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Harsh Nawal



Harsh Nawal


The Shuffling of Lives

The Shuffling of Lives

16 mins 24.3K 16 mins 24.3K



The setting of the poem is in “The Land of the Blacks” i.e. Africa. It is of the colonial era, when all countries were in a rush to expand their empires, going astray from the path of humanity. It narrates a wonderful crossover of the opposite people of opposite complexions, countries, standards but of common humane feelings.


He had been walking for days, in the land of the blacks,

Holding in his hand, the last piece of lit candle wax.

The Englishman had seen dynamically colored, vast skies,

Looking around, for survival, for food and some supplies.

He finally gave up all hope, and knelt down on the sand,

His exhausted joints were aching, he just could not stand.

A teardrop gradually erupted, from the corner of his eye,

As he joined his hands, and begged, for help, to the sky.

Unable to speak a word, he fell down upon the ground,

The desert echoed with his heart’s faint beating sound.

He unwillingly believed that this was his life’s last Sun,

Unknown he was, to the contriving of the Almighty one.


The evening was turning dark, fresh moonlight spread,

The very man found himself lying on a broken bedstead.

He found a covered glass of water and half-loaf of bread,

Lying on an antique and broken table, beside his head.

He, baffled, glared around at the dull green painted wall,

The brown drawer, above which, was kept a ragged doll.

A rusted hook on the wall held an antique brown shawl,

Suddenly then, the sounds of footsteps came from the hall.

A dark-skinned lady, in her native dress, stepped inside,

Her fathomless eyes were gleaming, her grin was wide.

Her neatly tied hair showed her innate dignity and pride,

As she walked towards the bed, with a bold stride.

“Hello young man. My name is Eve.

I found you lying, in a state of grief,

Amidst neighboring vast desert sands,

So, we rescued you to our homelands.

You need some rest and you’ll be fine,

I’ll wake you as the clock strikes nine.

Eat something and you’ll feel alright,

I have a lot of chores, I bid Good Night.”

The man, unquestioningly, did exactly as this lady said,

Drank the water kept and ate up that kept loaf of bread.

And with a excruciatingly painful spasm rocking his head,

He fell asleep as the last bit of night’s moonlight spread.


The unshackled Sun started rising as clouds turned red,

The unshackled birds started chirping as sunlight spread.

The habituated village cock sounded the morning alarm,

As the untiring laborers returned back, back to their farm.

The first place to be reopened was the butcher’s shop,

Which was followed by Bill’s Brass and Bronze Workshop.

The Sun rose above the mountains to lighten up the land,

Prepared to ensure another traveler gets lost in the sand.

Eve gently woke the man up, from his fitful night sleep,

After she had finally finished grazing her dozen sheep.

James’ face no more had that weird and painful frown,

His nagging headache had gradually now calmed down.

The Englishman got up and tried to speak something,

After having made head or tail of what was happening.

 “Good Morning Gracious Madam, my name is James,

I have arrived from England, the land of the Thames.”

“Being an adventurous explorer, I roam various lands,

And so was my mind attracted to these desert sands.

But an unexpected sandstorm caught me on my way,

I lost hold of all my supplies, I myself got blown away.”

“My life was deeply into the sinking sands of doubt,

But, I thank you, benevolent lady, for helping me out.

I feel much better and I think, to Africa, I shall return,

I’d love to repay your major favor, if you grant a turn.”

“It is my fundamental duty to help a person in need,

And in the process of this I intend no prize nor greed.

But you must eat something before you just leave,

Your stomach must be gnawing with pangs, I believe.”

And as she spoke, suddenly her daughter girl came in,

Who wore a traditional beaded necklace below her chin.

Her deep and dark eyes gleamed, she wore a wide grin,

As she walked in, continuously fidgeting with her hair pin.

But what caught James’ eyes sent him into a confusion,

He momentarily felt that he was trapped in an illusion.

There her daughter stood, a very replica of her mother,

With no characteristic differing them from each another.

Eve turned – “Dayo, what are you even doing here?

I had told you to stay at the farm and let no one near.”

The child smiled with her tongue out, and rushed away,

Swinging her hands playfully, down the narrow hall way.

Eve said – “My daughter is very frivolous, always playing,

And always running around. Anyway, what was I saying?”

James interrupted – “No ma’am. You have been very kind,

It is for people like you that our race is still called mankind.”

“Although I am not in a state to repay the my debt now,

But I shall ensure that I do repay it, someday, somehow.

But for now, I request you to grant permission to depart,

For the weekly sailboat to England is about to kick start.


Years passed and times changed as royal empires grew,

Who remained stuck in trying to capture colonies, new.

And so did the dark moon of war alight upon Africa too,

Which stood as the precious prize in England’s view.

The government needed men, men who knew the land,

To sail south here, and help establish their command.

And so was James, the explorer, one of those selected,

James, a true nationalist, accepted, as was expected. 

And so did he sail, miles away, to the unknown land,

To assist in helping the African British empire expand.

He couldn't perceive what all were to happen later,

Could not have imagined that he'd become a traitor.

James took charge of his office. A year passed away, 

Revolutions rose. The native people began to disobey.

And the British Crown ordered large scale repression,

To bend down the revolutionaries and their aggression.

Centres of aggression mainly involved the desert sands,

With the rioters, usually from the neighbouring lands.

And so the settlements in such periphery-placed places,

Had to see some of mankind's extremely inhuman faces.

Villages were burnt into ash, which spread over the sky,

Large scale hunger ravaged, due to lack of food supply.

Man, woman and child, all were being taken as captive,

Gun-shots pierced them all who refused to be adaptive.

James entered the field of this action just to assess it all,

He sincerely opposed this, but was shackled by protocol. 

He was driving around as soldiers manhandled the men,

But something in the distance caught his eyes, right then.

In the distance, he could see a very neatly dressed female, 

Whose daughter clung tightly, trying to escape the assail.

He immediately changed his direction and headed straight,

At the couple who calmly stood there in a damaged state.

The soldiers stopped hauling the helpless people into vans,

Which were to dump them in camps lone in hunger's hands.

They bowed down to their senior, who was occupied then,

Looking around, searching carefully, for those two women.

And he did find them, as they stood aside with heads down, 

Stood powerless, as they felt their lives being flung around. 

"Madam Eve you are, if, by my memory, I am not deceived, 

The one who saved and aided me, in that state, aggrieved."

"I am that very Eve. And I did help you out a few years ago,

But since that fateful day, a big lot has changed, you know."

She boldly said, as she glanced upon the handcuffs she wore,

Calming her daughter who was trying to control her outpour.

"I will get you of here. I promise. I'm already in your debt,

If I won't be able to help you now, it'll be a lifelong regret.

I will do whatever I can, with the massive powers I possess,

To bring you out of this state of dilemma, state of distress."

Eve sadly smiled - "I appreciate your efforts to help us Sir,

It is indeed very strange to receive help from my abuser.

For, if I were a ship, then my community would be my sail,

Rather than abandoning them, I'd choose to live in jail."

"There ain't time for social service. You just have to leave, 

If you want to escape the oncoming fierce storm of grief."

"Respected Sir, I would rather traverse the stormy way out,

I choose to get die along with my men, than live without."

"Your will power is unbendable. But I can think of a way,

Secretly inform your community, to follow all that I say."

James forcefully clapped his hands twice, twice in the air,

All ears turned towards him, and he resumed to declare.

"I have received a command, right from the royal crown, 

Who has directed me to deport all these people, brown.

To our glorious land, where they shall work as vile slaves,

To laboriously work in our homes, the home of us braves."

"Load them into the vans, and bring them to Plorol Port,

And from the entire community will together, deport."

A great wave of thrill passed amongst the white forces, 

Who were just overjoyed at obtaining free work horses.

And so hundreds of ‘dark people’ were loaded into vans,

To be eventually handed over, into the very British hands.

They were locked in cells, which were placed below deck, 

With about a dozen soldiers armed, to maintain check.

With the 'cargo' loaded, the sailors prepared to set out,

While the armed guard soldiers were still on their route.

James, the head, who had reached the port much earlier,

Went ahead to converse to the two drivers of the carrier. 

"I am James. General Supervisor of British Africa. Here."

They bowed before. Be it out of respect, or out of fear.

"Soldiers have boarded. We must depart from here fast,

For, before all of us, stands a yet unbegun journey, vast."

Questioning a senior officer was beyond their scope, 

So, they signalled the portman to untie the fixing rope.

The ship loudly honked. It's rotors also started to roar,

As the ship steadily moved away, away from the shore. 

But before James, a mammoth problem, lay, 

It was of the already boarded soldiers' utter disarray. 

These men had helped transfer captives into the cells,

But now they were alone on the ship to control rebels.

James hurried down onto the deck, where he found, 

Those very soldiers, who were completely dumbfound.

"Respected Lord, where are the rest of the armed units,

Who were to bring on board for us, guns and bullets."

James stood bemused. He had to answer somehow,

So, he said in a coarse accent, with a raised eyebrow, 

"They shall be boarding the ship at the coming port,

Two hours away, to provide us with more support."

"Some unexpected circumstances have led to it,

But, for the sake of keeping an eye around, we'll split.

Five men to the south, five to the north, of the ship,

Though weaponless, keep the situation under grip."

"I will keep a watchful eye at those prisoners below,

And with my pistol, prevent their 'overflow'.

But just for the time being, keep a close eye around, 

Until we receive reinforcements at the next town."

The men obeyed. They split and took their position,

With utter dutifulness, yet without any ammunition. 

James descended into the basement level of the ship,

Where he saw the hundreds, pressed under lordship.

James stepped forward towards the bars of the cell,

The cell, which was no more better than that of hell. 

He called out - "Madam Eve. Hurry. Advance ahead.

For it is time we execute the plan I have prepared."

Eve advanced. He said - "I am unlocking every cell,  

Leave for the deck, and then, just attack and assail, 

The soldiers there. Do not kill, but simply subjugate,

After which to a faraway land, we all shall navigate."

Eve communicated this to the rest of her community, 

With everyone appreciating the plan softly, in unity. 

James unlocked the three cells, with his set of keys, 

And the barbaric captives swarmed out like bees.

They quickly stormed onto the deck of the ship,

The unaware soldiers were 'caught upon the hip'.

The "black army" pounced, dominated and subdued, 

The guards unarmed, surrendered to the multitude.

The two sailors, perplexed, as heard wild cries,

Came outside their cabin, in order to, analyze.

Bewildered, they saw, a scene of action, intense,

Amidst which, the duo stood, with no defense.

So, even they were brought down, by the crowd, 

Which roared with cheer, a roar extremely loud.

The clan leader ordered that, together, all men,

Tie the guards, to leave them on a life-boat then.

Two sailor boys were commanded to sail the ship,

As men lowered a lifeboat for those soldiers’ trip. 

The entire clan loudly rejoiced upon their success, 

But, an anxious feeling, was what Eve did possess. 

She realized that James was nowhere to be found,

Amidst the festivity, she tried to search all around.

With no sign of him on the deck, she took to stairs,

To go under the deck to search for him downstairs.

And as she alighted upon the cell room’s threshold,

She saw that, what sent down her spine, shivers cold.

There lay James, upon the wooden floor, on the brink,

Of death. Surrounded by blood, flowing out pale pink.

Eve rushed towards him. He rushed towards death,

James’ neck bled. He was gasping for every breath.

Eve gently lifted his head and placed it upon her lap,

She tied a part of her cloth on the wound as a strap.

“Sir. What, what happened? Did my people do this?”

James tried to get up, then. Blood flew out in a hiss.

“No madam. I have shot myself. Not for I am a coward,

Because I misused that, with which I am empowered.

I committed treason to my nation. But I do not repent,

For I did so, to prevent innocent people from torment.

I lied to my men. I brought hundreds of people away,

From the path, where they won’t last for many a day.

“For I may kill a thief as he tries to escape after the act,

For the victim, I have helped to keep his wealth intact,

But for the law, I have committed the crime of killing,

A citizen, which shall bring to me punishment, unwilling.”

“I did not, do not and will not repent having helped you,

Because I have done what my kind soul felt, what is true.

But it brings with it, the weight of guilt, guilt of treason,

Of disloyalty towards England. Be whatever the reason.”

“And so do I, voluntarily, give my heart, freedom to rest,

For the guilt is too heavy to be lifted by me on my breast.

I hope that I have repaid my debt, and brought you glee,

For my turn has come to drown, drown into life’s deep sea.”

James left the cruel world. Tears flowed out of Eve’s eyes.

There were two seas, inside and outside, as I did analyze.

Outside, the mighty sea, in which all these people sailed,

Inside, James’ blood, mixed with tears which Eve wailed.

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