Street Monitor

She opened shop at 6am
And sat in there till ten at night.
You went to her for bidi, paan,
Suppulu, daantikili bites.

You also went to her for sass,
For, man, she had a saucy tongue.
You went to her for asking who
“Forgot” to clean their cattle’s dung.

For that is what she did the best.
She monitored the street entire.
She knew when bulls were in the heat,
And men had groins itching fire.

You often overheard her tell
A pregnant, newly wedded bride,
“You have to let him do you more.
He’s started sprinkling walls outside.”

You often overheard her scoff
At men who bragged of honest work.
“If I start selling alcohol,
There’s not a day that you won’t shirk.”

She’d seen her husband die of lust
And lost a son to spurious drink.
She saw a grandson smoking up
And tottering around the brink.

On rainy days, you saw her cry.
The pattering unnerved her so.
But even on the cyclone days
She wouldn’t close her shop and go.

For nothing waited back at home,
Except a silent misery.
Her living son, a beating brute.
His wife, a pot of trickery.

And so, when age caught up with her,
When she became banana-shaped,
When walnut lids restrained her eyes,
She planned her terminal escape.

No matter what she tried, alas,
Her son, his wife, would foil her plans.
They lived on pension she received
For government service of her man.

And that is how two decades passed,
Until she couldn’t hear or talk
Or see or feel or eat or sleep
Or even get up for a walk.

Whenever there were drums of death,
She’d feel them shaking up her bones.
You’d hear her scream into her dark
And shiver at her drumming moans.

Tonight, the drums are all alone.
No scream, no moan, no wailing voice.
Tonight, at ninety-three, she passed
Amidst a soundless raining noise.

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