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Collateral Damage

Posted: September 11, 2019

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Cradled in the clouds,
with pines and conifers holding it down,
stately waterfalls in statuesque gait,
thick forests
holding deep secrets;
it’s a land which beckoned,
with famous schools
and a model hill station.

How we longed to see
that undulating, green golf course,
a picture of calm and peace,
convents and concerts,
choirs and bands,
a musical legacy,
and tapping feet.

Visions of nights spent near the fireplace,
little chalets in the hills,
flower bedecked terraces
and rosy-checked girls in vibrant tartan checks.

What visions of Shillong held us in spell!
What tales enthralled us of that abode of the clouds!

Photo courtesy Loconav, Pragatiwadi. Miners in rat-hole mines.

But nothing remains holy.
And the sounds of violence
pierced those soft, puffy clouds.
For long gunfire rent the cool air
and serenity knelt with bowed head.

But remote and far from the mainland,
Meghalaya lies forgotten
by the nation.
Only Cherrapunji weeps,
alone in its grief.
The monsoon pours its pain
down the mountain slopes.

Its tears refuse to still.
The springs of pure water
now swell angrily
and furiously lash against the rocks.
The limestone caves,
aeons old,
threaten to crumble.

The rescue workers have long left.
The crack team of divers have surfaced,
empty handed.
The caves that swallowed
the poor miners
have shut their memory out.
NDRF, Army, Navy, Air Force,
all returned now to their base.

Another set of miners
lost their lives in vain.
The headlines have long hit the trash.
Rescue op is off.
Only the land weeps
and floods the banks with its misery.
Forgotten are the 15 youths
sacrificed to man’s greed.

So what if it’s just a few months now.
Institutional greed drives on the illegal mines.
State apathy pushes the poor underground.
Rich deposits of minerals and
collieries dig graves
for human rights.
And deep in the mountains
truth lies buried
in the rat-hole mines.
The poor are dispensable.
Tribal lives do not count.

Spotlight off, the illegal mining resumes.
There’s much to be unearthed,
and glorious gains to be made.
Hundreds of emaciated children pushed beneath.
Stakes high.
576 million tonnes of coal reserves.
Lessons are never learnt
and few changes ever made.

The remote state
quickly slipped out
of public memory again.
Hapless people reduced to wait destiny’s turn.
Only the monsoon rages,
frets and fumes.
Fire streaks from the skies
where cumulus clouds wandered free once.
Cherrapunji weeps
for its local lads
and nature warns,
it’s a deadly game
you’ve begun.

Cover image via YouTube & In-article image provided by the author

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