IMG_7742 Photo taken at Sambhavna, a nongovernmental/nonprofit hospital in Bhopal, India for survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide/Dow Chemical gas leak that killed thousands. Dow has yet to take responsibility for the gas leak or the cleanup of the American factory that remains in Bhopal. Propositions have been made to build a theme park where the abandoned factory is.

IMG_7511  Photo taken while driving in Varanasi, a city on the banks of the Ganga River (or, what Westerners incorrectly call, “The Ganges”).  The sacred Ganga is a lifeline to millions of Indians who live along its course and depend on it for their daily needs. Ganga River is now one of the world’s most polluted rivers, endangering hundreds of species of humans, fish, amphibians, and dolphins.

IMG_7144  Photo taken at 5:00 AM outside of New Delhi’s train station. Most of what you see are bodies of humans sleeping. We were boarding the train to visit Taj Mahal and Agra Fort.

IMG_6976 Photo taken at Agra Fort in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. The first Sultan (supreme ruler) of Delhi lived here.

IMG_6903 Photo taken at the Taj Mahal in Agra. Taj Mahal is basically a giant tomb (known as a universally admired masterpiece of the world’s heritage) that was built for Emperor Shah Jahan’s third dead wife.

Inspired by my experiences in Delhi, Agra, Varanasi, and Bhopal, below is a poem I wrote to challenge perspectives of power, especially within symbols of beauty and prestige. Beautiful symbols, like the Taj Mahal and Presidential Palace, highlight and encourage admiration while ignoring the extracted labor and resources used to create such masterpieces. These buildings allow and justify “accidents,” such as the Bhopal gas leak and the continuation of millions of people without homes, begging on the streets. These buildings tell us some people are better than others. Kings and queens and presidents are more valuable than the people they are supposedly serving. However, society must remember that these positions were created to guarantee fairness and stability. The people in these positions work for us; yet, we are stuck working for them, constructing their large, beautiful buildings to, then, not even be allowed near them. I’m referring specifically to the lowest-economic class Indians one would never see at the Taj Mahal or Presidential Palace unless they worked there. This happens throughout the world, and no longer should we, as a society, tolerate such malice.

 

North by Courtney Train

 

Surrounded by royalty, I ignite.

I glide across Taj Majal’s marble and marvel at its tall montage

Symmetrical Beauty,

It’s like a compass:

Turn any direction

And that arrow still points North to Heaven.

 

Agra Fort bows at my feet,

Presidential Palace makes my heart weak.

 

What would the people of India do without their government’s Big, Beautiful Buildings?

Blocks of lawns and men with guns.

Nets to protect the flying rocks to protest a socialist government.

A government for the people by the people.

Too bad the millionaires crafting laws for the million-poors

Wouldn’t see difference between an Adivasi and Devadasi.

Only see the profit that seeps from their Marginalization, Cheap Labor, and Sacred Forests

Like a gas leak all too familiar.

I wonder what this lawn would look like filled with New Delhi’s street kids

Because I know I’ve passed eight in the time I wrote this sentence.

That’s not counting the ones in the tunnel.

Better yet, let’s build an amusement park on these lawns.

Anyway, isn’t that what’s going on?

Do you actually care about the victims of Bhopal

Or, are their Death, Deformity and Defeat just for your amusement?

A theme park of torment.

 

Krishna, Shiva, Durga, Rama,

No god will hear the cries of their shout

Vishnu, Ganesh, Kali, Brahma

The Sikhs know what I’m talkin’ about

 

Representing, laboring, and defending

Corporation Nation that uses “exploitation” in synonymous for “development.”

Seems like just short of “improvement.”

Especially when the only god these children know

Is the smog that warms their dying bodies

As they lay helpless on the cold cement

Counting blank faces that pass them by.

They want to die.

Blocks

Of dead bodies.

I cry.

Selfless soulless homeless.

You do the math. 

Hungry + Dirty + Migrant = Lifeless.

It’s like the aftermath of Rwanda.

A typhoon in the Philippines

Just so you can have your new Honda.

 

Dear God,

Rebirth me into a Dalit just so I can even out my karma

Because no matter how many Hindu hymns justify the slavery of a caste system,

The silk-maker will still only have enough for a thread to tie around the toes of her dead daughter.

This is human slaughter.

Buddah did not proclaim enlightenment for philosophy’s impracticalities.

Quit asking so many questions.

Quit procrastinating on reality.

And I’m talking to you, too, America.

Because as much as your Higher-archy preaches,

The billions below cannot save themselves

When they’re hanging by the same cross Jesus carried

Just so a thousand years later

White supremacists can use his teachings to defend racism.

But don’t forget your Israeli Lord

Looks like the father of the family your army just murdered

All in the name of terror.

 

If Jesus knew the presidential oath was taken in his name

Over bloodshed for oil, diamonds, and weapons,

He would kill himself before you had the sick joy to torture him first.

He would hammer the nail in for you.

 

You wanna talk about terror,

Well, then, Lord in Your Mercy,

Hear my prayer.

I met a boy named Rinku.

Between his seven-month-pregnant wife

And missing left leg

Probably buried in the heart of the train station he’s left to beg and die in,

Tell him:

This poem is for him.

For his 18 years of life that have been his same 18 years of death.

My 20 rupees won’t afford his infant any nutrients,

But his smile will never leave me.

 

Please, Lord,

Let me be the One Who Walks Away from Omelas

Because I can’t live to see another Ozymandias.

How can I be pure when I tell a hungry girl I have nothing?

She’s just a baby.

Why are the Brahmans your equivalent when they push aside a baby?

What happened to oneness and unity?

More like uni-fee

Because your system is corrupted with greed.

What more can you take from them?

When their life has no value

Yeah, I guess I see how you can just replace them.

 

But when will this end?

Because the underdevelopeds’ assessment of time is cyclical,

And it’s only a matter of time

Before our power is defeated.

Oh, you best get heated.

Grab the kids and let’s run away to a garden

Because if Eden won’t save us,

Bite that polluted hand that feeds you,

Be fruitful and multiply your vegetable supply.

Spit out the chemicals and swallow your pride.

It’s time to unite and sustain and live without disdain.

Take back your value.

We are beautiful, brilliant, and better than our wages

We’ve been fighting this battle for ages

But we’re not giving up

We’re like the Taj Mahal compass,

Only genuine and grateful and

Always

Looking up.

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