Plate of Lychees Declared Guilty in Bihar

The following poem is based on the deaths of children due to Encephalitis in Muzzafarpur, and the studies that strongly suggest eating lychees empty stomach causes hypoglycemia, due to the toxins released. This ultimately causes hypoglycemic encephalopathy; the leading cause of deaths there. But is it really?


Chotu sat playing with broken toys
on mud floor, as light seeps inside,
through a torn dupatta Ma uses no more,
this is the place he calls home,
a size your bathroom won’t fit, but he sits
and he plays, thinking about a friend he had made,
who lay in hospital now, probably dead.

Bhaiya brings him lychees he plucked
fresh, Chotu grabs
Two, three, more, in desperation,
it might be the only thing on the plate tonight,
he hadn’t eaten in so long, his stomach cries,
rumbling, trying to shout over the noise
of their poverty. The silence of
their wallets, deafening.

Bhaiya carries him in his arms, the next day,
wrapping cloth dipped in cold water,
Over his face, his little brother,
had he caught what other hundreds his age
battled their lives against?
clueless, helpless, he prayed for him to recover,
but the next day arrived, Chotu’s laugh didn’t return,
He carried his little body on his shoulders,
running powerless towards the hospital.

Chotu lay in a bed along with 20 others,
waiting for his turn, as he saw a hand catering the first,
then second,
and his turn did come,
but on the line, the other side, where 140 other children rest,
the ones who never opened their eyes.

Bhaiya cried in the hospital hallway,
the price of his loss,
wasn’t enough
to buy him a seat to mourn,
He reads a headline that says:
Lychee toxin in an empty stomach causing deaths?
while on the building alongside,
a girl Chotu’s age, sat on a sofa,
drinking fresh lychee juice made by the chefs downstairs,
in silverware,
of the unfair juxtaposition of lives,
under the same sky.

Cause of death:
The unfairly distributed misery of poverty?
The doctor says the former, moves ahead,
Bhaiya gets diagnosed with the latter.
How long will he suffer, how long will they?

Featured image credit: Reuters