by Murzban F. Shroff

(An ode to all those who stood
in the rising waters of the Narmada River,
courting submergence as the only reply
to a long and unpardonable crime.)

Mother, is the river rising
Has the sky turned black
Has the time arrived, Mother,
when there is no turning back?

Mother, is the rain a-pouring
hard and ceaselessly
Is the river rising, Mother,

Will it creep in on us
with its fishes and its weeds
Will it not warn us
before it sweeps us off our knees?

Will it take our homes
Will it take our lives
Will it take our friends away
This river that must rise?

Tell me, Mother, tell me now
do we have to die
Won’t the river listen
Won’t it even try?

Can I go and speak to it
when no one knows I’m there
Can I go and pray to it
I only think that’s fair

I will say to it:
“Spare my trees,
spare my hut
spare my family,”

Will it listen to me, Mother,
If I beg earnestly?

Hush my child, hush my boy
Not a word will you speak
It’s the way of rulers
when progress they must seek

They need the power
they need the water
they need our budding fields
So let the rich turn richer
The poor, they can bleed

“Give them land – anywhere
So what if it don’t reap
At least it will teach them
To look before they leap”

So my son, we’ll leave our homes
and to a better kingdom we will go
Where no dam will crush us
No river through our door

No police to chase us
No lathi to descend
No river to drown us
In the place where life began

Come, my son, drink your milk
And shut your tender eyes
You will feel no pain at all
When you hear the river rise.

Narmada by  Pablo Ares Gastesi  via Flickr