Free

They kicked him out of the house
When his mother finally died
And his father brought a woman
To birth a new child who wasn’t
So broken in the head.
They sent him to the outhouse
Which had once been a haystack,
Then a cowshed-cum-urinal,
Then a government-sponsored toilet,
And most recently a garbage dump.
They made him clear it out,
Which he didn’t mind a bit.
He didn’t mind much anyway.
Not his mother dying. “Free!”
Not his father remarrying. “Free!”
Not his house-ousting. “Free!”
Not his isolation. “Free!”
He just had a gap-toothed smile
And that solitary word: “Free!”

He climbed trees and ate fruits:
Guavas and berries and mangoes.
He climbed pipes and drank water:
Taps and tanks and balcony hoses.
He ran like the madman he was
When the kids chased him around.
He ran like the madman he was
When he chased the dogs around.
But when you asked him how he was,
He just had a gap-toothed smile
And that solitary word: “Free!”

He was useful too in certain ways.
When the bull from the Shiva temple
Got into heat and jumped on cows,
Only he had the ferocity to keep it off.
When the street’s drain choked
On the droppings of men and cows,
Only he had the generosity to clean it up.
But when you asked him how much,
He just had a gap-toothed smile
And that solitary word: “Free!”

So, when his father, drunkenly sick,
Caressed his hair and politely asked
If he could perhaps donate his liver,
He just had a gap-toothed smile
And that solitary word: “Free!”