ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Blogging Competition Shortlisted Entry
A Refugee’s Dreams
By Anmol Gupta, 21 years, Kolkata
Ask an Indian of their dreams
And they will tell you happily
Of the rights guaranteed
To them as Indians, under Article 19.
But only as Indians, only if they
Were born here, raised here,
And even if they left here midway
For somewhere better, somewhere greener,
We say, they only left to pursue their dreams.
But ask a refugee from near or far,
Maybe Bangladesh, Tibet or Myanmar,
One brought in as a child,
And raised to love no less
Than you or I, but dismissed
When his birth was not within
The borders, given to us by Britishers,
Over which lives have been lost,
But borders, which we call our own.
Atithi Devo Bhava, we have said
For the past five thousand years or so,
But today, our smiles are strained,
As our nation turns seventy years old,
We fold our hands, and then turn away.
We welcome still, but only
Because we have to now.
We welcome still, but are obliged
To remind you of your status as guests.
You are free to stay as long as you please
In our hearts and on our streets.
You also have our guns and our slurs
For when things inevitably get rough.
But for good measure, we would remind you
That the freedoms you get are no less
Than the freedoms we also grant
To our women, our Naxals, our Maoists,
Our brothers and sisters from the North-East,
And even Muslims with whom
We fought for these freedoms in the first place.
Ask a migrant of their dreams,
(Not the ones from the colonial countries)
And they tell you hesitantly,
Lest you realise their true identity.
The law is still with them, you say,
The freedom to dream, eat and sleep
Is still granted to each, even refugees.
But when each door you approach
For food, for shelter, for the barest necessity,
Is shut on your face, will you not question
Why despite having your freedoms,
Society denies your needs, solely
Based on your ethnicity?