When the world began, the first
Elements were separated –
Water. Land. Air.
Still our lives these attach us to our Mother Earth.
The umbilical cord cannot be severed lightly,
For pulsing through it is life itself.
Water! The last cry from the lips of those dying of thirst.
When the colonial powers taxed Salt, a host of Indians
Defied them to make salt on Gujarat’s coast.
But our girls and women still pay tax*
with their bodies, their youth
to those who control water in Indian villages.
“Come lie with me, and You shall have water for your family.
And again, when you come tomorrow. Resist, and you shall pay with your life.”
And land! Don’t dare to dream
That you or your father shall have a plot of your own, to live and grow food.
Only your sweat shall fall and salt the fields.
Just as your tear turns the water salt.
You are born to serve, like your forefathers before you,
Your foremothers to be our whores, like you too.
Oh, Man, beat your drum, dance
To your heart’s content, drunk
On poison stirred in a clay cauldron.
But the water you drink has to be bought with
a price you can never pay.
*“Akka, there is no one from our (Dalit) Cheri who has not been molested or raped when they go to the fields to fetch water”, confided a young village to a social activist in Tamil Nadu recently.
By Cynthia Stephen
Cynthia Stephen is an independent Writer and Researcher