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Semeen Ali
Semeen Ali

Indian railways on 15th August 1947: Freedom brought with it New Challenges
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The desolate railway tracks
Left on the sides of them
Overrun and disfigured
The train that had taken thousands away
Dead and alive

Have left several behind
Rolled off from the platforms
Few have fallen on the side tracks

Let the flowers of Amaltas
Cover the bodies
The tiny yellow flowers
Might protect the last vestiges 
The dogs have sniffed them out
Dragging their prizes away
The fight amongst them begins
Gnarling Growling
Tearing to shreds
Those fingers that would have held someone elses…

These are times to turn away one’s face
These are times to go deaf
Across the platform a man lies down
Under the Amaltas tree
Left behind
Waiting for another train
Maybe it will return to take him away
Away from the horror that he has seen
And done

He had to do it to protect himself
How else could he survive?
He had to lie
He had to kill
How else would he make it?
That face amongst the bricks
One eye closed
The other –empty
Just a face lying
Amongst the bricks
Submerged in water
That face that held no questions
As if made out of mud…

A dog comes near
Sniffing the bruised ankle
The eyes open in fear

You cannot fall asleep
You cannot live to tell the tale…

(The poem has tried to imagine a scene during the time of the Partition as heard from a generation that experienced it first-hand)

To be or not to see
To see and not to breathe
To breathe and to tell
To tell and not to dwell
To dwell and then leave
To leave and then rewind
To rewind and then grieve
To grieve and then receive

Receive what?
A consolation?
A constellation of thoughts/words/ideas/minds

Down and down
The spiral thread
Up and up
The straight one

Descend into madness
Madness that casts a shadow
Nay not cast; hides us

Hide behind that pillar.
Look! The sun is coming up
Close your eyes
Close them tight
The graves have started to dig themselves up…


Issue 97 (May-Jun 2021)

feature Indian English Writing – Memory, Ancestry, Legend
  • Editorial
    • Charanjeet Kaur: Editorial Reflection
  • Conversation
    • Taseer Gujral: Taseer Gujral in conversation with Sakoon N Singh
  • The Library in My Mind
    • Annapurna Sharma: My Powerhouse
    • Gurudarshan Singh: Of books within books
  • Memoirs
    • Atreya Sarma U: Oh, Grandpa! Bless us from the Heavens!
    • GSP Rao: Jamalpur, the British Township in Bihar
    • Ishmeet Kaur Chaudhry: Journey – A Memoir, 1947
    • Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca: Jewish Legends
    • Narinder Jit Kaur: Memoir
    • Saaz Aggarwal: Snapshots
    • Sambhu Nath Banerjee: The Legend of Rays – The Everlasting Influence on Indian Art and Culture
    • Vidya Premkumar: The German Legacy of Panchikkal Madhavan Kunjkunj
  • Poetry
    • Ishmeet Kaur
    • Mahasweta Baxipatra
    • Mark Floyer
    • Priyanka Das
    • S Parul
    • Sanjeev Sethi
    • Santanu Das
    • Semeen Ali
    • Shweta Garg
    • Sneha Roy
    • Surbhi Sharma
    • Vidya Premkumar
  • Fiction
    • Charanjeet Kaur: You live in flowers
    • Ishmeet Kaur Choudhry: Kheti Bari
    • Murli Melwani: The Child of Prayers
    • Rachel Bari: A Tear shed for you
  • Book Reviews
    • Charanjeet Kaur: Stories Brought Alive
    • Paromita Chakrabarti: Constantly moving, relentlessly seeking, furiously exploring
    • Sneha Roy: A Ruminative Account
    • Vidya Premkumar: A Pioneer Then and Now