Keki Daruwalla, We the Kauravas

We are the Kauravas, though we don’t know why.
Father was blind and mother willed herself
into blindness with a band across the eyes.
As metaphors go, you can’t beat that, can you?
Leaves you free to sink into any old manhole
left open by the municipality.
The other guys just asked for five villages;
some measly thatch huts, a few cows munching away
at the stubble and perhaps a tethered goat or two;
and the usual paraphernalia, detritus –
cattleherds to graze their cows, barbers
to shave armpits, faces and other places,
kahars for the palanquins when their girls
set out for the marriage bed.
That’s all they wanted, though they ended up
edging us out of hearth and kingdom
and weeping over our bloodied corpses.
We shall always be the Kauravas, mind you,
nothing will change that.
Dusk will fall earlier for us, gaudhooli
or no gaudhooli (which if I may translate
for Stephanians and anglicized folk, means ‘cowdust’).
Someone will cry out, ‘Ashwathama is dead,’
and we’ll return our arrows to the quiver
till we are shot. All that’ll happen to them is
that a chariot flying a foot above the earth
will suddenly be grounded – big deal!
And if our chariot gets stuck in the mud,
they’ll be quick on the draw, like some baddie
hamming his way in a B-grade Western.
They had a God-man too.
He tattooed his body completely blue.
He had an air-conditioned ashram at Mathura.
If he as much as sneezed
they took him to Apollo or Batra.
And while we bled in battle and died, he gave
endless lectures on truth and righteous action,
all the while teaching our enemies how to kill us.
Yet, we are the villains; the Kauravas
can’t be anything else – we’d lose our part in the play!
But why are we the Kauravas, why didn’t
the mantle of the pure fall across our shoulders?
Did we get the wrong tailors, Nathu?
or the wrong make-up ‘artist’, Lallu?
Why should we get shot or run over
and torn from the ones we love?
Must be fate and prenatal karma.
On the other bank of transmigration,
as we brought our water buffaloes across,
we must have blundered upon some goddess
during her dawn bath or blackened
some pure water urn with our shadow.

Keki Daruwalla, We the Kauravas

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