The Humble Childhood – Poem by Kokila Gupta

A few have just returned from reaping crops, dry cheeks ruddy from cold

Grass blades glued on their handsewn clothes, Still panting from the exertion

Hands parched scratched from digging out tubers from hard earth

Tiny fingers frayed, a few swollen tender

Unsheathed feet torn and cracked, yet all smiling huddled in a dusty yard

under a tree in winter splendour

Their unbridled laughter bloomed like daisies, dust laden hair a cascade of glittering stars

With dreams of books in their hopeful eyes, all came to school daily in the morning hour

They wrote crooked letters on torn muddy sheets,

read painfully slow in incomprehensible language broken

But were persistent in attendance and bringing seasonal flowers,

 small faces always glowing with anticipation

They looked at me the way urban kids look at Ironman with reverence;

The realisation gave a sinking feeling to my palpitating heart

But I borrowed resolution from their gleaming dark eyes,

Endurance from torn feet and chapped bleeding lips

Marching on I picked up the chalk…and I found the best students in the world

their world as dark as their blackboard cracked waiting to be lit up by letters white

eager, attentive, zestful and curious, looking expectantly as my hand moved in strange designs

We refurbished the ‘library’ – an instant favourite, like with kids anywhere else in the world

Those children in tatters, with gunny-bags for chairs, were starry eyed for ‘The sailor Sindbad!’

Slowly I got acquainted with them started with pinning a handkerchief to each tiny chest

and pasted smiley stickers and shiny stars on untorn notebooks with finished tests

As they grappled alphabets and numerical, I marvelled at their indomitable spirit

the unshakable unflinching faith in me, their presence simplicity and their grit

They touched my life changing it forever; never to be the same again

Angels with toothy grins in mismatched uniforms,

 always ‘Present Ma’am’ be sunshine, hailstorm or rains

I remember them forever as inspiration with childhood tied in their faded rainbow scarves,

 Bohemia flickering in their impending smiles

Fireflies of hope dancing in their eyes lustrous,

their soul a mirror of resplendent sunrise

// This poem has been penned by Kokila Gupta who was among the Top 10 Finalists in the first poetry slam event (A Rhythmic Affair) conducted by Beyond the Box for adults. //

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