The Rule of 21
In Shiva's homeland, the rules are quite strange, as I can truly attest,
If someone slips, and falls by err, police come by to arrest.
Your ordeal continues inside of a court room,
Where judges are ready to fine you a fortune -
21 rupees is the price you must pay,
but wait till you hear what they charge in the day -
for sneezing before six, a ticket is needed,
without this in hand, you will be ill-treated -
they beat you like drums, and snuff up your nose,
you sneeze not just once, but 21 blows!
The fine for teeth-chattering is 4 rupees flat,
for growing a mustache a bit more than that -
a hundred nickles, paid out in cash,
plus 21 prayers with both hands clasped.
While walking the streets, your steps cannot wander,
a step left or right and the king is called yonder.
He summons his guards who come in with a run,
to force you to sit while you sweat in the sun.
There is some relief, as they offer some water,
unfortunately so much that its not worth the bother.
But this isn't the worst of it, by any means really,
for those who write poems, their punishment is silly,
they're placed in a cage under strict lock and key,
with no chance of exile, or option to flee.
A hundred Orrisans are placed, so it's fabled,
proclaiming exhaustively the multiplications table.
And then there's more math as you tend to a store,
account for the sales - it's a menial chore.
One last offense, that's punishable by law,
Is snoring at all - it's seen as a flaw.
The glue from a bilva tree, the dung from a cow,
It's all used quite viciously, here's how:
they rub it in coarsely, the hair of an offender,
who's tied to a tree and spun like a blender.
For 21 spins he goes round and round,
and 21 hours till his feet touch the ground.
[Original: 'ekushe ain' (Bengali),Translation by: Sujoy and Chandana Chatterjee]
Sukumar Ray's Other Poems
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