This is the wrong side of the tracks
Where as children, we would walk on the rails
Both ourselves and the affairs of our world
With careless abandon,
With joy of anonymity,
And with little knowledge of things —
The pointed edges of our flying wings
Flapping like those of merry birds.
Here, no birds fly in the sky.
The filth of their surroundings has smirched
The fabric of their lives; I stand
In my starched collar, with my perfumed hand,
In my refined, princely manner,
For all this boisterous banging,
All this rebellious clanging,
Here, no flowers bloom along the street.
The dust in this air has stifled
The voice in their calls; Like trains
That whistle into their brains
While they read, these dogs
Have encroached upon my life —
They live to die on these tracks
As I stand waiting to teach this pack.
Down the lane, in neat speckled rows
They sit; They sit wagging their tails
Learning tables of three times three
Being seven —
A third of my age. They sit
In despair, in an enthusiastic pain
Time down to the next train.
A shrill cry pierces the air.
All at once, as fast as they came
They hit the road again.
With tea, with snacks, with all kinds of scrap
With water procured from the nearest tap,
They rush to the windows
Among curious onlookers
Some among them who fear the least
Climb atop the cooing beast
To steal many a handful of coal
That will somewhat sell
In our civilized world of careless abandon
And joy of anonymity.
Some shall act blind or lame
And some sing for the fleeting fame
That accompanies a beggar’s songs.
Some with their worn, black soles
Sit between polished shoes,
Between shuffling feet.
The long day’s killing heat
Is felt but by those who sweat in perfumed hands,
Is felt but by those whose starched collars stand
Firm in the world.
There is one who wipes the floors
There, where we shed the badaam skins
With little knowledge of things
About how he wipes every stain.
These dogs on the train
Are not from amongst us.
Shoving and fighting
To enter our lives,
They appear and disappear in minutes
As long as the train halts.
By and by, they shall come back again
To the same boring class.
Here, it does not rain over sheltering rooftops.
The soft patter of melody we hear
Through blue windowpanes —
Watching water flow down the drains
To water their earthly beds.
These puddles and these cheerful streams
Have washed down many lazy dreams.
This is the wrong side of the tracks.
We walked as children here
A very long time ago
Both ourselves and the affairs of our own worlds.