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     Volume 4 Issue 74 | December 9, 2005 |

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Slice of Life

Humbled! by Dust!

Richa Jha

Dust Speaks:
I am the dust that gathers behind heavy furniture in the house.

No, I have not always been here. I have been at a number of places. I don't remember exactly where I came from before getting stuck behind this chest of drawers. But it does seem that I have been here forever.

The madam is a finicky woman, and I am surprised I escaped her notice for so long. Better that way, for I have grown to consider this narrow confine as my home. And to tell you the truth, I don't wish to be disturbed now that I am leading a settled life here.

I am grime, by definition; I am a vagabond, by birth; restless, by temperament; but a poet by sensibilities. Sitting pretty in my new house (and do appreciate the fact it goes against the very grain of my nature to settle down at one place), I decided to turn to a long-forgotten passion of mine- poetry. And came up with the most outstanding piece of writing produced by any particle of dust:

Humble, humbled, frowned upon,
Always swept, always blown,
This way, that way, always thrown,
Moving, always moving-
I draw it mild.
But no longer. Once a gypsy, changing my tune,
Singing, writing, sitting tight,


Was trying to finish it when I heard madam's footsteps. And my thoughts froze. I was deadmeat!

I had often heard madam openly express her dislike for poets, and she was sure to sniff me out. "There is some unwanted element in the room, I know it. I can smell it. I HEAR it." She called out to her son, who came rushing in. This little fellow lives through, and by, his nose. Not kidding! He can smell the rain in the air, a dead rat in the neighbour's house, a rotten mango standing in the middle of a fresh market; that's him! And sure enough, this paranoid son of the paranoid mother soon fished me out.

"There mom!" he said triumphantly, "There's your culprit. Shall I clear this mess?" he coughed as he tried moving the cabinet away from the wall.

"Wait son. First let me find out what a poet is doing in my house." A raging madam turned towards me and roared, "You will have to leave NOW. I can't stand your presence here. You are a poet. You have no place in my house. And how come, you have been hiding here all this while?"

"That's your fault. You keep your house dirty." Poets are born with guts of steel.

"What impudence, you impertinent imp?" Madam was livid.

"Oversight, I meant madam, not fault. But pardon me for further impudence, there is something I would like to point out to you."

"Okay, go ahead."

"Look madam, I am the only neutral element in your house. And I hear everything that goes on in this room. You may not like to acknowledge it, but I think that you are a poet too."

"What? You insult me like this!"

"No, no, do not lose your cool madam. Is there any basis for your professed dislike for this particular breed?"

"I don't need to justify my preferences before an inanimate ion. Let me send for the broom. I need to sweep you out right away."

"Wait, wait. Give me a chance to explain, please. Look at it this way: you write, they write, and usually, you all write about the same issues. Then why such antagonism?"

"Why do the poets move around with a halo around their heads? Why do they have such exalted airs about themselves? Why must they make pretensions about their superior understanding of the world?" Madam was visibly charged.

"They feel the same way for you writers."
"Such pride?"

"Na, na. This is the time to reflect, madam. Look within your own self. You just fight shy of being seen as someone indulging in poetry. It is no longer fashionable, I know it. My mates throw sharp jibes at me too. And so you decide that you don't want to be associated with poetry."

I think what I said appealed to her senses, because there was a temporary ceasefire in the battle of words. And thereafter, a pregnant pause, following which the trajectory of our conversation came within striking distance of the near-normal.

"Hey dust," came the now mellowed-madam's reply. "Your views mark an uncanny resemblance with The Hubby's. Ever since he has known me, he has said- write poetry, write poetry. Could he have been serious?"

"Absolutely madam! You could try, to begin with. Besides, I know for sure that you like poetry."

"How can you say that confidently?"

"See, before having been swept behind this cabinet, I went with you to your school clinging on to your bag. There I heard you take your students through several poems. I don't have eyes, but I could 'see' the delight in your voice as you delivered your lecture that day. Trust me, you like poetry. Please don't harangue poets." I urged, with all my sincerity.

Madam nodded gently, murmuring to herself, "Maybe he is right. What is the harm in being open to enjoying poetry? I mustn't be so caustic…"

"And I will tell you one more thing. Promise me, you won't banish me from this place for it, okay?"

"Hmmnn. I will try. Go ahead."

"Most gracious madam, I have stayed here long enough, and have overheard a number of conversations made within the confines of this room. I don't know if walls have ears, but I certainly do. And so I say, that you may not have realised it, but the poet in you comes to the fore when you fight with The Hubby!"

"Hah! What are you saying? And I thought my fights would stay within this room."

"They will, madam, if you promise not to sweep me out."

Madam suddenly looked concerned. "Tell me, do all dust particles have ears?"

"I don't know. But that should not disturb you madam, because even if they do, they cannot speak. I alone, am gifted with the power of speech, so all the arguments between The Hubby and you are safe with me. Provided, of course, that I am permitted to stay here…" The triumph of patient reasoning was showing!

"Okay, you can stay on in my house, but not here. Now that I know you are here, I will always be overpowered with a strong urge to sweep you out. Let me suggest a better place where you could stay without worrying about being asked to leave. Hmmmnnn, let's see, how about my sneakers? I never clean it, and you will get to move around as well."

The most gracious madam is also the most generous. And so, I stay on in this house. Madam has promised to revisit her views on poets and poetry. The other day she borrowed some poetry anthologies from the library. This morning, she sat down, attempting her own.

Maybe, someday, we will all get a glimpse of it…

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