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Murshidabadi Masons

Five Poems by Abu Siddik

Samial Hasan Khan
Photograph Courtesy: Samial Hasan Khan

A Mother’s Monologue


Yesterday, I gave birth to a girl,

Faces around me were blackened,

For they pinned hope on a son


During my swelling days,

Parents, in-laws, close friends,

Even my maids were sure of a son’s coming


Neighbours looked at my bulging belly.

And they were happy for I was going to be

A proud mother within a week


Nothing that sort followed,

A girl was born,

And all fell silent


The room was the same

But it has lost its warmth,

The painted walls, the delicate curtains

Looked dull to our loved elders


Azad and I love our girl.

But Azad has just crossed a stormy sea

That I know.


At Day Breaks in Dooars


At day breaks in Dooars

I see anaemic women in clusters

With kids tied to their backs

Trudging to their masters’ moneymaking fields


Saris they wear are sold

At fifty at Vairob haat,

You may collect them  

At Kalinarayanpur, Birnagar

Of Nadia at the same rate


Sewed slippers,

Battered parasols,

Sickly feet, decaying frames,

Weather-beaten cheeks,

And the little ones sleeping

In peace on backs in the simmering sun


Women love the babus and their blades

Babus own their fields, they know—


Bent backs, blank eyes, beaten hands,

They pluck two buds and a leaf,

The manager's factory hand is waiting,

At sunset, he'll weigh each load,

Keep records of each entry,

And pay them poorly on the payment day.


Day breaks

They plod to masters’ moneymaking fields,

Kids sleeping on their backs in the simmering sun. 



Fifteen Feats


Just as I take a window seat

at 9:46 train, and begin to read

‘The rolling plains arched her back,

to an obliging sky who lay down

between the lifted thighs of brown

hills all the way to the horizon.

And the wind sighed.’ from R Vol Lindsey,

a child in bare feet begins to twist her bones

to the rhythms of her mother’s beating drum,

she regales our eyes with fifteen feats,

and when her mother stops, she stops

and stretches a stainless pot to the pleasure-seekers.


Classy commuters, dressed to match the desire of the day,

find many a fault in the mother and the child and the system

and they refuse to drop a coin and argue in support

of not encouraging the way of visual pollutants.


Nonchalant, the girl moves to the next rows of labourers,

repairmen and tool-makers, seasonal performers, patient parties,

newly-wed couples and  jobless lovers, 

and almost all of them stretch their hands and praise the day.


Meantime, her mother moves to the next coach,

and the girl follows her steps and begins to repeat her

fifteen feats.


Murshidabadi Masons


On a hot May day,

A funeral march goes by the railway track,

I get a seat in a chocked coach

And smile at my luck


Exodus time for south-bound labourers,

Murshidabadi masons—

They have come in flocks to celebrate Eid at home

A week has passed in mirth and warmth,

Leaving home makes them sad again


I look at my sides,

And feel the warmth of the day

By my extreme left, a teenage boy is sleeping


And when I closely look at him,

His sweaty, sculptured face delights me,

A cheap, designed t-shirt, hands full of lines,

Face marked with pangs of departure,


The morning rays fall on his beaten cheeks

And tales of unending disgrace, dishonour,

Drape his days.


The Labourers on Wheels


Ramzan month,

The usual crowd is missing,

Hawkers look sad


I sit close to a set of labourers,

Handles of shovels, peeping out of plastic sacks,

Look like half-burnt legs.


The smart one has bought a kerchief,

Red as a rose, the drooping man is folding

A brand new napkin on his lap.


Hands are winter trees,

Bare, coarse, full of lines,

Playing with a pouch of dry green peas.


The sacrificial goats of the village

Suffering from a bad cold, mucus is coming

Out of their nostrils, they are saying.


At Beldanga station, they watch

Goods train waiting to be unloaded,

And they talk of the cement-smeared faces.


The train stops at Plassey,

I leave,

They are still talking about the wagons


Abu Siddik

Abu Siddik is a bilingual writer, editor, and reviewer who teaches at Plassey College in West Bengal, India. He writes poems, short stories, and critical articles on the struggles and resilience of Indian marginalized communities. His work has been published in various literary magazines and portals, including Muse India, Story Mirror, and Countercurrents. Abu Siddik has authored four poetry books, three short story books, and four critical books. His latest publications include Identity and Belonging: Mapping the Margins (Authorspress, New Delhi) and Banger Musalman: Somaj Pironer Dahan Brittanto (Gangchil, Kolkata). He is also the editor of a Bangla literary portal Chetona.


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