Wednesday, September 27, 2023
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The Scavenger’s Song


An endless highway.

A lone man, Ikbir Kaur, hesitantly walks along the dusty pavement aided by a mystical tinge of twilight. The jingling coins in his trousers’ side pocket seem no less than a foreboding.  Intense and substantial. The ripe wheat fields stretch on the adjacent sides. Each footstep Ikbir makes, takes him further away from his home where a lifetime of pain and anguish seem to await him. He cannot carry them further – at least not at this moment. But he knows that he would have to go back sooner or later. The worn-out slippers hit back the soles of his feet at every step, which persistently reminds him of the stretch he has covered away from his home.

Two days ago, he had pawned his wife’s jewellery for his father’s long overdue treatment. Now there is no need. He had lost his father in the afternoon today. Leaving him with the unused money. A few coins and a wad of notes tied with a rubber band.

The long solitary walk takes him to a dhaba along the highway. His feet covered in dust and his face with disgrace. Every man in his family and a few from the vicinity must have gone to his father’s funeral. They will take care of things. And he’s here now. In front of the dhaba. Today, he wants to live his life. Ambiguous and clumsy future glances at him from the horizon.

Ikbir sits on a charpoy put outside the dhaba and orders butter chicken and naans. He feels the firmness of the money in his pocket. There are no customers – only the hotel owner and his employees. To distract his thoughts from the happenings in his house today, he decides to look around: trucks and cars zipping on the highway, cooks and waiters preparing his kingly dish, the hotel owner counting cash again and again in disbelief.

‘Make it spicier, with extra butter.’ He yells at the cook.

Later he is served with much reverence. One after the other, the cook places various dishes before him. The food gives out a rich aroma of money. With a tinge of remorse. The charpoy wobbles and shrieks even in his slightest movement. Today he will disregard everything and indulge himself to the fullest. Such times may never come again. God is not watching him and he could sin and get away with it. He reflects.

It was a quotidian day until the afternoon when Ikbir came home from his ripe wheat field. His skin kneaded with sweat and dust. Drawing water from a well in front of his modest kutcha house, he cleaned himself and later sat down to have the meal. Oblivious of what was approaching.

Even before he had put the first morsel of food in his mouth, his mother came running and broke the news. His father who had been sleeping under the neem tree outside the house was not responding. She constantly shook his body and even called him out many times, but with little hope. Her face was already wet with tears.

He put back the food in his hand back on the plate and said, ‘I’ll go and see.’

Ikbir knew. Later, his father’s body was laid on a deathbed and shrouded. Adorned with flowers. The veranda was full of villagers and relatives consoling each other. For many, it was just one more death, and for others their near-destiny in waiting. Ikbir had two elder brothers who were handling all the rituals and proceedings of the funeral, which indeed was a great respite for Ikbir.

Since Ikbir saw his father’s dead body, he went into a swoon and lost his touch with realism. He sat hunched in a corner of the veranda. He did not shed any tears and wasn’t obliged to do any of the rituals as a son. He could sense the money in his pocket; it had lost its purpose. His stomach twisted and sank. He had taken only water since he woke up early in the morning and the sun was now about to set. Everyone else would take care of his father, he thought and in a daze, he broke himself away from the crowd. Ikbir began to stroll. Away from the order of his muddled life.

If things had gone as usual that day, Ikbir would have taken his father to Bikaner the next day on a train that many had started calling ‘The Cancer Train’. Many cancer patients from the neighbouring villages waited on the platform of Batinda station every day to board the train to Bikaner; where a hospital provided affordable treatment. Ikbir had always insisted to go with his father. A servile son. A ruthless life. The train journey with his father made Ikbir feel as if he was taking him to a pilgrimage. To liberate his father from suffering.

‘I don’t want to live. Lying all day on the bed and doing nothing.’ He had heard his father say earlier in the morning when he was setting out for the field. Now that his father was dead, both were in a sense liberated from their sufferings.

Ikbir eats the butter chicken, relishing every bite. He feels a tinge of guilt in the food. However, he manages to sniff it out. Oddly, everyone in the dhaba seems to be looking at him as if he is  committing a sin. An unforgivable crime. He salivates profusely like a dog. When he is done, he pays the hotel owner from the wad of cash in his pocket. Eyebrows raised. ‘Do these people know me?’ He thinks. ‘How does it matter though?’

‘Keep the change.’ He says aloud like some rich NRIs of his village.

The weight of the money in his pocket appears to have decreased a little, while the guilt in his heart heaved many times over. Questions and self-doubt kept exploding in his head. His father’s body may have been cremated by now.

He walks back towards home under the delusion that contemptuous eyes are observing him. He has no place to conceal himself. The eyes are everywhere. After he has travelled a little distance and was about to take a turn towards his village through the narrow path, he spots a small beer shop on the other side of the highway. Emboldened by his first escapade, he goes to the shop and drinks to his heart’s content. He did not bother what the world around him would say, the world must keep its shame to itself, Ikbir introspects.

He crosses the highway again and enters the muddy narrow path between the wheat crops. The sun is not visible, but the sky is still illuminated with a soiled yellow hue. With his drunken eyes, he sees chimneys in the horizon billowing smoke. ‘Bastards. Demons.’ He yells and looks around whether anyone took notice of him. The whiff of pesticides that had been sprayed on the crops was choking him now even though he himself sprayed the same in his field that morning. ‘What they call it? Yes, a necessary evil.’ He mutters. Almost every next household in his village had a cancer patient. Awaiting death. So that their sons can live their lives, until they meet the same fate.

The day grows dark, quiet and gloomy. The coins keep jingling blatantly at every step. He hears a motorcycle approaching him from behind. He moves aside to let it pass. Trying hard to steady his body. To appear prudent and worldly. The motorcycle passes by, raising dust in the air and apprehension in his mind. It stops a few feet in front of him and he sees two men get off and come closer to him. Before Ikbir can compose himself, the two burly men are upon him, punching him mercilessly. Perhaps now they know. Ikbir is a sinner and he has no right on the money. They search his pockets and seize all his riches. Then he is chucked like a sack of grain in the muddy brook between the field and the path. Then they are gone, whistling triumphantly. Just like his good sense. Just like his father. Silence and darkness remain. Moonless night.

He tries to get up from the brook with much exertion but gives up after two disastrous attempts. He finally decides to rest in the cool soothing mud. His nose and crotch hurt badly. But not as relentlessly as his heart and mind. It is better, he feels, to lie here in peace than getting back home. He falls asleep – subdued, intoxicated and dreaming.

Cover image by Raneesh P.R, Visual Editor, Indian Ruminations 

As a soothing sign


As a soothing sign
rivers flow unpolluted
into our hearts,
we are locked,
where are our friends,
neighbours, relatives…
they went to the world of distancing,
the mask wearing figures
roam around,
quarantines, sanitize …
no guests at homes
no visitors in the offices,
now all quiet,
where are the boasting parties ?
where are the greedy eyes?
cities are null,
roads are drought,
schools are closed
hospitals are filled
graveyards are jam-packed
we have begun to listen
the songs of birds
we have begun to see
the butterflies,
we have got time to breathe
the pure air with ease
we have begun to learn
macro lessons from a micro,
we can fight well
but never will we win
unless we change.

let rivers flow unpolluted
into our hearts
as a soothing sign…

 Cover image by Raneesh P.R, Visual Editor, Indian Ruminations 

Three Poems for Her


The Weaver

Let me weave
the red and white risha
the black rigwnai
and connect to my womanhood,

Let me weave
the pachra and achal
celebrate geometric motifs
and connect to my creator,

Let me weave
the lotus
on the kantha
and connect to the cosmic energy,

Let me weave
the wild and the beast
on my necklace
and connect to nature,

Let me weave
the sky
intertwine the warp and the weft
and connect to my being.

I am the weaver
I am the seeker.


Wish I had
a memory like a sieve,
dim and elusive
to let go my traumas,
faintly sketched
to erase the heartbreak,
hazy and foggy
to efface all my agonies and grief,
blurred and faint
to obliterate the bruises and nightmares.

Wish I had
memories wistful and reminiscent
of approval and acceptance,
jovial and cherished
of motherhood and nuptial bliss,
nostalgic and happy
to freeze the childhood innocence,
fond and memorable
to bottle my self-esteem,

Wish I could cease
tossing between remembering and forgetting
and tame the ‘woman’ in me!!!


She writes
because her life is full of sorrows
she is a poet.

She wears khadi
because it is the fabric of freedom,
a feminist dissemblance
she carries.

She is unrealistic
an astounding performer
when she walks the ramp
overt on the stage.

She is fake
loves loud make up, designer dresses
she is the most sophisticated female
she is an air hostess.

She is mysterious
over decorated,
hides her flaws and predicts other’s future,
could not foresee her own
she is a tarot card reader.

She is erratic
the mad woman in the attic,
her brain is entropic
possessing an immutable identity
but pretending to be like Kaali .

All these censorious remarks
don’t upset me anymore
Yes, I am erratic, mysterious, feminist, poetess,
hoaxing and debunking
Myths about myself
I stand tall!

Art by Raneesh P.R, Visual Editor, Indian Ruminations


This Day


This day is
All there ever was, all there is, all there will ever be
For, all tomorrows will be, all todays are, all yesterdays were,
For a short while this day.

This day, it bears the faces of Janus,
Looking at once both forward and back;
Its neck the now eternally tied,
Between the chafing and cherished ties of earth’s yore,
And the charming and choking dreams of yonder skies.

The wizened think of this day as the day of choice.
The new-winged wake it up with carpe diem!
Midlife wonders if it is the die of chance.
They are all right, for this day always is:

It is the day to burn bridges and build barriers;
It is, too, the day to burn barriers and build bridges.
It is the day to burn what’s built, or (re)build what’s burnt:
It is a destroyer’s day, and a creator’s day.

The spirit of being,
This day also wears the skin of becoming: and it becomes
A memory to the historian, a dream to the architect,
The timeless flow of tenses through the poet’s pen,
And scudding thoughts in the blue-sky mind of a monk.

 Cover image by Raneesh P.R, Visual Editor, Indian Ruminations 

Previous Issues


Against the Tide — The powerful current of Fr Stan Swamy’s activism

Art by Raneesh Oldesigns

A request by a prisoner for a pair of pants to be sent to him in jail might seem unremarkable. So it is, except that in this case, Fr. Stan Swamy, the one who pleaded for it, intended it not for himself but for a fellow prisoner who couldn’t afford to buy one. This little detail, recounted by Fr. Joseph Xavier, the Director of Indian Social Institute, Bangalore is indicative of the caring nature of Fr. Stan that impels him to place the needs of others above his own. In a letter to his friend and human rights activist John Dayal written from Taloja Central Jail with the help of a colleague, Arun Ferreira, he says, “despite all odds, humanity is bubbling in prison.” The ailments that plague him make it difficult to manage his needs himself, but with help from the inmates, particularly other activists in custody like Vernon Gonsalves Fr. Stan is able to cope.

Rabble-rousing demagogues swaying public opinion against a nation’s welfare for private gain have always been numerous. There is, however, another rare breed – understated figures of courage and altruism quietly doing what they have always done – selfless service empowering the lowest socioeconomic strata and often met with unconcealed hostility of the powerful. Fr. Stan Lourduswamy SJ, popularly known as Fr. Stan, belongs to this class. An assured, erudite ascetic, this Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist dedicated four decades of his life to the issues of displacement, unjustified detention and fundamental prerogatives of Adivasis and Dalits in Jharkhand.

Fr. Stan was arrested on 8 November 2020 under the unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for allegedly conspiring to incite violence at the Elgar Parishad in Bhima Koregaon, and purported links to the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). The Elgar Parishad was an event held on 31 December 2017 in a small village of Koregaon, Pune, Maharashtra to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle of Koregaon, which was fought on January 1, 1818, by a largely Dalit British force of Mahar community over Peshawas. The victory marks an important event in Maratha history as it is percieved as the victory of Dalits over the oppression perpetrated by the Peshawas. It was alleged that inflammatory speeches were made on the occasion that led to the violence on the following day.

Fr. Stan, the oldest person accused of terrorism in India, confess that he has never been to Koregaon and denies all charges. His bail plea was kept pending until March 22, 2021, when it was dismissed by special NIA court judge DE Kothlikar, saying it failed to make out a case for grant of bail. Thus, Stan Swamy continues to be in internment but remains calm and firm in his avowal of innocence. His supporters however demand a timely and impartial trial.

Early Life

Born on 26 April 1937 in a village in Tiruchirapally, Tamil Nadu, Fr. Stan studied at St Joseph’s School and was inspired by the Jesuits who ran it, leading him to join their order, the Society of Jesus. It was founded in 1549 by Ignatius of Loyola, a Basque soldier and nobleman, and six others including St Francis Xavier. Jesuits take the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Education and scholarship were their chief works from the start, though they also took care of the young, the sick, soldiers, prisoners, and the prostitutes. Fr. Stan’s commitment to the people of Jharkhand began in 1965 when he started his regency (Jesuit internship, a part of their fourteen-year training) working at St. Xavier’s High School, Lupungutu, Chaibasa. During his stint at St. Xavier’ School, Fr. Stan developed a deep respect and sympathy for the local people that inspired him to help them out of their situation of exploitation.

Why Fr. Stan Swamy chose the then undivided Bihar is not clear, but it seems that he perceived it to be a place where his documentation and networking abilities could be best utilised to fulfil his objective of societal upliftment. Jharkhand, though it is rich in natural resources, accounting for over 40% of the mineral resources of India, is economically much less developed than his native state of Tamil Nadu Additionally, it has a high proportion of tribal people who are significantly backward and require assistance to improve their circumstances. The availability of abundant natural resources in Jharkhand made the governments and MNCs wealthier but its people continued to remain impoverished. Of the total population of the state, approximately 40% is below the poverty line and a significant proportion of the children are malnourished. These circumstances help understand Fr. Stan’s efforts to uplift the people of Jharkhand. He lived among them for a few years to better understand their troubles, an experience which also contributed to his great regard for their culture and desire to improve their situation.

Fr. Stan studied theology in Manila and also obtained an MA in sociology. He joined the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium in 1974. From 1975 – 1990, he served as Director at the Indian Social Institute, Bangalore, where he influenced youth through training programs and studied community development, attempting to spread education on social analysis. In 1991, he returned to Jharkhand and was associated with the Jharkhand Organization for Human rights (JOHAR) in Chaibasia for a few years. He then moved to Ranchi and founded Bagaicha, a Jesuit social service organization that became functional in 2006. Ever since, his life has been devoted to the welfare of the Adivasis of Jharkhand.

 Conversations with Peers

From conversations with a few people in Fr. Stan’s milieu, a clearer picture emerges of the man and the priest constituting the rights activist. The dialogues show how his compassion, civic sense, and skills in uniting people drove him to support the Adivasis of Jharkhand in their efforts to maintain their rights as the citizens of India.

Dayamani Barla, noted journalist and activist from Jharkhand, is herself an Adivasi from Munda tribe who outspokenly opposes the displacement of her people. She spoke with sincerity about Fr. Stan and the campaigns they both support to prevent the continuing mistreatment of the lower socio-economic strata.   About his work and its wellspring of compassion, she says “How does one define kindness? It has two forms when it metamorphosizes into action – the individual deed and the collective effort. One feels pity for a beggar on the street and may give him something, which is a personal and discrete act. Or one can act jointly with the mistreated to stop their oppression, which is an organized and effective kindness.” According to Barla, Fr. Stan has taken the later route to stop the displacement and oppression of the tribal people of Jharkhand by his participation in their joint endeavours.

Fr. Stan understands that the local Adivasis would not be able to adjust well elsewhere even if they are paid with compensation; they need to retain their land and the natural wealth it contains. Like her, he opposes large corporations whose proposed projects would harm the tribal people. Agents desiring to usurp the natural wealth of the area find it easy to take advantage of Adivasis and Dalits who are often neither aware of their legal rights nor able to afford a lawyer. Activists like Fr. Stan and.Barla perceive accurately the ramifications of such situations and guide the affected in pursuing the legitimate methods available to them to obtain redressal. She describes how he works through informed action not just for, but with, the wronged, diving deeply into the ocean of their problems. “We have won many victories together with them by this method.” She added.

Jean Dreze, an economist and activist who works as a visiting professor at the Ranchi University, shared with me some views from his long experience with Fr. Stan in an illuminating chat, providing some intriguing glimpses of his reasoning and functioning. According to Mr.Dreze, Fr. Stan’s independent thinking and honesty made him acknowledge impartially the good and the bad that he perceived in everything around him, so that he was not blind to flaws even in the Church, feeling that while the Church did much good, it could accomplish even more for the community, particularly in Jharkhand. Mr.Dreze reveals “while studying in Belgium, Fr. Stan was inspired by Francoise Houtart, the eminent scholar” who promoted tolerance and nonviolence and believed that the church stands for the poor. This influence can be seen in Fr. Stan’s mission to address the issues of the deprived in a reasonable manner. Mr. Dreze further states, “he fostered communal harmony and worked for basic rights but his most distinctive attributes were inspiring people to unite and creating mass movements”. He believes “Fr. Stan played a significant role in social transformation.” Mr. Dreze remarks poignantly, “Gentle, patient Fr. Stan who objected to unjustified detention of Adivasi youths is now himself languishing in Jail.” 

Dedicated social workers seem to attain wider acknowledgement when their quietening is attempted by their unfair detainment. Fr. Stan was arrested and charge sheeted on 8 October, 2020 from Bagaicha by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for his alleged role in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence and links to the Communist Party of India (Maoist) under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention)  Act ( UAPA) by which bail can be denied. Such crackdowns seem to be growing, as clearly indicated by disturbing statistics. There has been a 72% increase since 2015 in the number of arrests under the harsh UAPA.  Between 2016 and 2019, a staggering 5, 922 persons were detained. It is truly ominous is that 75% cases have no charge sheets. A mere 2. 2% of cases registered under UAPA from 2016 – 2019 ended in a conviction, which is a telling figure. A silver lining in this dismal scenario is that arrests of activists like Fr. Stan are attracting domestic as well as world-wide attention, with increasing demands for their release.

I spoke with Fr. Joseph Xavier, the Director of Indian Social Institute, Bangalore. He opined that Fr. Stan felt drawn to Jharkhand during his period at the ISI. He was, apparently, concerned with the issues of Adivasis even at that early stage . The ISI Director talked about Fr. Stan’s interest in reading. The Spanish best-seller Jesus: an historical approximation by Jose Antonio Pagola is a book that Fr. Stan read when it was first published, but he expressed a desire to have it sent to him in prison, presumably in order to study it again, says Fr. Xavier. His intellectuality was accompanied by an endearing humility and frugality which an anecdote recounted by Fr. Xavier highlights; it describes how on one instance, Fr. Stan turned down a generous travel allowance saying such a large amount was unnecessary for the proposed trip, as his hosts would take care of his simple needs.  The ISI Director explains Fr. Stan’s work as founded not on a charity mode but on a rights-based approach.  He says Fr. Stan “articulates the struggles of the masses,” and undertakes “meaningful intervention aligning with the poor.” He further states that Fr. Stan has “his own way of doing things in bringing people together, talking to the community, and building awareness among them.”  His societal acumen and interactive skills enabled him to guide the illiterate towards obtaining their legal and human rights.


As Fr. Stan’s activism encompassed everyone needing legal and other support, individuals belonging to banned organizations may have been included, regardless, in its benevolent ambit. This circumstance does not make Fr. Stan a member of those organizations or a criminal. In this context, Fr. Stan’s advocate Sharif Sheik says, “the prosecution was trying to criminalise organisations and activists working to provide robust legal defence as envisaged in the constitution.” The bail plea says ‘providing legal aid is not an unlawful activity or cannot be seen as an assistance to an unlawful association.’ Advocate Sheik submitted that “working with undertrials who could or couldn’t have been Maoists doesn’t make him a Maoist.” Assistance rendered indiscriminately and motivated by concern does not, logically, criminalize the helping hand.

Fr. Stan has been in the thick of action in the human rights arena saying, “I am not a silent spectator, but part of the game and ready to pay the price whatever it may be.” His notable work includes involvement with a number of organizations concerned with community issues. He supported a project that researched young left-wing undertrials in Jharkhand detained under the UAPA without evidence. Its findings revealed that   97% of the detainees said that the allegations against them were wrong. The acquittal in majority of such cases indicates the validity of the study.

Fr. Stan along with human rights lawyer and activist Sudha Bharadwaj founded the Persecuted Political Prisoners Solidarity Committee, which according to Stan is one of the most active human rights organisations and do not relate to the CPI (Maoist) as the NIA alleges. Fr. Stan and Bharadwaj jointly wrote a paper that appeared in the Economic and Political Weekly, exposing the unauthorized harsh treatment by jail authorities as well as the poor conditions to which inmates were subjected. Fr. Stan also criticized ‘Operation Green Hunt’ a government programme intended to eliminate Naxalites. This expression of opinion is being held against him by the NIA. He published a book – Jail Mein Band Qaidyon ka Sach  (The Truth about Prisoners in Jail) – in 2010, showing that most arrested tribal youths were too poor to seek legal assistance, which caused him to come under the censorious scrutiny of the state administration.

 Fr. Stan was associated with the Pathalgadi movement, which emulated the tradition of inscribing stone slabs with the accomplishments of ancestors – Pathalgadi –  to voice the people’s complaints . Fr. Stan challenged the tardy implementation of the fifth schedule of the Indian Constitution which stipulates the establishment of a Tribes Advisory Council (TAC) consisting exclusively of Adivasis to guide the Governor of the state on the well-being and development of their community. Under the Pathalgadi movement portions from the fifth Schedule of Indian constitution was carved on stone to emphasize its neglect.

Fr. Stan questioned the unsatisfactory implementation of the 2006 Forest Rights Act intended to protect the rights of Adivasis over their lands and forests and of the Panchayat Raj (Extension to the scheduled areas) Act of 1996 (PESA). This momentous Panchayat Raj Act was introduced to facilitate rural self-governance by the formation of local councils. It acknowledges the great tradition of self-rule through the Gram Sabha. Fr. Stan says the Act has been “neatly ignored” and has “deliberately been left unimplemented in all the nine states”. He discovered and condemned the Jharkhand government’s attempt to circumvent the Gram Sabha’s role in land acquisition for industrial use. Fr. Stan toiled relentlessly to organize the Adivasis to claim their rights under PESA. 

The recent Amendment to the “land Acquisition Act 2013’ by the Jharkhand government was described by Fr. Stan as the ‘death knell’ of the Adivasis, stressing that it removed the requirement of ‘Social Impact Assessment” meant to protect the environment, social relations, and cultural values of the people impacted. He expressed concern over the government’s ability to allow agricultural land to be used for non-agricultural purposes and “Land Banks,” which he felt were against interests of the Adivasi people.

One of the projects on which Fr. Stan worked was that with the Jharkhand Organisation for Uranium Radiation(JOAR), in 1996. Their extensive campaign helped prevent the Uranium Corporation of India ltd. from constructing a tailing dam in Chaibasa that would have displaced Adivasis residing in  Judogoda’s  Chatikocha locality. His efforts contributed to the welfare of displaced Adivasis of Paranganas, Bokaro, Koderma, and Santhal. He advocated that the minerals and other resources of the land belonged to the owner of the property.

Expressions of Solidarity

Support and solidarity for Fr. Stan has been steadily growing. Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren and Kerala Chief Minister Pinayari Vijayan have demanded justice for Fr Stan. In Mumbai, the Society of Jesus that runs many prestigious educational institutions in the city publicly demonstrated their solidarity with Fr. Stan. Jesuits in the US requested President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to advocate Fr. Stan’s release. They gathered at the foot of the Gandhi statue in the Indian embassy in Washington holding placards saying “we stand with Stan,”. Similar demonstrations were held in the United Kingdom by Jesuits in solidarity with Fr. Stan. Although Indian bishops and cardinals visited the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to plead for the release of Fr. Stan Swamy, the PM refused to intervene in the matter.

 In a letter to the Government of India dated 3 November, 2020 , senior United Nations officials Elina Steinerte, vice chair of the Working Group on Arbritary Detention, Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, and Fernand de Varenness, special rapporteur on minority issues, write that Fr. Stan’s arrest indicates “the escalation of harassment the human rights defender has been subjected to since 2018.” A statement issued by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) says that it is “shocked by and condemns the detention and arrest.”

In jail, Fr. Stan’s request for a straw and sipper – made because his Parkinson’s disease induced tremors in his hands that caused spilling – was not granted for a month. Numerous Indians were so appalled by this callousness that they ordered sippers to be delivered at the jail and posted images of the orders on social media.

According to an article published in The Wire, more than 2,500 activists, academics, others, from India and abroad have issued statement demanding Stan Swami’s release. They have also said that the charges against him must be dropped. The statement says “we, the undersigned, are shocked by the rejection of a bail application filed by Fr. Stan Swami in the Bhima Koregaon case by the NIA.”  A press release issued by Fr. Joseph D’Souza SJ, President, Jesuits India, stated that the Society is saddened to hear about the refusal of bail to Fr. Stan, but will continue to hope and pray that justice prevails and he is released promptly after a fair trial.

Fr. Stan’s bail plea states that the prosecution was unable to establish terrorist activities by Fr. Stan and denies the allegations against him in his charge sheet. It also cites medical reasons as Fr. Stan suffers from Parkinson’s disease, spondylitis and deafness. The defence asserts that Fr. Stan is being persecuted for his writings. 

In interaction with the outside world and his fellow prisoners, Fr. Stan continues tranquil and affable. Thanking those who stand by him, Fr. Stan says, “though I do not have many details, I am grateful to all of you for expressing solidarity.” His tide of humanitarianism swells as strongly as ever in jail, with tremendous goodwill from outside and within.

In interaction with the outside world and his fellow prisoners, Fr. Stan continues tranquil and affable. Thanking those who stand by him, Fr. Stan says, “though I do not have many details, I am grateful to all of you for expressing solidarity.” His tide of humanitarianism swells as strongly as ever in jail, with tremendous goodwill from outside and within.

Cover image by Raneesh P.R, Visual Editor, Indian Ruminations

2021 May 1-15


Dear Reader ,

We hustle, we shuttle, we pant and we run behind. Hence, sometimes we forget to glance through things that we love – this is where Indian Ruminations come to the rescue. Every month, we promise to bring  you this newsletter so that you can read the best of our content right at your fingertips, all that you missed out on!


Ode to an Inkling
Isha Sharma

“Deep within, the Recluse and his Muse sit arm in arm.
Limbs intertwined in passion
The Recluse indulges his Muse,
Time forgotten, space confined.
I am without you, within you, the Muse muses
I am the screams of silence.”


Fata Morgana
Appu Ajith
The story takes the reader to the mystery and catharsis in the world of Vayu and Shirin.

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Aana Bharathi
Haritha T Chandran
The fiction sings the tale of three lives, scrapping through life in a dilapidated house.

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Saloni Mishra reviews the book ‘Half Mother’byShahnaz Bashir and engages in a contemplative approach to discuss how the fiction gives you the glimses of truth about the everyday life, the trauma and survival of Kashmiris.


Reconstructing our Solidarity with the Farmers’ Protest

Analysing the farmer’s protest from the perspective of federalism, Philose Koshy explores the ways we can reconstruct our format of solidarity.


An Ambedkarian Reading of India’s Tryst with Hindu Nationalism and Social Justice

Pallikonda Manikanta a research scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University writes an in-depth and well researched long essay on the rise of Hindu nationalism through an Ambedkarian lens.


Shudras and Democratic India

An excerpt from the excellent essay by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd evaluating the history and political transformation of the shudras.

All the contents published can be accessed from our website. In case you’re wondering how to support us in what we do, please consider donating to our parent trust Samaagati by clicking on the donate button below…
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The Little Girl With A Little Thesaurus

Image Courtesy: Aaron Burden on Unsplash


Today, ten-year-old Anisha jumped out of her bed at 5 am and rushed straight to her parents’ big bedroom, upstairs.

“I saw Jesus Christ in my dream tonight!” screamed Anisha, waking up both of her parents.

“Did Jesus say anything to you,” asked her mother in a drowsy tone, while slowly pulling her daughter into her warm lap..

“Well, he said that, his own heart had been a stranger to him, had been in oblivion, since millions of years.

“Anisha, you have not been speaking to us properly for two months. Maybe that is the interpretation of your dream,” said her father, moving closer to his daughter and putting his hand over his daughter’s head to caress her hair.

Anisha threw her little body onto the bed and wondered whether she should share her interpretation of the dream with her parents. She decided against it and quickly moved out of her parent’s room.

Anisha, ten years old, living in Delhi, was one of a kind. There are misogynists and misanthropes and misogamists – but what do you call a little girl who hates the whole adult population?

Thanks to the Coronavirus outbreak, her boring school was now shut. Online classes were a menace. Closure of school did not mean freedom from the teaching faculty and their lectures and, she hated even the most amiable of her teachers. She refused to be tutored by her parents, as well. “I will handle all school assignments myself” – that was her stubborn principle.

This day witnessed a diary entry by Anisha:

Man loves Woman. Jesus was a Man. He had forgotten to take care of the women of the world. That is why we have gender inequality in this world.”

It was spring – Anisha’s favourite season. She went to the lawn of her house with a little thesaurus in her hand. She loved learning antonyms. Somehow, the ten-year-old girl was fascinated that everything in this world had its own opposite. Obedience and rebellion. Submissive and assertive. Conformity and non-conformity. Words were relational, she realised at an early age. Male had meaning only because of the existence of its opposite- female. Good was significant because of the presence of evil.

Staying at home meant watching animated films on Netflix with her elder sister Nikita all day. Nikita made that compromise. Nikita did not find Disney movies interesting enough. But the 17-year-old Nikita wanted to inculcate a love for life in her sister. Love for films. Love for debating. Love for writing.

But today, it was Anisha’s turn to make a compromise. Nikita followed American politics instead of following Indian politics. Joe Biden. Bernie Sanders. Definitely not Trump. Today, Nikita made her sister sit with her and re-watch the US Presidential debates. Anisha was too young to understand the debates.

“Trump is funny,” said Anisha with a naughty smile. Out of all adults out there, she had chosen to be Trump’s fan. Nikita was exasperated at her sister’s choices. Nikita made her watch videos showing Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC), hoping that Anisha would get a sense of what good politicians are like. “AOC is a fool!” exclaimed Anisha. Nikita gave up.

But, one more binary was added to Anisha’s knowledge, thanks to Nikita. Democrats and Republicans.

Today, Anisha got a call from her English teacher Ms Astha. Now, Ms Astha was fond of Anisha as she was impressed by her extraordinary vocabulary. Anisha topped in English all the time. “Screw it,” Anisha said loudly after hanging up the phone.

“What happened,” asked Nikita.

“I lost two marks in a question because I wrote that Africa is a developed country instead of writing that it is an underdeveloped one.”

Nikita smiled. This girl is dealing with too many words.

Nikita was 17. Today, her parents called her to the drawing room at 12 noon. Anisha went trailing behind her sister.

“What do you want to study, Nikita?” asked Nikita’s mother.

“I want to study Economics at St. Stephens’ college”, replied Nikita promptly.

“I want to study at School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London” Anisha piped in. The whole family was astonished and stared at Anisha. Anisha gave that marked naughty smile of hers.

Orient and Occident. Nikita did not know the meaning of these words, but ten-year-old Anisha did. But, how is that possible?


Her room started shaking. Must be an earthquake tremor, thought Anisha. She observed the furniture around herself and to her shock, it was raining inside her house. It was a warm sunny day outside. Out of everything, she wanted to save the Little Thesaurus first. She grabbed the Little Thesaurus which was drenched with water.

Two white balls popped out of the black book cover of Little Thesaurus and a white chalk etched itself vertically in the middle of the book cover. Then there were clouds and snowfall in Anisha’s room. As she gasped at everything, four little white chalks cracked through the pages of the book and now Little Thesaurus looked like a live robot. It lacked lips though. Anisha painted a white lip on the book immediately.

The rain had stopped. No more clouds. No more snowfall. But, a rainbow. “Yes, a rainbow!” exclaimed Anisha. All this was extraordinary, but not extraordinary enough for Anisha to run to her parents and show them everything.From all she knew, she thought that after all, things had to turn out this way. It was this way in all the Barbie movies she had watched. A painting, a floor, a wall, a cupboard, anything could lead to a magical world. At least this was the way in all the fantasy films Anisha had watched with Nikita.

And then the rainbow disappeared. And Little Thesaurus was not a live robot anymore. It was the same black hardcover static book.

Anisha sighed. She must get to the bottom of all this. She did not even know or remember how Little Thesaurus had come into her possession.Well,, the neighbour next door, the old lady Reena Gangotri had gifted Little Thesaurus to Anisha on her sixth birthday, said Anisha’s mother. “ I must meet that old grandma,” responded Anisha.

“Don’t use the word grandma for her. She is a lunatic.”

“But I must meet her.”

Anisha’s mother grabbed her daughter’s hand and jerked her furiously.

“You have never listened to us. But this time, if you care about your life, you must. That old lady is a monster, do you hear me?”

“But why?”

“Four years back, her husband committed suicide. People think that Mrs Gangotri murdered her husband over a trifle. But police could not gather enough evidence to charge her with murder.”

Anisha did not say anything further.


It was 5 pm. Both her parents had gone to attend a party. Anisha sneaked out of her house and with hurried steps, she crossed the street to  Mrs Gangotri’s house. She rang the calling bell, which looked like a rusted circular piece of iron. The design of the door was strange as well. It was a black door, with white eyes and a white nose designed on it. The door was exactly like the live robotic form of Anisha’s Little Thesaurus. An old lady wearing a black and white nightgown opened the door. Her black and white nightgown was striped like a zebra’s skin.

“I am Anisha. I live in the house opposite to yours.”

Mrs Gangotri gave a long hard look at the little girl and then said, “Oh. I remember going to your house in 2016 when you were very small. It was your birthday that day. 9th July 2016. Oh yes, how can I forget that day. My husband had died in the morning that day.”

“Can I come in?”

“Yes. But there are no chairs in my home. You will have to sit on the floor.”

Anisha slowly entered the home, and with a sense of hesitation and caution and looked at the walls of Mrs Gangotri’s house. There were no family pictures with her husband or children. Does she have children? The walls of the room were full of historical pictures, black and white pictures of the heroes from Indian National Independence Movement. Gandhi. Nehru. Maulana Azad. Bhagat Singh.

“Those are pictures of freedom fighters, aren’t they? I have seen these pictures in a history encyclopaedia which was gifted by my parents last year”, said Anisha in an enthusiastic tone.”

“Do you want tea or coffee?”

“No, thanks. I just wanted to talk to you.”

Then, Anisha sat on the white marble floor and noticed two black kittens in the corner of the room.

“Why is everything black and white here in your house? Don’t you like different colours?”

“My life is like a black and white movie from the previous century. There are no colours of happiness in my life. I have clinical depression and I am blind towards the colours of joy. I hate complexity in life. I like to see life as an obvious paradox, as a simple contradiction between two entities, such as between two opposite colours – black and white. The white God and the black ghost. My husband was a Christian. White Jesus. Black Satan.”

“Satan? Who is he?”

“God’s enemy. Lucifer, the former angel, burning in fire. Simple isn’t it? The binary of heroes and villains?”

Anisha said in a low tone, sighing, “I love binaries as well. But I don’t want to end up like you. I want my life to be full of different colours.”

“Well, I get it. Is there any specific reason why you came to visit me? No person in the right frame of mind comes to visit me. They all think that I am insane.”

“I wanted to talk to you about the little thesaurus which you gifted me on my sixth birthday. 9th July 2016. The day your husband died.”

“The day before he died, he went to a book street vendor in Connaught place and bought that thesaurus from there. Then, he said this thesaurus will cure my clinical depression and make me happy like I was in my 20s. I did not ask for any explanation. My husband always came up with eccentric ideas to make me happy. Next day he was lying dead on the floor with pills and drugs scattered on his left side.”

“Why did you gift the thesaurus to me?”

“Before my husband committed suicide, he left a note which said – “The little thesaurus is for those who have a love for life, a hope for a beautiful future. Since I neither had love nor hope for life, I did not keep the thesaurus with me.”

Anisha narrated to Mrs Gangotri how the Little thesaurus had transformed itself into a live robot with its black cover designed exactly like the door of Mrs Gangotri’s house, how it had started raining and snowing in her house.

“Oh, you believe in fantasy and magic too. Now, that is something which is similar between us two. But if you want to figure out why it is magical, only my husband had answers to that. Let’s do Plan chit and call the spirit of my husband, shall we?”

“Sorry, I have to leave.”


Mrs Gangotri went towards a black trunk kept in the corner on the white marble floor. She rummaged through the objects kept in the trunk and pulled out a diary with a cover containing a painting which looked like an abstract combination of rainbow, snowfall and rain. “Keep this with you. It is full of my husband’s eccentric ideas. He had said one day he will have children. And he made this diary for them, saying that his job was to fuel the imagination of his children. But I was against having children as I knew I would be a terrible mother. We never had children.”

Anisha took the diary from Mrs Gangotri and left.


It was 6 pm. Anisha was back in her room. Her parents had not yet returned from the party.

She sat down on her bed and she suddenly realised that her bedcover contained the same pattern as the one which was designed on the cover of Mr.Gangotri’s diary. She got up and changed the bedcover to a blue one with a pink floral design. To her astonishment, the front cover of the diary turned into a blue one with the same floral design as the one on her bedcover. She repeated the experiment two more times. She was enjoying all this. A yellow bedcover meant a yellow diary. A red bedcover meant a red diary. Anisha wondered about all this magic that was happening.

Anisha suddenly felt dizzy and sleepy. She decided to take a nap. She saw Jesus Christ in her dream once again. But this time Jesus Christ did not say anything.

Anisha got up after a half an hour nap. 6:30 pm. She took out the Little Thesaurus. The first page of the thesaurus was blank. She drew a rough picture of Jesus Christ on that blank page. To her surprise, the thesaurus elongated in size. A white painting of Christ on the black cover appeared and the book started talking.

“Anisha, why do you hate adults?”

“I hate those with ego, arrogance and power. I hate those who order, instruct and command. I hate those who curtail free will.”

“Free Will. I was killed on the cross due to the free will that God gave to humans. Do you know this? Do you know the story about the forbidden apple? About how Satan lured Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden apple. How I had to sacrifice myself to atone the humankind for their sins?”

“No, I didn’t know all this. I am not a Christian anyway. I am a Hindu.”

“But you don’t see Lord Ram or Krishna in your dreams, do you?”

“No, but I see Goddess Durga and Kali sometimes.”

“Oh. Do they say something to you?”

“No, but I have seen them giving a furious look at me. Must be because I am a naughty girl who does not respect adults.”

Then, suddenly the white painting of Jesus Christ disappeared from the black cover of the Little Thesaurus.

7 pm. The Little Thesaurus instantaneously was covered with a white gown, like a Christian Bride’s wedding gown. It was moving. It jumped on the bed and the bedcover turned into a black sheet with the painting of a white bride on it.

The Little Thesaurus started speaking.

“Anisha, I am getting married today.”

“Married to whom?”



“I, The Little Thesaurus, take you, to be my lawfully wedded wife to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”

“Wait. What the hell is happening?”,Anisha screamed.

Marriages happen in fairy tales. The princess in distress would marry the valiant prince. But she was a ten-year-old girl. How could a girl be married to the Little Thesaurus?

The Little Thesaurus stopped speaking. It was back to a normal non-living object.

The secret of all this must be in the diary written by Mr.Gangotri.

The diary had the same Christian bride on its front cover which had appeared on Little Thesaurus, a while back. Anisha opened the diary and she found photographs. Romantic photographs. Wedding photographs. Honeymoon photographs. Photographs of the Gangotri couple, showing the love between Mr Gangotri and Mrs Gangotri. Mrs Gangotri had such a bright happy face back then; she wore colourful gowns.

Anisha turned the pages. She found that Mr Gangotri had written letters addressed to Jesus Christ. On the last page of the diary, Mr Gangotri had written in black bold capital letters, “DEAR JESUS, SAVE ME FROM MY WIFE.” Anisha quickly closed the diary. She stood up and glanced out of the window. Her parents were coming home. Mrs Gangotri was following Anisha’s parents to their house.

As soon as Anisha opened the door to let her parents come in, Mrs Gangotri rushed inside and within seconds, her parents and Anisha had fainted on the floor. After a few hours, they regained their consciousness. Mrs Gangotri was not around. It seemed nothing had been stolen.

Anisha rushed to her room. To her big relief, The Little Thesaurus, in its black lifeless form, was still there. But the diary had disappeared. She searched for Mr Gangotri’s diary all around and could not find it.


Anisha erased the pencil drawn picture of Jesus Christ on the first blank page inside the Little Thesaurus. She drew a picture of her family, her mother, father and elder sister Nikita. Once again, the whole room started shaking. Once again, there was rain, snowfall and eventually, a rainbow. But this time, the Little Thesaurus transformed itself in a way it had not done before. It turned into Mr Gangotri – the ghost of dead Mr Gangotri!

Anisha fell with fear on the floor. Finally, she managed to utter the words, “Who are you?”

“Mr Gangotri. Your husband.”


“I am The Little Thesaurus. I wrote The Little Thesaurus. While I was alive, I was a specialist in linguistics, I was a consultant for the Oxford Dictionary. I had left the unfinished draft of the Little Thesaurus before I got married. After learning that my wife saw the world through a binary lens, that my wife loved antonyms, I decided to add a section to The Little Thesaurus- Universal Antonyms. I wanted the Little Thesaurus to contain all the antonyms which will develop a love for life in my wife. Ancient and modern. Clear and cloudy. Natural and man-made. My list of antonyms did not contain a single word with a sad connotation. No sad words in The Little Thesaurus- that is its uniqueness.”

Ten-year-old Anisha had not realised this fact about The Little Thesaurus – it had no sad words. There were no words such as disadvantage, scarce, ugly; this had not come to Anisha’s notice.


“I will tell you how in the world am I your husband. God and Mother Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ. I am your God. You are my Mother Mary. We both will give birth to an Anisha who knows how to respect adults.”

“NONSENSE. You are a ghost, aren’t you? Shouldn’t you be burning in hell because you took your own life? You gave up the beautiful life for which Jesus Christ had sacrificed himself.”


“I WILL NOT BE SILENCED. THE WOMEN OF THE WORLD WILL NOT BE SILENCED. You want me to respect adults? See what kind of a world your God has given to us. If you want to give birth, give birth to an Anisha who will be a feminist activist.”

“You have quite an extraordinary vocabulary at the age of ten.”

“Thanks. I have heard this statement hundreds of time from my English teacher, Ms Astha. She is my fan. I am the English genius of my school. I am quite a celebrity.”

“You hate adults because they are egotistic, but you aren’t free of ego, are you? You have the audacity to call yourself a celebrity and a teacher your fan.”

“Why not? When children are fans of elders, no one raises a finger. But when it is the other way around, people have a problem with that.”

“Anisha, adults have experiences. They are much more experienced than you and have got more lessons and insights from life than you have. They have gone through the struggles of life for a longer period of time than you have.”

“But are adults daydreamers like children? Are they as imaginative and optimistic as children? Do adults believe in fantasy and magic like children?”

Hearing this, the ghost of Mr Gangotri became pale.

“My wife Reena Gangotri was a daydreamer, she was imaginative and optimistic like you when she was ten years old. We used to play together. However, when she was 15, her mother died. Her father was alcoholic and abusive. Her mother who embodied all that was positive in life died. And her father refused to support Reena financially. She was kicked out of her home when she was 15.”

“What happened, then?”

“Reena did a number of odd jobs. Vendor. Waitress. Receptionist. But she wrote all along in her personal diary. She used to tell me that she will be the next JK Rowling. That was a time when, in spite of poverty, she had hope and love for life.”

“Did you do anything to help out her? Considering that you both were lovers since a young age…”

“I begged my father to pay for Reena’s high school fees. My kind and benevolent father agreed.”

“So, Reena graduated from high school. Did she go to college?”

“No. I could not arrange for funding of her college education. By the age of 18, depression had set in inside Reena. Thinking that I am the only person who could make her happy, I married her as soon as her psychiatric diagnosis was revealed. My one and only goal in life was to make Reena happy. Reena used to say that one day she will write a book titled Anisha’s Binary.”

“Anisha, that is my name!”

“Anisha was also Reena’s nickname. Reena said that one day she will write a book explaining why she loves opposites, why she wanted everything to be black and white, why she never liked shades of grey. Her mother-an angel. Her father- a demon. That was the root. Her parents were a paradox-a couple of contradictory personalities. From a young age, she saw that her mother was the essence of everything that is good in the world. Her father-the quintessential pessimist and cynic.”

Then, the ghost of Mr Gangotri disappeared. The Little Thesaurus had disappeared for good.

It was 9 pm. Dinner time. Family time. Anisha started looking at her parents with newfound respect. What were my mom and dad’s struggles? Did they ever have depression? Had they ever lost a loved one? Did they ever struggle to make their ends meet? How did they pay for their college’s tuition fees? Her privileged upbringing had made Anisha blind towards the stories of struggle. She was rich. Her parents were rich. She assumed all the adults were always rich right from their birth, just like her. She lived in a posh colony in South Delhi. She went to a global school, which was completely air-conditioned.

But her interaction with Little Thesaurus taught her that the past life of so many adults is a mystery to us. Why had they lost their optimism and hope? Why did they stop dreaming? There are so many stories behind the mental health and attitude of adults that we don’t know. And many of them don’t go about complaining about their past struggles and bragging about where they have reached in spite of all that struggle.

It was still a mystery why Mr Gangotri had killed himself. Anisha now was curious to know about the past of all the adults in her life.


“I want to kill myself,” said Anisha’s new boyfriend.

“What’s your story? I want to hear everything about your past,” replied Anisha.


Image Courtesy: Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Ode to an Inkling

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

The constant tremble of my toes,
The ache to leave all and tread ahead.
The desire to breathe in fire.
The aim to lunge at the horizon.
The rush rushes for the plane to soar.
I shut the magic and open the screensaver.
My world beckons to mock,
My lust reprimanded.

But dreams persist ahead in the grey restlessness of lazy afternoons.
The plight of moments hovering like laden flies.
Is there an approaching merchant down the winding road,
Bearing adventures of journeys past?
Will the dusty leaves part for a curious pixie to peer out?
Will the rains form an ocean for a walnut boat?
Will the two chasing boys down the street discover an ancient coin amidst concrete?
Will the glistening mirage be of bloody rubies, sing of histories before Man?

There on the wall the fat cat turned
And indecision crept midway.
What if I lay in slumber till end?
What if being a sloth were not a sin?
What if my credit expired?
What if I lay forgotten and the Devil pranced in delight?
What if I saw the far horizon?
What if rejection waited, smug and clawed?
What if I was not the Avatar they awaited, mere mortals, moronic and cruel?

Deep within, the Recluse and his Muse sit arm in arm.
Limbs intertwined in passion.
The Recluse indulges his Muse,
Time forgotten, space confined.
I am without you, within you, the Muse muses.
I am the screams of silence.

But is this silence oblivion of the Steppe, stretching its limbs into the unknown?
Does it wait in hidden corners?
Listening, Lurking, leering?
Fragments of the past buried deepest,
Revisiting in glorious tomorrows?
Does it seek to sooth or to avenge my monotonous history?

Yet hope moves in grace, and promises hidden wonders.
And Time- my confidante whispers Hope’s treacherous sins.
How crude are the tricks!
I stare at the three headed beast,
Wonder, disguise or Almighty’s blessing?

The fear so sunk in, affirms the worst nightmare.
The expected tread of friendly feet,
So far, the self is lost in the vast.
The macabre holds so close.
I can’t break the gaze, what if the relentless follow and slay?
The war that rages within fuels battles of creation.
And my soul senses the beckoning defeat, the end so vivid.

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash


Photo by Rad Pozniakov on Unsplash

The Kalashnikov imagery stutters like broken kids in the valleys,

This idol of time, a relic not worshipped.

The struggles in the hills of the country go unnoticed.

The valley dreams; this pendant of charm, this shining valley, beckons.

We will go. Through the gates, the unbuilt bridges, the burnt villages.

We will go.

From the cities, we will spread out and form the human bridge, and we will meet them in the mountain valleys.

And then, a wisp of smoke will go up, and the smell of burning will coexist with the savagery.

The primitive existence will begin.

Our voices will be guns.

And we will all burn.

And the puppet strings will burn.

And when our ashes will be cremated, they will find our hearts still beating, our brains still working

We do not tire

We do not rest

We are the valley people

We are the circus clown

The middle people, wedged in mockery, the civilized disharmony, the pantomime execution.

We are the idols of time.

Photo by Rad Pozniakov on Unsplash