Poems by
Urmila Mahajan

The Conversation

a poem by Urmila Mahajan

The perplexed teacher wouldn’t give up
Though others might, being duller,
When the blind boy in all innocence asked
To know the meaning of colour.

“The breeze that lifts your hair,” he said,
“Is the same that bends the sails
Of boats, and in a mightier form
It uproots trees as gales.

Feel how rough gritty gravel can be,
Yet silk is soft and smooth
Grains of sand can rush through your hand
Like water, and feel just as good.

There are many things you can tell with smell,”
The teacher tapped the boy’s nose,
“Turn away from gutters and garbage pails
Breathe deeply into a rose.

The food you eat can be bitter or sweet
It can vary greatly in taste,
The sounds you hear can be raucous or clear
Like music pure and chaste.”

“What this has to do with colour,” said the boy,
I’m sure I’ve not understood,”
Seeing his puzzled face, the teacher made haste
To explain as well as he could.

“The world is pulsing with things to know
Like the wind, sand, water and sound,
And the light that warms the lids of your eyes
Splits into colours that bounce around.

It’s blue, blue that surrounds you,
In the sky, lakes, rivers and trees
Followed closely by green that reigns supreme
In the grasses and plants and trees.

Hot sunlight is golden yellow bright
The ground turns muddy brown after a shower
Red, purple and pink, prettier than you think
Are colours that beautify flowers.

The sky would be black if the gentle moon
Didn’t sprinkle cool, silver light
Like soothing rain on a sleeping world
Through summer and winter nights.”

He stopped to see the youthful eyes
Bathed in unshed tears in a face
That rippled with change, a definite sign
Of some struggle taking place.

He doubted the wisdom of his words
Had he driven the boy to despair?
By speaking of things he could not sense
Had he harmed more than he could repair?

The boy stood mute, profoundly still
Now the teacher’s eyes held tears
And when the child began to speak
It was in a tone beyond his years.

“I’ll play in the yellow sunlight,” said he,
I’ll sleep on a silver bed
In a beautiful world I cannot see
I’ll learn about colour instead.

I’ll touch the green in the crunchy leaves
I’ll wade in the water blue
I’m glad to live in a wonderful world
And have a wonderful friend like you.”

In the presence of such courageous insight
The teacher was humbled in mind
To doubt a dauntless spirit as this
It was he who must have been blind.