Cot, Cups and Chair

When she shifted to a hostel,
Her Grandpa, one day, called
And asked with whom she
Shares her room.
When he heard the person’s name
A deep breath of relief he took,
“A pandit, that is good.
See, beta never live with those
from the lower caste,
And also stay away from Muslims,
Those people are bad.”
The words he was spilling so happily,
Pierced her ears like shards.

Her Grandma once was sitting,
With all her friends, talking,
On a woven jute cot.
They were four or five,
All of them laughing, giggling,
But what, to her eyes, seemed odd
Were the two women sitting
Cross-legged on a floor mat.
Her Amma told her later,
They were her dearest friends
But to low caste they belonged.
“Even if you would have
Offered them to sit on chairs,
They simply would not have sat.
They are brought up like that,
They sit not on equal levels.
The oppression has seeped,
Deep in their blood.”

It was the day of colours.
On Holi she was, this year, in her village.
Different customs, traditions,
She came in contact with.
In the evening all the girls dressed up
And sat in the verandah
And the boys and men
Went out to touch the elder’s feet
At each home in the village
At night, she heard her cousins,
Of someone they were making fun.
One boy from them mistakenly
Had touched some Shudra’s feet.
The accused little boy was sobbing,
Refusing that such he not did.

Her Uncle came unexpectedly
At home, with few of his friends.
After making them comfortably sit,
From back door he entered kitchen.
Whispers passed on between
Him and Aunt.
She called her and handed a tray,
With cups three identical, one odd
And gave strict instructions
To hand that cup to the man in black.
When asked the reason,
She said he belongs to a caste not ours,
“So go and simply hand him the
Cup with white-green flowers.”
She shook her head, stepped back,
Refused to do such thing.
Her aunt rolled her eyes,
Called her a disgrace
And with the tray, went in.

One summer she remembers,
A man came in the afternoon.
To some distant village he belonged.
Her Grandpa was sitting there,
With whom he had some work.
At the right of him was kept,
A brown plastic chair,
The man humbly sat on it,
Discussed the work and away he went.
After few minutes had passed,
Her grandfather called her close,
“Go bring a bucket full of water”
Said this and quietly rose.
She swinging, singing, happily,
Did as she was told,
But when he with a forceful splash
Threw the water on that chair,
The action stopped her senses
And completely left her bemused.

“Casteism is a thing of past,
And those who talk of caste biases
Just play the victim card…”
An acquaintance of hers kept blaring
While in front of her eyes
The many cots, cups, chairs kept floating.

Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty