The Tempering of Steel
About the Author
Syamantakshobhan Basu thrives on the shock his name generates as it rolls off the tongue. He is a research scholar at Jadavpur University, an activist, a film enthusiast and fiction writer. He is also an avid sports fan. All this is actually deep cover for his true identity as an incorrigible punmaker and unpaid comedian. He currently resides in Kolkata.
Walking in the Streets of a Free Country
I live in a free country;
Land of the Free, home of the Brave
Abode of everything that is Holy.
In this free country the open streets
Are nothing like a prison,
Nothing like a minefield scattered
With the sleeping bodies of half-naked people.
I walk these free streets at night
Singing loudly of the freedom I enjoy;
To eat as I please, dress as I like
And love whomever I want.
I pass the shuttered factory gate and
Hear the workers sing of their freedom to starve,
I walk past my Muslim neighbours’ home
While they freely watch Republic TV
Politely suggesting they go to Pakistan.
I walk the littered streets under the orange glow
Of dying electric lamps and past the shanty
Of the man who will sweep them with his broom
In the morning, delighted that he is fulfilling
His ancient duty of cleaning up after the gentlemen.
Freely he enters manholes and covers himself with shit
Remembering stories of others like him who died there.
They tell me a woman was shot last night,
Gauri Lankesh they said her name was.
Freely she wrote about freedom taken away,
About lives lost and humanity degraded.
Freely she let her pen sharpen like a sword
And willingly she pointed it at those who said
That in order for the land to be more free
Most of us would have to give up all freedom.
Three men walked up to her while she was
Entering the place she called home and shot her
Seven times, letting the blood run freely from her
Lifeless body slumped on the earth of this free country.
I walk the streets and reach my home;
I look around three times before I enter,
Searching for hidden assailants in the bushes.
Perhaps someday soon they will walk up to me
And put some bullets in my thoughtless head.
This is a free country,
They have every freedom to do so.
45 poems spread across 3 sections