The Census

    by Lina Krishnan

    Today I got a call from Assam

    From my 85 year-old sister in law, the oldest of us boumas

    Bolo toh Ranu, morba biya hoil kun shunot? When did I cross this threshold?

    I don’t know Didi

    I came years after you But why are you asking?

    It is not me, dear, it’s those men. The census people

    So many questions they have: “How long have you lived here? Is this land yours? You are a member of this rajbari?

    Do you have identity proof?” Impertinence!

    But how do I tell them – all these things?

    Our father-in-law, in those days

    Would not let us go out of the gate without an escort We did not look around; we did not see the bazaar pro-per-ly

    Things were brought to us.

    Within these walls, I have spent seventy years Is that enough to count?

    I forget my mother’s house, except for the leaves Of the Nahar that grew at the garden door

    The sweets that were brought home, the day I was betrothed

    Now, it will all go down in paper

    As though it is some underground group And not a household

    If only they would ask me something I know Like the weaves of this diverse land

    Where every bend in the river, means a new tribe, a new pattern I know them all

    Mishmi to Apatani. Monpa to Wanchoo

    The seven sisters? Na re!

    If you ask me, we are seven times that

    In this tapestry, all are ours. We are everybody’s

    And we all belong here, in equal measure

    Author’s Bio:

    Lina Krishnan is a poet and abstract artist in Auroville. Census was written in 2016, when citizens in Assam were just beginning to be questioned on their roots, identities, and ethnic affinities. The spiral from then to Manipur seven years later, has taken the region not only into unrest but also fostered mutual distrust between communities. For the old order, this has been particularly hard to bear.

    This poem was first printed in Brown Critique’s Home anthology, in 2022. We thank the editors Gayatri Majumdar, Sekhar Banerjee and Gopal Lahiri, for letting us share it here.

    Subscribe to our newsletter To Recieve Updates

      The Latest
      • The Usawa Newsletter June ‘24

        There are no chairs for audience in the court room You sit on the window sill

      • Test
      • Navigating Appetites, Feminism, Loneliness, & Murder

        Butter is the first of the books by prolific Japanese writer Asako Yuzuki, to be

      • Food That Becomes Something More – Aditi Yadav Reviews The Kamogawa Food Detectives

        In his magnum opus, The Physiology of Taste, published in December 1825, just

      You May Also Like
      • You are never alone By Rebecca Mathai

        In that week leading to Benny’s death, the Jacob kids were mostly at the

      • Mummy Knows Best by Prashila Naik

        Bobby likes the green shirt the best It has the picture of a frog

      • Father and Other Poems By Kanupriya Rathore

        when his father died my father stood by the tv and laughed at repeats

      • Neera Kashyap

        The scene: a sunlit panchayat building, un-plastered walls, dusty window panes