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.

North
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…

East
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.

South
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
confessed,
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…

West
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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