A few had stopped to look; others
walked on, some
quickening their pace, many
unmindful of what had caught
the attention of the few. The crowd,
however, grew. The man had
a desperate air. ‘I’ll kill him,’
he shouted. The gun in his hand
poked at his own head, above the ear.
Just then his face crumpled with fear.
‘Please, please listen to him,’
he implored the crowd, which wasn’t sure
whether to fear for itself or for the man.
‘I’ll kill him, make no mistake,’
he cried, enraged. Someone
said, ‘What is it you want? Is it money?’
‘No, peace and goodwill on earth’ –
he muttered this, pushing the gun
with renewed force, so his head shook
and tilted a bit to the left.
‘And in twenty four hours flat! Otherwise
he gets it in the skull.’ One or two
laughed – it was only a performance!
But he was in tears, sobbing
almost cravenly, and winced when the gun
pressed him, impatient: ‘You must
believe him, he’s dead serious!’
Then, in a solemn voice,
‘I have other demands on my charter,’
said the man, edging sideways,
prodded and threatened by the unrelenting
pistol: ‘But I’ll mention
only two – an end to hunger,
and the dismantling of all nuclear weapons.’
‘We hear what you’re saying,’ shot back
a brave spectator, ‘but how
do we go about it?’ The figure
moved, bullying himself constantly sideways,
till, moments later, he pleaded
in terror: ‘Do something, he’ll pull the trigger...’
This poem was first published in the Telegraph, Calcutta, today