Poetry: Devesh Path Sariya

Streets and life in Hsinchu, Taiwan: During Covid19 

(1)

They were standing
in the diagonal street to me
Towards me was
the girl's face
and the boy's back

The boy said something
and the girl laughed
There was no mask on her face

As soon as she noticed me
the girl slid the mask on her mouth
Like in an Indian village in my memory
women used to pull the veils of Saris on their faces

I wanted to see more of her laughter
It’s been a long time
since I saw an Asian beauty laughing
without a mask .


(2)

Many weeks later
The covid has gone slower
I saw her again
on the same side of the street
talking to the same guy

I think they are the co-workers in some nearby office
And usually come in the street to gossip
They are anyway working in a close environment
and didn't bother  to cover up
their faces with masks
while they were together

I counted the safe number of yards from them
and waved my hand in the air
The girl’s divine island laughter just blossomed
The mask is on her chin.


(3)

I am a photographer
of the heart of life
which beats in the streets, on the roads

Now the streets are empty
The roads are red hot

Like a hard found opportunity
I saw a middle-aged man
Sitting on a park’s bench
Wearing a vest and a blue jeans
smoking his cigarette

I held my camera
and jump towards the scene
So from a safe distance, the camera could zoom in
But he was the master of juggling
He caught me mid-air
and threw me away

He might be scared of
being caught on camera without a mask

Seeing this incident
the gardener of the park
paused for a minute

As a consolation
I clicked pictures of
the garlic drying outside a house
and the old plastic chairs.

(4)

He is standing on the railway overbridge
Clicking the photos of the empty railway track

I can tell
his camera and lens are not the expensive ones
But photography is an art,
not a sport of the rich
The rich brats can only get a few conveniences
like better background blur,
or a better night scene using the tripod

The basics of the art are still the same
The photograph gets captured first in the brain

The guy standing on the overbridge
is looking for the destination
of the diminishing railway line

I am a photographer of a different kind
My camera is lying idle in my room .




(5)

The university’s convocation has been cancelled
But they had already distributed the attires for the convocation
the coats and the hats
And had put the effigies around the campus
on the grass yard in front of the library
near the trees of royal poinciana and the golden shower trees

The students were supposed to
click pictures with these effigies

The covid had to strike now
Sometimes, I see the students
with their coats, hats and masks on
clicking pictures on rather weird places

The effigies prepared with so much passion
are being used by the sparrows to shit on .

(6)

Zhubei can also be pronounced as Chupei
This disrupts me from the pronunciation I am used to

Zhubei is the neighbor of Hsinchu
Just like ‘Machari’ is neighbour to my hometown ‘Rajgarh’

During the last two days
Zhubei has seen more Covid positive cases
than Hsin Chu
But it’s in Zhubei only
that a physical therapy clinic opens
in the evening
And I have got two slipped disks in my back

While returning from Zhubei
I buy freshly cut pineapple
passion fruit juice from the 'Coco'
Wheat bread from the RT bakery
And scan a QR code on my mobile everytime
So that the government knows my footsteps

I do not enter
the Indian restaurant nearby
There is a discount
But I want to save the appetite and some money
I haven’t saved a penny for months now.
***


The exiled

(1)

If there were even the slightest possibility
to sell their belongings off
in order to stay,
they would have grabbed it

They left their safehouse
Set their cattle free
Somebody would keep them
for as long as they will be useful

They packed a rag of clothes
They took the coins hidden in corners
water and cereals
and loaded them on the back 
of the sea or the mules

They were losing their faith
in humanity, in God, in destiny
So they surrendered themselves to the mules
wherever they would take them
following the grass and leaves
or, on whichever shore the boat takes them
driven by the waves and the winds.

(2)

They are aware
that the clock is ticking for them
and not all the entangled issues will solve
and they might never return home
but they do not lose hope

In their sleep
they return home

Living in a different land
they do not cut down
the kind of bushes that used to grow
while going to the market from home
They grow the flowers from home
and protect their garden from stray animals
But, they let the birds come
and let them jump on the roof, on flower pots
Some bird might have flown
all the way from home

(3)

If only they could return
they would face the question:
whether to take back their old homes and lands
or to let the new owner live there in peace?

This would the the biggest dilemma
as they know better than anybody else:
the pain of having one’s home snatched.
***

Devesh Path Sariya is a Hindi poet, non-fiction prose writer and a translator of poetry. His poems regularly feature in leading Hindi journals. He is 35 and works in Taiwan as a post-doctoral researcher in astronomy. Email: deveshpath@gmail.com

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