A Pictorial Story

by Snigdha Banerjee Agrawal 

Once I was a part of the green scape and suddenly undressed and raped.  Left lying naked and road rollers had a field day…flattening every curve, I possessed.  And I morphed into a black ribbon, ferrying humans, since then.

I can’t anymore see me

I  can’t have me

I can’t keep me

I can’t love me

I’ve become public property

This is irking me to no end.  There are secrets only in my knowledge, which I’m rather constrained to share, for fear of the consequences. Like the time a car ran over a hen, severing its head, leaving bloodstains. But that was just a one-off incident, though it hurt like hell. I saw the owner double up in pain, having lost his cockadoodle friend.

Photograph by Snigdha Agrawal

Location: South Goa, close to ITC Grand, Goa

What was more serious was the time, a bunch of men, high on feni, chased a woman, returning home late, after the graveyard shift in the hospital.  I watched helplessly as the hooligans took turns in ravaging her body and couldn’t even raise an alarm. I was fuming.  No one came to her rescue. Bats hanging from trees heard her screams but blinked away the horror playing out on that dark inky night. They could have attacked the men, clawing at their eye sockets, rendering them blind. But chose to ignore it all.  Now that’s not what I had expected from winged bats, nor from the cunning foxes, hiding behind coconut palms; their eyes intensive at night, green and white pupils stretched wide; teeth bared, totally indifferent.  Now they could have howled and frightened away those men.  But chose to remain silent.  What a shame!

These last two years I have seen more of the dead, carried in coffins, hauled on shoulders of men, dressed in black, mourning the passing of their loved ones; mother, father, children, friends.  I am saddened, angered by these events.  If only I had a magic wand to drive away this virus. But inert I lie, like an old newspaper, reporting of the calamities I witness all night, all day.

What amuses me most are the slogan-shouting humans, marching on my belly, raising voices..”vote for us we promise free..subsidies, electricity, education”.  Dressed in white kurta pyjamas, topies on head, babus carrying party banners, creating a ruckus.  And I laugh to myself. Gullible humans fall for it lock stock and barrel.  And then some sit on me in protest against the alleged injustices, in local parlance called ‘sit down dharna’ (strike), blocking movement on my surface.  Not that I mind a bit. It’s only when they start littering that I am thoroughly peeved.  Nothing I can do to get them off my sleeves.

I am broken at times when accidents occur in my precincts; head-on collisions of vehicles, driven by those lacking road sense, overtaking without checking oncoming vehicles.  I’m speechless, shocked to witness lives snuffed out prematurely, blood-splattered bodies strewn on my face.  This happens often and as usual, ambulances arrive too late. I haven’t yet become inured to these horrible incidents.

The converse of this is the many happy occasions. The most joyous watching wedding processions.  Turbaned groom sitting on the horse preceded by dancing men and women, to the accompaniment of Bollywood songs.  The revelry is infectious.  Crisp currency notes are thrown in the air; musicians scramble to collect the same. I’m amazed by the show of opulence.  Now I’m not convinced that we are a poor nation, however much, others try to explain. Never mind!  The fact is I enjoy being a participant in such joyous events.  Once I even saw a runaway bride, dressed in white, long dress train trailing behind, rushing out of a village church, much to the consternation of others.  Her lover was kicking his heels on the wayside, to elope with the defiant bride. I was happy for her, for breaking the rules and following her heart.  Together they jumped into a van and fled at lightning speed. Hurray to the couple.  The wedding party broke up.

And perhaps what tops it all, was witnessing the birth of a newborn whilst traveling on my road.  Screeching of tires I heard and being nosy me, wanted to know what had caused the car to stop.  To my disbelief, the lady carrying full term, couldn’t wait to reach the hospital.  The baby popped out in the car seat, all pink and slimy.  The father dialled 112 emergency line, waiting anxiously for the ambulance to arrive.  I named the baby ‘Roadchild’ and since then he has grown into a man.  That was a one-off incident I recall with a smile.

I am the road

Free for all

I break, I mend,

Again made whole

Speed bumps rebuilt

after every monsoon

I run in a straight line

Zig zagging wherever

the terrain is unkind

Up the mountains

meander along

hairpin bends

I have a beginning

but no end

I reach all to

their desired destinations.

About the Author:

Snigdha Agrawal is a published author of two books of poetry and has contributed to several anthologies. Her writings include all genres of poetry, prose, short stories, travelogues, restaurant reviews, and book reviews.  She is widely traveled and shares her travel experiences in her blog :  She lives with her husband in Bangalore, India.  

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