No one

No one sits under the tamarind tree.
Not since the red and off-white tapes
Replaced the red and yellow strings:
Those holy strings dipped in holy paste
Of vermilion and turmeric.

No one consecrated these tapes.
No incense burned, no cymbals clapped.
Just the hurried work of worried men
In khaki clothes and khaki caps,
Eager to put their backs to this street.

No one had called them here.
It’s the street’s business if tamarind trees
Sprouted a forty-year-old man.
The street’s business to pluck it down,
To make a furnace of makeshift wood,
To roast the tamanrind to ashes,
To can it for later use.

No one sits under the tree anymore.
They don’t touch their heads to its trunk
On their way to work and back.
They don’t climb it to pluck petticoats,
Eloped with the wind from balconies.
They don’t sweep its fallen leaves,
Not even on a Dashami.

No one looks at the tall, old lady.
The dark one Dad calls “President”,
The last one to raise her heavy voice,
The smart one to settle quarrels here.

No one gets up when she comes.
They turn their gossip well away
To rising prices and falling health.
They turn their gazes all around,
Looking for misplaced excuses.
They turn away, one by one,
Slowly, not all of them at once.

No one knows on which day now
She will use the axe she carries.

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