An Insistent Music


The music was always in our ears
goose-stepping softly to a distant military tune
but the madman who perches by the signal

he could never hear it

then another beat rose to reverberate in our guts
drums and synthesizers in riotous processions
from dusk to dawn, emptying the streets into the sea.

the air thick with abir and gulal
eyes glazed, faces masked with revelry
the drums’ increasing tempo to the tune of currency

the procession danced crazier the air
scarlet, scarlet the faces and scarlet
the sky as far as you could see

the madman left his perch as every procession
approached, joining in yet keeping a respectful distance
feet keeping time

waving multicoloured rags over his head
he whirled and danced his dance
laughing and clapping his hands

isn’t being shut in just as bad as being shut out?

the roll of drums and cymbals closes in

darkening the horizon
the music that was always in our ears
marches faster, stronger, louder, bolder

now he hears it too yet he dances
with the same abandon
swirling and waving

and the streets empty into the sea

then suddenly he is alone
just him and the music

he sees the boots marching
to a military tune

he stands there by the traffic light
arms by his side, the rags limp in his hands
his grey beard gone pink with the colour

settling around him on the asphalt at his feet
the night is dark, uniform crisp sharp steps are all he hears.


(First published in Guftugu: Indian Cultural Forum)


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