Moon, roti and a massacre

Ananya Bhattacharya
Ananya BhattacharyaMay 08, 2020 | 19:20

Moon, roti and a massacre

The invisible poor will go back to being invisible. That Dark Side of the country cannot be captured. Four rotis can't do it.

Khudar rajye prithibi-godyomoy

Purnimar chand jeno jholshano ruti.

(In the realm of Hunger, the world is prosaic:

The Full Moon is a scorched bread.)

Yesterday, it was Buddha Purnima. We stepped out to our balconies, went up to our terraces, held up the mobile camera, and clicked the beautiful, pockmarked moon. Some brought out their DSLRs and tele lenses. What a beautiful moon. Moonstruck. From Bombay to Banaras, Delhi to Deoghar, we sang paeans to this pretty moon. No matter what happens, no matter which virus tries defeating us, we, children of the midnight moon, are together in it. Inside our homes, all apart, but all together. Or are we?


While we were waxing eloquent about the beauty of the full moon, a group of migrants, ik bagal mein chand, ik bagal mein roti, walked on. Exhausted by the walk and their stomachs satiated with the roti, they slept on the railway tracks, knowing fully well no trains would pass because had the trains been running, they wouldn't be walking in the first place. While the full moon that looked like the jhulsa roti watched from above.

In the realm of hunger, the world is prosaic. Poems are for the well-fed. Hunger needs hammer-hard prose. Full moons are for the full stomachs. For the migrants, life is but two rotis. A little bit of sabzi if they are lucky. And if they are unlucky the tracks shake as a train, the unlikeliest train, hurtles down the track. And before they could gather themselves and run, the train runs them over. The full moon is a silent witness. The moon has been a silent witness many moons.


Outside the India locked-in in their homes, there is a stream of Indians walking back to Bharat, betrayed by India when they were most vulnerable. The State has stopped all means of transport and made it illegal to walk. Putting life above law, they walk out of the sheer will.


The kind of will that powers the industries, the factories, the cities, the machinery. They decided to walk for days, weeks, months to reach home. And walked into uncertain death.

You will ask, "Kaun hai yeh log? Kahan se aate hai?" Someone will try drilling sense into your head. Someone else will side with you and ask, "But why were they even sleeping on the tracks?"

You will see story after story of a Bhikhu who sold his phone to pay off his debt before killing himself. You will see a Krishna and a Pramila trying to cycle back to their home before a speeding vehicle runs them over. You will see sixteen of them, nameless, faceless, their body parts strewn all over the rail tracks.

A cobbled shoe. A belt holding together a pair of legs. A decimated body hastily covered by leaves so the photos are not ruined. Four rotis.

You will stare at them till your senses can no longer take it. Close the tab. Bring out the DSLR. There is another moon to click today. Maybe the tele lens will capture the Dark Side tonight.

The invisible poor will go back to being invisible. That Dark Side of the country cannot be captured. Four rotis can't do it.


Last updated: May 12, 2020 | 13:26
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