The sky is a white cloth soaked in indigo dye
losing saturation as we go higher.
Car headlights like organised fireflies on the highway–
same route, different speeds.
Pawn shops scream ‘cash for gold’,
tuition billboards and sweet shops complete the scene,
as flies lazily swarm vats of liquid sugar.
A group of kids run across the street
sharing a cigarette.
Girls browse the wares of redi wallahs
sling bags held closely to their bodies.
Looking for jhumkas
their bargaining echoes off the street
and the blue plastic sheets the shopkeepers use to keep their wares safe
drown in the honks of the angry guy in the taxi.
The streetlights wink on, one by one
until the street lights up.
The traffic signal changes–
green to red, red to green.
The cars which slowed down
begin to move.
Traffic grinds to a halt
and moves again.
In the distance
A two-storey tall statue of Vishnu
shines dimly in the orange lights which bathe it.
His halo silhouetted against the night
those blank, sightless, carved eyes
stare out into the night.
Made by humans,
worshipped by humans,
murdered in the name of
violated in the name of.
I never disliked the phrase ‘Jai Shri Ram‘ before –
never before have those words
seemed soaked in so much blood and pain
When I hear these words now, I feel sick.
Instead of marigold flowers and incense,
those words now evoke images of
blurry videos featuring Muslim men being beaten
nearly to death
lying down on the ground, begging for mercy,
tears streaming from their eyes,
forced to chant a phrase
which has long since ceased to mean anything.
A Kwality Walls ice-cream vendor blares past
his loud music shattering my reverie.
How many ice-creams did he sell today?
Does he have enough to eat tonight?
Where will he sleep tonight?
I don’t know.
I don’t care, really–
if I’m being honest
I worry enough about the environment
and the future of this country to add strangers to that list.
Other than the list of those I love, their safety, their sanity–
most of whom happen to be female.
Empathy is exhausting
is a choice.
Aadya Gupta is a passionate feminist and a third year law student studying at Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat. Her interests include literature, environmental sustainability, and intersectional activism.
Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty