Degrees of Separation
About the Author:
Born in 1993, Nilesh Mondal grew up in Asansol, West Bengal. An undergraduate in engineering by choice, he stumbled onto poetry by chance. His works have been published in various magazines and e-journals such as Bombay Literary Review, Café Dissensus, Muse India, Inklette, Kitaab and Coldnoon Travel Poetics. He works as a writer for Terribly Tiny Tales. This is his first book of poetry.
Death certificate of an ordinary armyman
The jawan arrives home
Fresh from war
Covered from head to toe in sheets that smell of mothballs.
At the throat of his mohallā
The coffin-bearing car stops.
And a crowd of hands rush forward
To touch his feet.
They never noticed his face.
The jawan studied in the corner class of a pāthshālā for twelve years
But no classmate remembers his voice
Or how his hand rose in questions.
The jawan failed class 9 twice
But no teacher remembers
His cries for help
His inability to memorize, how algebra unfolds.
The jawan fought in thirty battles and three and a half wars
The jawan fired forty thousand rounds of bullets in a lifetime
The jawan was bedridden for twenty-seven months
But his relatives never asked whether the air was too thin at Siachen
Whether he had contracted dengue in Bangladesh
Whether all his friends returned home every vacation.
The jawan died unnamed
Government reports say.
But his name has since been mentioned
While murdering a teacher
While bludgeoning a father
While arresting homosexuals
While imprisoning college students.
And every time his name is taken,
And in violence
The jawan turns a little,
In his mothball-smelling coffin.