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Poem on the Gujarat Earthquake

When a mother gets even

In the land of the Mahatma,
Where people also saw
The rare solar spectacle and
The disaster that jolted the millennium
Porbandhar, Bhuj and Ahmedabad
Has united the country's hearts.

Gujarat has weathered many a storm,
But this quake it seems, is too much for her.
Shaking and sobbing from deep within,
She swallows her children 'midst her hungry dance.

How can a mother become so cruel
Or what was the torture she did face
That she has to get so gory,
To slash, maim and kill
All her children - young and old?

Was it to teach us all a lesson
That such a harsh game she was forced to play?
When her quaking innards brought crumbling down
All man-made creations - shaking and killing?

What was it you wanted to say
By ravaging thus you cruel mother?
"Tampered with me enough; stay off and away", or
"Stop meddling will you, with my lands and seas,
Greens and plains, hills and rivers, air and water."

Why do you have to wait so long
To tell your children to lessen their numbers
To build simpler houses and not to be greedy?
Why were you so patient, to tell your people
To cut lesser trees? Today they have reached a point when
They don't want to cut, even to cremate their beloved dead.

What did you do when your children were busy
Stacking brick on brick and
Filling with concrete their multiple storeys?

Why the silence, when in avarice they grabbed,
Acres upon acres of your sylvan lands?

Why the patience, when they unmindfully chopped
The loving branches of your verdant country?

What for you were quiet, when your children paved
Your brown body with hot tar and concrete?

Should you have remained still when they hammered so long
To build those mighty structures that gave them such pride?

What for the calmness when they stopped the course
Of your sweet waterways, damming it to be damned?

Now your children are crying,
You who have failed in your duty to chide
Your innocent wards, even when they began
To play very dangerous games.

Where went your warning when your kith and kin
Spewed chemicals and poured fertilisers
Choking your breath, poisoning your food?

Tell me, should you be so patient,
Till you have to get so angry
And swallow your children
In such a violent upheaval?

But dear mother, at least now
You taught us your lesson
When man and woman was on the road,
Fighting about Christ or Mohammed,
You have now told them what it means
To simply love each other.

When man went about burning mosques and raping nuns,
You couldn't but find, another way to stop him.

When your leaders were blabbering
About Rama or Babur
Your violent protest did shut their mouth.

When your business folks were busy
Exporting all their wealth abroad,
Whitening the blue sea with their gallons of white milk
For, they said their prices were too low,
Your silent struggle in poverty
Is killing them all at one go now.

They did not listen to your cry,
When they built room upon unnecessary room
Shutting their hearts to their fellow humans.

Today you gave their 10-th floor complacence a gruesome shake
And from that height they all fall down
To be humbled in line with their jhopdi brethren.

But tell me mother, what harm your tiny children did do,
All the 400 and many more buried,
Their innocent hearts crushing with the debris?
For this alone, I will forgive you not.

But better late than never at all
For atleast now you taught your children
How to get together and lend a shoulder.

At least now, they learnt a lesson,
That with calamity comes unity.

At least with this it has struck them
Not to tamper too much with you.

At least at this point we realise
The rich and the poor, we are all one and the same.

Though 'tis the eleventh hour they have found
That they should lend a ear to your whispers and warnings,
What Mahatma Gandhi could not teach,
What all the holy scriptures failed to impress,
Your silent quake has shown them the need
To work in harmony and with content be.

By Akhilananda Bharati.

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