I Am Sorry

I am sorry my fellow countrymen and women.
I am sorry that I cannot protect you
As I helplessly watch you being attacked and hurt
With weapons that slash the flesh and sear the heart.

I am sorry my brothers and sisters.
I am sorry that I cannot help you
As the frenzied mob humiliates you
And spits abuses and brandishes weapons at you.

I am sorry my brother.
I am sorry that I can do nothing while you are denied
That little space in the temple fair
Where you were joined to that glorious festival
In which many devotions came together.

I watch silently,
The fear on the girl’s face as she stands at the college gate
Wondering if she will be allowed to enter
Those class rooms and join those friends
From whom she has been suddenly debarred.

I watch silently,
As I see an old man staring hopelessly
At the destroyed remains of his poor cart
Not understanding why, he has suddenly become a stranger
At the place where he was a familiar presence for many years.

I watch silently,
As a little boy picks the coins from the debris of his father’s battered shop,
And women weep the loss of the home they built over many years,
Little by little,
Till their daughters grew too old to remain in it
and their husbands are too old to leave it.

I watch silently
As the pimps of power,
The traders of religion,
The demagogues of hate,
The profiteers of violence,
Map new pathways of bigotry
And doodle boundaries in blood.

And I can only promise you this, my friends,
My Rama is gentle and righteous
And as long as he is in me
I will never be able to hate you or hurt you.

And I only know this my friends,
The tree that shades us together by the road,
The river that waters both our fields,
The dust that blows into our eyes
And fills our breath,
Is made of the ashes and bones
Of our dead ancestors,
Inseparable in death.

And I want to ask you to wait,
Till this tide of hate subsides,
Till this frenzy of violence abates,
Till these shrill commands of men turned mad with power are silenced,
Till these machines turned to weapons come to a halt.

Let us wait till the name of Rama will be chanted once again
As if he were a brother, a son, a father, a beloved,
Let us wait till the azaan can echo undisturbed in the early hours of dawn and across the day,
Let us wait till the church bells can toll uninterrupted for the dead.

And then my people,
We will hear in these sounds
our many voices
Born of a shared land.
We will sing songs at the confluences
of intertwined lives.
And we will embroider the routines of our lives
With the patterns of peace
and the threads of neighbourliness and friendship.