In the TV screen Maveli and the ocean
are still and frozen. His feet, naked, speak
to the earth, and the earth resounds
an erosion. Maveli, he is sentenced to die
today, yet he looks above, unbroken,
to the skies. I am a child in my memory, alert and
holding nothing but confusion. Why must he? and
I watch. He doesn’t protest. Beside him the ocean
too, unnoticed, stands quiet like a mirror unbroken.
I can’t see the sun in frames, a shade peaks
over the horizon as the sky is painted in a dye
of flesh and is falling. I hear only one sound
of air thrusting the sand. This moment, this sound
is halfway an executioner’s departed axe and
the cold body of a man who has already died.
There are two witnesses; I and the ocean.
I want Maveli to run away. He doesn’t speak,
and foreseeing the scene, he smiles unbroken.
As the shade closes by, I see an aquamarine broken
under his eyes. I gasp for an ounce of sound
and choke eating my scream, he can’t hear me speak
through the TV screen. The earth keeps promise and
buries Maveli’s carcass. In silence mourns the ocean,
but the image stays, of what is left after Maveli dies—
a footprint of Vamanan’s trample, the land dyed
in pale shades of defeat, the silence broken
by a Brahmin priest beside the unmoved ocean,
who chants his due spiced in a wayward sound,
“Mahabali is slain!”. These words echo the land—
Maveli insufferably executed as the TV speaks
in repeat. Men sound drums and speak
of charity in this festival of defeat and dye
corpses of my ancestors that rise from this land,
hollow; from the kingdom underneath, broken
while I, dance, thump my foot to the sound,
and quake waves to move the frozen ocean.
O! how the troubles and sorrows are here to stay, we speak
by the sleeping ocean, we make way for the kingdom to come,
while Maveli, he smiles in death to see another day.
Narendran is a writer and artist based in New Delhi.