Then Came the King’s Men

By Himadri Lahiri

Rabindranath Tagore by Sudhir Khastgir.
Courtesy: Creative Commons
Then Came the King’s Men

There he sat, a hermit under a chhatim tree
deep in meditation under the sun
that scorched the face of the earth with burning sores.
Brigands roamed about the territory at night
when it came alive with sounds of thousand crickets and glow worms.
There, there were born young saplings that grew up into dense foliage –
refuge of birds, insects and hundreds of other species.
There, there he founded a casteless ashram community
that reposed faith in God and man.

The bearded bard took the baton forward
turned the place into a nest where wise birds from distant places flocked.
They hummed different tunes in perfect unison – 
songs of diverse languages, cultures and knowledge.
With the end of the season many did not go back.
The village grew into a warm world.
The trees kept company when the young learnt 
the way chicks pick up small pieces of knowledge.
Fear was banished, freedom whispered to the innocents,
asked them of their playmates, pet dogs or birdlore
while the bard sang on.

As time moved on, the other freedom came.
With it slowly came sloth, self and salary.
The green faded into the walled universe
the size of a wooden ball.

Then came the king’s men 
manacles tied to their girdles, glistening. 
Wrapped in vanity and arrogance
with claws sharper than the wolf’s
threw a net around the greying green,
fragmented the universe into narrow walls.
Devices with strange names sprouted
with eyes on all things mortal,
turned men against men.
Wild messages ran riot
rotting the fabric of the place.
Closeted in a cold room in front of a bright screen,
the boss boasted,
“Mission accomplished, 
let us raise a toast to our great, newly bearded guru.”

Himadri Lahiri taught English at the University of Burdwan. He is now associated with Netaji Subhas Open University. His poems were earlier published in Borderless Journal, Rupkatha, Café Dissensus and in many more forums.

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