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GANDHI AND POETRY

K. SatchidanandanK. Satchidanandan
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One day a lean poem
reached Gandhi’s ashram
to have a glimpse of the man.
Gandhi spinning away
his thread towards Ram
took no notice of the poem
waiting at his door,
ashamed at not being a bhajan.
The poem now cleared his throat
And Gandhi glanced at him sideways
through those glasses that had seen hell.
“Have you ever spun thread?” he asked,
“Ever pulled a scavenger’s cart?
Ever stood in the smoke of
An early morning kitchen?
Have you ever starved?”

The poem said: “I was born in the woods,
in a hunter’s mouth.
A fisherman brought me up
in a cottage.
Yet I knew no work, I only sing.
First I sang in the courts:
then I was plump and handsome
but am on the streets now,
half-starved.”

“That’s better,” Gandhi said
with a sly smile. “But you must give up this habit
of speaking in Sanskrit at times.
Go to the fields. Listen to
The peasants’ speech.”
The poem turned into a grain
and lay waiting in the fields
for the tiller to come
and upturn the virgin soil
moist with new rain.
 

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