Heba Ahmed is pursuing her B.A. (Hons.) course in Political Science, at St. Xavier’s College (Autonomous), Kolkata. She started writing burlesques of poetry from an early age. Dickens has always been an old favourite; his characters and stories transport her to a world which is archaic, but seems evergreen with every turn of the page.
Two souls co-habit a single body,
The old city has two faces to it,
One with a proud brow, a smile of disdain,
The other, with pain, just winces a bit.
Two souls, two faces, one city, or two?
Some sigh, some sing,—its streets seem apart;
One seeks in the skies obscured by steel towers
And wonders where the city keeps its heart.
The Indians hail their ‘City ofJoy’,
Its mornings glory in their snug abodes,
And for those who sleep beneath star-strewn roofs —
A ‘home sweet home’ on the dusty roads!
Hark! The city’s music, of varied tones:
Rag picker’s raga which smells of old stains,
Does the joy lie there, or will it be found
In dizzy discotheques’ jazzy refrains?
Its gleaming towers all heavenward soar,
While shanties revel in dust and disease;
“Fairy palaces”, or “shadows of night”—
Two spirits of what seems to be two cities!
The cradle, or grave, of modernity?
And the road to progress, onward it shoots;
A lonely roadside witness sees it all—
The withered man who still polishes boots!
The pretty young woman sits all day long
In a humble corner, and there she cooks
Little meals for the busy world around,
While her children run naked with hungry looks.
Another young woman drives past this scene,
Flinging some coins from her beaded handbags,
To ensure those waifs don’t pursue her car
Or spoil the shine of its boot with their rags!
The footpaths here house the orphans of the earth,
Lisping old melodies to earn their bread;
Some get silenced under bus wheels,
And some by the whips of the world well-fed.
Then somewhere in the elitist arcade,
A crooner sings softly an old sad song
Of homeless children, of abandoned souls,
And the world in sympathy sings along.
Each visage of the city has its bloom,
One rouge-stained, the other reddened by cold;
One totters on footsteps burdened with care,
The other outruns Time, in leaps so bold!
One defies the tenets of all the earth,
Then makes the other its sole whipping-boy;
The metropolis dwells in fake concord,
And the Indians hail their ‘City ofJoy’!