Shoddy Bar


They sat facing one another
Inside the shoddy bar
Swarthy figures
Like in American cartoons
Their visages waxen
Looks distant
Cadaverous blank

The figures of Jesus On The Cross
His pain lighted
By a low watt crimson bulb
Smiling Lord Ganesh
Granting boons
With burnt-out incense sticks
Before him
Presided over the scene

Each had a burden
Perhaps the dejection
Due to cruel rejection
Of the past to bury
Or a long-lost love
A broken wedlock
Death of a sweet-heart
A broken heart of some sort

They sat
Puffing at their fags
Or beedis
Or whatever they had
The glow at the tip
Of what they smoked
Said it all
The burn that rued their hearts

Aches of the like
The winds of the plains
Could hardly hope to soothe
Angst, the wisdom
Of the silent mounts around
Could ever undo

They sat puffing and drinking
In silence at the cacophonous bar
Shoddy, dilapidated
Infested with flies
Flying insects and mice

Dreaming they could once again
Sit with their kids
Under hurricane lamps
Late into the night
Helping them with their lessons
As the clouds rumbled
On distant mountain tops

As their wives garnished
Some favourite dish
In smoky kitchens unlit
Wiping burning eyes
With greying sari tips

Later to return
To their late night beds
To grant midnight warmth
Of sweat and love
That made the nights
More odoriferous
Than the incense burnt
Before indifferent Gods

They longed and longed
As every drink sank
Into their burning core
To return to the shores of love afar
As the world outside brimmed
Calling them drunkards

Refusing to grant
There are addictions of sorts
Religion, power and fads
Women, avarice, greed
That ruined humankind
More than the drinks
The entire humanity drank

With their glasses emptied
They would now decamp
Like moths fleeing a dying lamp
Into the night’s waiting arms
To the big bar under the shimmering stars
Where the cups are full again
With tears frothing in grief and pain

Where they would lie wide awake
After a fitful nap past midnight
On their unkempt beds like dried-up twigs
To roll and roll alone in pain
Sob and cry again in vain
And sing to far off receding plains
Where their solace hidden, remains

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