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widows of varanasi

Article Submitted By: BashkaJacobs
Date: Sun, 2 Oct 2011 Time: 12:02 AM

The Widows of Varanasi

Remembered only in the retelling



They sit huddled in long rows

Like birds on a wire

White shredded saris

Bones jutting out from their

Dark sun stained skins

They live in a world

Oblivious to the omnipresent


Consecrating moments

That are dimmed by time



Little or no food, they are exploited

By the parasites that comb the steps

With no communication they sit silent

They sit waiting

for the next round

Of life while this one is finished



They eat a few grains of rice

Wash themselves in the holy waters

Their voices quivering and cracked

They sound like the birds circling

Above who wish to pick clean

Their bones



The widows sit full of a life time

Of Stories now abandoned

Alone and sometimes reaching

Into forgetfulness for the jewels

They once wore and

For the children they patted and


All long gone before them and now

They sit with the scraps of their life

Gathered up and stitched together

In their minds



It is the only warmth they have

On a cold Varanasi river night

Where they burned their husband

And they were forbidden to jump

On the pyre the old way

Now they sit waiting suffocating

With lives not lived.


Geetu had married at twelve

Born two sons and a daughter

The girl they had sacrificed

To the bridge that bound

The two villages

She had watched as her

Husband had taken the

Bright eyed one that she

Has secretly named kamala

To the villagers and her

Heart screamed out but

Life flowed quietly on



She had born two sons

Her husband had glowed

as they followed him

Into the fields

Grown strong they worked

And daily she made their

Chapattis and cooked their rice

Walked long distances to the


Chatted with friends

Swept the dung floor

Made the fire

In their mud and thatch hut

And remembered

The daughter each

Time she crossed over

The bridge




Now they were all gone

Layers of grief and indifference

Crossed he face

As she peeled back her loneliness

She had paid tribute

To the deities that her

Family would be spared

The horrific violence

That passed between them

And their Muslim neighbors

Women she had helped pump

Water for

 had husbands

That were sworn to kill



She prayed, she adorned

The statues but

The gods had not answered

They were all dead


Some fragile momentary balance

Crossed her face

And shunted between her eyes

Her hand reached out for mine

A bony claw with paper skin

It held the grains of rice

she managed to save as a an

Offering that her long

Wait will be over

And her death come quickly


She asks me to put

her few rice grains


The bowl of the white ashen

Sadhus or the orange monks

That pass by her on their

Way to the river to pray

They pass her but do not see


She has already turned to



I return to my houseboat

And wonder how this culture

Manages to organize its rage, its

Chaos, its elegance, its religiosity,

Its pirouetting of castes and

Its ornate philosophy without

Hearing the echoing

beat of this one

Single heart of

A widow

That lies at the very


The stone on which

The cultures


Are chiseled.

About the Author

bashka(the crow) is involved in the slowest

of performing arts...........gardening

but during those times when she is

not she writes poetry stories that pull


from the rush of life around her

remembering different time lines.

Rating: 5.0


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Submitted: Sun, 2 Oct 2011 Time: 12:02 AM