sometimes, i wish
i wasn’t born in so big a house
didn’t watch so many disney cartoons,
or read so much enid blyton, when i was young
didn’t go to the poshest all-girls private school in town,
or eat at the bestest foreign restaurants
hadn’t ever been on a plane,
ever outside the country
didn’t know the words to every english song on the radio
didn’t have a big air-conditioned car
didn’t live in defence
didn’t always get what i wanted.
sometimes, i wish
i didn’t feel like such a foreigner
in my own country
among my own people
that i wouldn’t be polite,
that punjabi or urdu would flow from my mouth
as effortlessly as english
that i could talk to beggars
street children, village women
without cringing inside
with guilt, helplessness
who am i to feel guilty
when they laugh, tearing down the streets
barefoot, in june heat
straddling their babies, eyes shining
in faded, tattered hand-me-downs
dirt-streaked and sunburnt
knotty, sun-dyed hair
lolling on a charpayee,
in a threadbare canvass tent.
and i turn away,
my eyes blinking with tears
shameful, cowardly tears.
what is it that pains me?
their destitution, their plight
or me, having more than i deserve
than i earned to deserve?
my four-walled two-storeyed brick home
my running tap water, bathroom and AC?
my fridge full of food, my mattressed bed, my car
my clothes and shoes, my education?
they are not destitute
they are not as poor
as we imagine them to be,
sitting here in our sound-proof,
feeling sorry, because there is little else we can do
self-reproaching, self-guilty, shallow.
how wrong we are! how thoroughly mistaken!
how frustrated, dissatisfied
while they, homeless, unread,
embrace the day with laughing heart
revel, in every
sunbright, moonlight, raindrop moment
of absolute freedom.