May 04, 2009

ii) candid shots

We pass through the turnstile
and glare of the stubber
who grunts through his moustache
"To Kandy, two platform".
We laugh at his syntax
and smile at the sweepers
in bright orange uniforms
trailing their dustpans.

We board the train pensive
one seat by the window
and watch as the guard waves
his faded dull green.
We chug through the city
where rusting frame carriages
and bullet holed walls
sleep with webs of barbed wire.

Then rumbling through outskirts
we plunge into rice greens
with white plaster stupas
egrets perched on buffaloes.
As bare bodied men
tug and pull at the plough
while the women bent over
plant seedlings.

Then deeper we journey
up into the ranges
where wide open terraces
are traced by tea bushes.
And valleys of orchards
all teeming with pickers
are strapped to their baskets
and colourful headresses.

I stand in the doorway
to catch a wide glimpse
as the rails scuttle past
and the view fades with distance.
I pause for the camera
to capture illusions
of countryside splendour
no close-ups of truth.

       and I read in the news
       a truck bomb destroyed
       the Kandy tooth temple
       and sixteen cursed lives
       all poised for a celebration.

The Prince of Wales
was due to come
to grace the grand occasion
but once the bomb had blown the shrine
the plans were in revision.

The Prince of Wales
was due to see
the festive glow of colour
but once the blast had floored the priests
parades would not be handsome.

The Prince of Wales
was due to say
how pleased he was to be there
but once the 16th century spot
killed 16 people in a shot
the words would not come easy.

(c) Charlene Rajendran 1999

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