Culture & Society

Poems: NH-44

Their heads bent, countless human-like figures drive automobiles, hang onto the railings of clean metros which move hurriedly, and some also walk with fast-paced steps. 

Three trucks loaded to the brim with not-so-fresh vegetables and fruits...

Small puddles reflect 

multi-hued diesel or petrol laced water.  

A long disciplined line of trucks, 

one behind the other,  

in neat, straight line. 

The line has grown longer,  

since the day before.  

No longer a straight line 


they spread and spill over  

into the highway. 

Leaving a small stretch for anyone  

who wishes to walk, cross or drive 

 their non-truck-looking vehicles. 

Three trucks loaded to the brim with not-so-fresh vegetables and fruits, 

two with cattle and one with iron bars for house construction perhaps. 

Two more loaded with goods of someone  

moving towards Kashmir I am told. 

Some are empty.  

‘No Clearance’ ‘Landslide’  

‘Bad Weather’ Poor Visibility 

‘Security check’ ‘ Stay’  

the truckers are informed  

through some kind of pass on the message game  

by someone far ahead.  

A gasoline stove is being pumped to life. 

Onions and green chillies chopped and  

a meal cooked.  

Did you say unhygienic, filthy?  

They are hungry sir Ji, madam Ji.  

Rotis baked freshly, 

no dal, 

just an onion and green chillies  

or maybe a pickle.  

A cleaner holds the photograph  

of a tiny, stamp-sized photograph of a child. 

‘My niece, haven’t seen her in many months,’ he says  

Chewing his roti. 

‘My mother was ill 

When I started about nearly two weeks ago,’ adds in a driver.  

Staring at nothingness or maybe just the road ahead,  

blocked by other trucks.  

Huge tarpaulins,  

old, multicoloured pieces of cloth,  

spread beneath their truck, 

 drivers and cleaners  

sleep,  dreaming of home  

and a cup of morning tea.  


A truck on a highway. Getty Images

Barcodes and hatted heads 

Their heads bent,  

countless human-like figures  

drive automobiles,  

hang onto the railings  

of clean metros which move hurriedly,  

and some also walk with fast-paced steps. 

They move around everywhere 

Do they raise their heads ever?  

Do they know who lives next door?’ 

You ask too many questions!  

They don’t care actually.  

There isn’t much time.   

They are very sincere workers.  

What do these figures eat for breakfast? 

Well! It doesn’t matter to us.  

Ok. But do they eat breakfast, lunch or dinner?  

Oh my my! That doesn’t matter to us either.  

All right! But do they fall sick?  

Perhaps they do. But who cares?  

These creatures  

are numbered and encoded.  

Try reading them  

like you scan a QR code  

or a barcode, 

on that cosmetic,  

you purchased last week 

 at the mall. 

You’ll then probably know  

their age, 



 blood group  

and also the street they live in.  

It is that simple!  

I don’t know how they look.  

Maybe they all look the same.  

It doesn’t matter to me.  

They don’t seem to know how to lift their heads up.  

so we won’t know about their faces then.  

They are dead  

a long, long time ago.  

Maybe they leave their faces behind  

when they wake up dead.  

The barcode creatures have no voice either.  

Never heard them speak ever.  

Look at the pretty caps  

and woven hats,  

tied to their shoulders, 

as they walk with their heads bent. 

Beautifully encoded, faceless figures. 

(Author Bio: Bhumika R completed her PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. She has worked as an assistant professor in the School of Humanities & Sciences at Shiv Nadar University Chennai, Jain (Deemed to be) University Bangalore, Shri Mata Vaishnodevi University in Kakryal, J&K and as a language instructor in the Department of Humanities & Social Science, IIT Jammu.  

She believes that writing heals scars and allows you to mock authority in a subtle yet powerful manner and importantly it allows a writer to tell stories that might be difficult to articulate in academic writing. In July 2022 she decided to focus her energy and time entirely on literary writing and translation having realised that her love and passion for literature outweigh her interest in academia. 

Bhumika has contributed articles to Cafe Dissensus every day, The Hindu and Deccan Herald. She writes poetry and short fiction in English. Some of her poems have been published in the Visual Verse, IACLALS newsletter, The Pine Cone Review, and Plato's Caves online. Her short stories have been published in the borderlessjournal, aainangar literary magazine and eastindiastory. She also translates poetry and fiction from Kannada into English and vice versa. )