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Ashwini Gangal: Dystopia Is Today/Already There

Image: Unsplash, downloaded ( 15.05.2022.

The 2020 Plague

  • First Wave: India

The pandemic is getting over, The virus is almost gone Then why do sirens shriek Along with the crows at dawn? The news cycle is exhausting, Let’s switch to movies or sport Never mind the daily death toll Let’s have a glass of port But denial goes only this far (As far as a metre or two) Beyond that there’s an abyss… …that’s patiently waiting for you No friends, no lovers, no guests, Only delivery boys ring my bell To add yet another lipstick To my gorgeous, private hell Everything will be fine! But why does my friend have fever? Why do I find myself praying? Me, the atheist, non-believer… They beat their wives, they hang themselves, Lockdown has been rough, (But I have a job, my family’s fine, Then why is this so tough?) Exercise, work, binge, cook, Oh, let’s tidy up this mess! Look! Hope’s around the corner! Can they vaccinate against stress?

“Just like the flu it’ll come and go, Don’t let it get to your head!” Yes, all cool, I’m not scared… … But why is my neighbour dead?

Neurosis 2021

  • Second Wave: India

You wore a mask and scrubbed your palms,

Then boarded a big flying ship,

Your bubble’s ruptured, oh sweet one,

But have a lovely trip.

You’re numb to the number of deaths by now,

It makes no sense – not any!

Never mind thousands, oh precious doll,

Even one is far too many.

Parabens? Sulphates? Gluten? No!

It’s toxic, let’s be clear!

Ignore the labels, oh innocent one,

The venom’s already here...

So vegan, is it? And no more meat?

Yes, only leafy meals!

It makes no difference, oh little one,

They'll butcher while she squeals.

The buffet on bumble’s laid out for you,

The spread looks mighty rich,

Some dishes are poisoned, oh dreamy one,

But you just don’t know which.

With intimacy sacrificed on the altar of caution,

You’ve embraced your inner recluse.

All that beauty, my pretty one,

Is, after all, of no use.

She said yes and now you’re wed!

She couldn’t love you more,

But when the tumour bursts, my friend,

She’ll walk right out that door.

Your lids are lowered, your eyes misplaced...

...when you video-call me,

If we both look at the lens, my love,

We’ll vanish, on the count of three.

Sleepwalk from Monday to Friday, then…

…take refuge in the waning week,

But you watch films of cats and dogs,

Darling... what do you seek?

Melting ice caps, burning jungles,

Microbes gone astray,

Don’t fear the future, oh timid one,

Dystopia is today.


  • Third Wave: India

Through the delirium of Dostoyevsky, words of authors long dead,

cling to her sweaty body, as she wastes away in her bed.

Reading about plagues of yore, fables of rats and fleas,

she flies to the past and back, curled up holding her knees.

Cabin fever pushes her outside, the chaos then brings her in,

There’s no third place to go, is there? The book says it’s a sin.

Her mother is mad, her brother’s deranged, insane is her baby’s stare,

She asks for the way to the asylum, poor girl, but she is already there.

About the Author: Ashwini Gangal is a 36-year-old clinical psychologist by training, media journalist by profession, and poet at heart. She is based in Mumbai, India.

Ashwini has been working at, India's leading business publication that covers the Indian advertising industry, for over a decade; currently, she is Managing Editor. She has spent the last two pestilential years in her inner world of literary abundance.


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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


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