Spare my shack sir-ji

Please sirji pleaj!
Take pity sirji. O, sirji, my maai-baap!
Do not demolish my tin-shed Saab.
I plead with folded hands. Take pity on us.
It is our only home here on this road and it does not come in the way of anybody.
We occupy the pavement—one little corner; ten years or so, we are here.

Lissun to me, sirji.
Seven members live here in this tiny shack, our only home in this city of millions.
It is just a roof over us.
Tin roof overhead sirjee, it leaks in monsoons
And cold/hot winds blow in and the roof gets blown away
During storms but it is our only home as we cannot afford a flat!

Pleaj sirji, Saab! Please listen to this frail woman, O, Saab!
My man ran away, leaving me with these girls and a small boy
Yes, we do the house cleaning and wash utensils, a back-breaking job.
No, kids do not go to school—beyond our capacity, Saab.
We are poor but legal citizens of a free India.

We live on the footpath crawling with lechers and predators
Go demolish illegal extensions and buildings of the rich folks
Why to punish the poor, already excluded by the Republic?
Yes, we know, it is the Sarkar. You are our Sarkar, our government.
Yes, I know it is for widening the roads but cannot you spare this broken footpath?

And, last month, a fancy car mowed down many sleeping on the opposite footpath.
No, the drunk man was a rich man and was not caught.
The cops came down here and booked the people here for sleeping on the pavements like street dogs!

But sirji, it is for cars only, this road. They will mow us down in the early mornings, the drunk. They cannot be stopped. Then there are lechers and other thugs but we pull on, in this living hell. Cops do not care for us.

And I have grown-up girls. But this area is family. They are like us—other slum-dwellers.
The rich often ram into our hovels. See, we are also like these bastards—browns or blacks but Indians and honest and working very hard.

Ple—se—ee—eeeee S-I-R-JEE!

Please do not bulldoze our only shelter.
Where we will go in this cold?
Just a tiny shack.

Please spare it in the name of God!

A hungry and ill mother pleads!
My tears and wailing will come to haunt you and the government!
Kills us, the poor!
What a free republic!

Sunil Sharma, a senior academic and author-freelance journalist from the suburban Mumbai, India. He has published 20 books so far, some solo and joint. He edits Setu: Read other articles by Sunil, or visit Sunil's website.