The Vote

    By Alicen Jacob

    Today, I tiptoed
    through the land of
    those awaiting death,
    and found on my path
    a bag full of pink papers
    and a compass.

    Papers with symbols…
    Papers which decided the future
    of democracy,
    lay abandoned,
    on the path which led to the land
    of those awaiting death.

    I hung the bag on my shoulder,
    heavy with responsibility,
    (What if I met its owner on my path?)
    and walked
    in pursuit
    of those who awaited death.

    I met
    shrunken Sybils
    immobile, staring sightless
    into the distance,
    and old men who listened futilely
    to songs of silence.
    There were others
    who lay twisted in bed
    waiting to be disentangled in death,
    and not to forget
    the ones who sleepwalked
    in circles of forgetfulness
    in broad daylight.

    I explained to them
    my purpose
    and received in return,
    tight-lipped glares and scornful laughter
    as if, the country didn’t matter to them
    as if, they had forgotten who they were and where they were.

    Forgetfulness is dangerous I thought
    And noted it down in my memory…

    I reached a land
    pregnant with water;
    so I removed my shoes
    and waded towards a house
    fenced by the river.

    The old man there was seated on the veranda
    As if he had expected my arrival.
    I explained my purpose
    And for a while he remained silent,
    then spilled the litany of
    unfulfilled promises.

    Promises to lift them
    from this soaking land
    assured every five years, he said,
    to him and the people around.
    He fell silent again
    and then asked me who I was?

    Baffled I reiterated to myself,
    forgetfulness is dangerous,
    a sign that you are awaiting death
    and noted it down in my memory.

    Here the old had
    defined leanings
    to the right
    or the left
    or the middle path.

    Excited and loyal
    they snatched
    the pink paper from my hand,
    and after a second or two
    that they had forgotten the symbols!

    Forgetfulness is dangerous I thought,
    it is the sign of death approaching
    and noted it down in my memory…

    I knocked on doors
    which no one answered.
    Maybe the old there were dispatched
    to their next son’s home
    or a hospital
    to wait their turn.

    There were also those
    who were safely locked in
    by children or grandchildren
    lest they be snatched by death,
    the ones who stared at me through grilled windows,
    smiling as if I was death himself!

    At last I met an old grandmother
    In her nineties
    Who asked me if I knew her?
    I said “yes”,
    smiling, embarrassed,
    half- flushed,
    by my own lie.

    Hearing my reply,
    she said she was willing to do her part
    for democracy.
    As I left she asked me
    once again if I knew her,
    and I simply smiled.
    Forgetfulness is dangerous I thought
    a sure trail that one has to tread to meet death
    and noted it down in my memory…

    Leaning to one side,
    maintaining the balance,
    I walked ahead
    carrying the bag on my shoulder
    with a hope of reaching the point I started
    or at least seeing the person in charge of the leaden luggage.

    The compass suddenly stopped,
    and I realized, I had forgotten
    the track to where I began.
    I dropped the bag bewildered…

    Alicen Roshiny Jacob is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Aquinas College, Edacochin, Kerala. She writes poetry and fiction on her blog Loner by the Lamppost. Her work was featured in INKochi Cultural Magazine. She has written two cover stories (one a translation) for the same and is now a member of their editorial board. In between her roles as an educator, researcher and mother, Alicen loves to dabble her hands in paint and finds cycling relaxing.

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