By Ramu Ramanathan

Recited by Denzil Smith

I met Ashwathama
At Mama Kane’s Swacha Uphargriha
He says Bhai, the times are bad
The Bharamastra fell in Vidharbha
12 years of famine in the region

In his horse-voice, he describes the suicides
Can I get food grains, sugar, kerosene for my people?
How, I ask, as he gobbles a kothambir wade
With his piyush. He says, it can be done through the Antyodaya

Irritating habit this, I say, of lapsing into Sanskrit
So, he explains he needs a ration card
Something for the poorest of the poor
Come, I say, as we get into a taxi in the sun

Ashwathama and I reach the Talati Office
We want a form which I can fill up
The clerk says go to the civil supplier’s office
Quite uncivil; he provides a list of documents

Ashwathama says, I don’t have an address proof
What about an electricity bill or voter id, I ask
Or a contract with the landlord, or last month’s pay slip
Or a marriage certificate, or SSC marksheet

He replies, none of the above, oh bhai
Ever since Lord Krishna cursed me
I have no hospitality nor accommodation
I live in isolation from mankind and society

We meet Kalki the agent in Masjid Bunder
Kalki says, don’t worry-ji, this is Kaliyug
Everything can be managed, easily
Get me a Rs 5 stamp and three passport-sized photographs

Ashwathama says, I have nothing, I am shoonya
A cursed body which hosts of incurable diseases
Infinite sores and ulcers that never-ever heal
And this eternal face that refuses to smile

Kalki says, All will be balle balle
The Talati Officer will visit your home
Within a month for verification
I’ve no home for such type of a visit

No problem-ji, says Kalki
You visit the Talati office ten times
Or the Civil Office seventeen times
Now my commission please

Ashwathama extracts the Shamantakamani from his forehead
Kalki knows it is a rare gem which will protect him
From snakes, ghosts, demigods and demons
Plus it’s market valuation is high in Brussels

Ashwathama and I walk to CST station in silence
What will you do, I ask on platform two
Bhai, the wound caused by the removal of this gem
Will never heal and my people will suffer hunger

The Brave Warrior trudges ahead
And boards the train to Gadchiroli
This will go on till the end of Kaliyuga
Unless Ashwathama gets his Aadhaar

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Ramu Ramanathan
Ramakrishnan Ramanathan popularly known as Ramu Ramanathan is an Indian playwright-director with acclaimed plays to his credit. His list of plays includes Cotton 56, Polyester 84; Jazz; Comrade Kumbhakarna; and more recently, Postcards From Bardoli.

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