Another Sabitri

by Dilip Mohapatra (July 2016)

Shuffling of boots of the security men

on the hospital's cobble stoned courtyard

where the national flag is to be hoisted

on the Republic Day

wakes her up from the trance

of the forty winks that she could

steal away from long hours of nightlong vigils

as she leans against

the betel leaf stained walls of the corridor

while beside her wrapped in a dirty

moth eaten quilt

her husband lies supine

a skeletal hand sticking out

linked to an inverted bottle

hanging from a stand and feeding

him intravenously

with reluctant drops trickling hesitantly.

 

As the clock strikes eight

and the guard commander barks the command

to present arms

and as the tricolour rides the mast

the human form under the crumpled quilt

whimpers and shudders for the last time

and her heart beating louder she feels his pulse

that beats no more.

 

The ward boy appears and urges her

to vacate the corridor for others in queue

and she dumps her belongings

the body and all on a trolley cart

and pushes it to the burning ghat not far away.

She doesn't want to get her husband back

like the other one did by tricking

the God of Death

but simply wants to consign it to flames

on the funeral pyre and pray for

his salvation.

 

The undertaker shuts the gate on her

for she has no money left in her purse

to buy the fire wood

having just paid the hospital bills

and she is left with her only possessions

her five young kids and nothing else.

Caught between the dilemma

of assets and liability

she takes her final decision

to pawn her two sons to her neighbour

who graciously agrees to pay her

five thousand rupees

that could take care of the last rites

and feed for few days

the remaining three.

 

___________________________________________
 

Note: Saga of the Odia woman Sabitri from Champua village who pawned her two sons for husband's funeral. Saddened by a recent ToI coverage.

 

Dilip Mohapatra (b.1950), a decorated Navy Veteran started writing poems since the seventies . His poems have appeared in many literary journals of repute worldwide. Some of his poems are included in the World Poetry Yearbook, 2013 and 2014 Editions. He has four poetry collections to his credit published by Authorspress India, and one non-fiction, a book of wisdom titled Points to Ponder. He holds two masters degrees, in Physics and in Management Studies. He lives with his wife in Pune. His website may be accessed at dilipmohapatra.com.

 

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