand castles
Opposite penthouses reaching for the sky.
But this world is beyond their reach
A million miles from their home
The railway platform is their core universe
One inch of space is all they own.
The live among the scavengers
The rats, stray dogs and cats
Looking for friends among kindred spirits
With their stories of neglect, cruelty and abuse.
They run errands and polish shoes
Man drink stalls and newspapers.
They have wherewithal and nous
They are lost souls in a big city
Impoverished survivors without prospect or money.
Beyond them the tracks stretch
Connecting the city to suburbs
Suburbs merging with shanty conurbations
Spreading hydra-like, with its tentacles
Reaching out further and further
Till the boundaries have no end in sight.
For the children this is a free ride
A journey filled with adventure
Till they run into the ticket inspector!
For the motherless children
The age of innocence will soon be over;
For the station, its columns and pillars
For the leaky roof and those who stand under it
Are about to reverberate to sounds not heard before
A new enemy, previously unseen, is in their midst.
For the time-keeper and the announcer
For the ledgers clerk and the food vendor;
For the motherless children, the dream is over.
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