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Manohar Shetty

Drawings on the Wall: Three Poems

manohars“Cinema Paradiso”, Shoili Kanungo, drawing


The paintings on the roadside wall
Are in primary shades
And of the same size:
A star and crescent moon,
The Golden Temple shimmering
In a lake, Lord Shiva crowned
By a hooded snake, Buddha’s locks
Like a mound of peppercorns
And a whiplashed Christ crucified.

The streetlights are stoned every night.

Drawings on the Wall

You’re allowed out in the yard
Twice a year to salute the limp
Tricolour; even on festive days
You watch from a guarded distance
Families bringing in home
Cooked meals, a few luxuries,
Snapshots of loved ones
And other garlanded memories.

Shackled for a crime framed
In some wasted forest, you’ve
Lost your visitation rights,
Your one acre to the feudal
Clan and the assembly line.
Now guards with mutton chop
Whiskers rattle the prison bars
With their phallic batons.

Barred from pen and paper,
With a piece of coal or chalk
You dab the walls with stick
Drawings of children, their arms
Raised before poised guns,
Ripped banners and of peasants
On their knees, their ribs like
Barbed wire, their eyes
Mesmerized by the headlights
Of jeeps, by foaming dogs
Straining at the leash.


I’m an open air facility not
Just for birds and mongrels
But for vagrants and peasants
In whose honour I’ve been
Set up, all chiselled stone
And iron in the soul,
My arm in a forward salute,
My boots grounded, in
My left hand an unbroken
Flag of freedom.

Once I was worshipped,
Groomed and garlanded.
Rousing speeches lit
Up my stony heart.
Now monkeys chatter
On my arm, scratch their
Puzzled heads and feed
On banana peels flung
From flashing new cars.

Today grassroots
Grow rank at my feet.
Today I’m washed down
By passing showers.