In the foothills of the Himalayas, in the tea capital of India, Palampur, I volunteered for a month with the NGO ‘Volunteer India’. I assisted in a daycare that educated toddlers, cooked and distributed food to the community, and recorded as well as monitored the health of pregnant women and their babies. India is a force of collision because with all its beauty and joyous citizens, it still can harbor a clashing suffering.
A stomach gurgles:
his large head on a neck of wire
like plates of curry stacked too high
on a waiter’s breaking pinky.
I look the other way; a tear, a shard of glass to the eye blinds me
in a fuzzy haze he evaporates into the market
melding into a fury of colour.
Monsoon swarms the sky with devotion,
pouring like religious excess in dark days.
The temple on the horizon casts an enveloping light,
the swath of a mother’s vibrant sari.
The fabrics swish and slash like the dull blade to the tea leaves
Goldless women tire in the fields
Children swarm to the daycare
A soothing lullaby cleans the coal eyeliner leaking down baby cheeks
Baby sways in my arms like long black hair in the river’s embrace.
Lentils heat on the single cooker.
The fire crackles like the brittle bones of the famished cow.
Slice of sensuous mango drips from splintered lips.
Students crouch, a silver bowl in eager hands awaiting the spoon.
Fierce cloves and saffron pierce the left nostril.
Prayer flags flap rhythmically in the Himalayan winds.
An ivory horse ghostly drags its rotten hoof through town.
Withering insides and hollowed out eyes consume reeking garbage in the ditch
beside the vanishing grass.
Weight of a baby girl, light as the empty sack of rice.
Tiny fingertips caress the dish’s neck lovingly like a prisoner’s noose.
The ladle fills the bowls with steaming rice and lentils.
The belly of this country rumbles with joy.