No longer have I settled down on my seat
The wailing would ensue.
Some would be urgent, short and rapid
Some long-drawn, slow, as if it knows
It wouldn’t make any difference anymore.
In the beginning, I used to get up
And look out through the window.
The white vehicles with the mirror image
Of AMBULANCE would flash past
Offering me glimpses
Of faces dark with misery.
There were then other kinds;
Cars, with lights blazing, horn blaring
Squeezing out, weaving through the oncoming rush.
Three-wheeled autorickshaws offered the best view.
There would invariably be one, head leaning on
To another’s shoulder
Blood-spattered dress, blood-streaked face
Closed eyes – I was fascinated by the expression
Of the others – vacant, sometimes anxious,
Of flickering fear, of untold sorrow and submission to fate.
I have seen them too, the ambulances with a wreath or two
Stuck in the front, solemn, slow –
Everything has to come to a pass.
In the beginning, I used to sit back
With a heavy heart, and then
Reminded of my own mortality
Would strain my ears
For that wailing at my doors.
*************** Balachandran V,