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July Alteration 2.0: Kerosene

This is a translation of Laishram Samarendra’s Tersing from the anthology Laishram Samarendragi Apunba Lairik (2012). The poem was originally included in Wakchinggi Kabita, which was published in 1999.


My dear brother
Since the other day I’ve been coming here
Running hither and thither
Just for kerosene—for just two litres!

And in my kitchen I got no firewood
And I got no money to buy the firewood

For these two litres of kerosene
The local dealer has intervened
Before we come to fetch the oil on Monday
We have to fill up a form on Saturday
If it runs out of stock
We have to come on the 5th, next month, another Saturday
And we have to fill up the form again
And on Monday, the 7th
Before 7 o’clock
We can get the kerosene, he says,
I have considered doing away completely with this deal
But here the kerosene a litre is only eight rupees
In Gouransing’s shop it is ten.


Footnote: The government of India has a grand scheme of food security system called the Public Distribution System, or simply PDS for the poor and the marginalised. The Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution (www.fcamin.nic.in) and the state (provincial) governments handle the management of subsidised food and non-food items that mostly include wheat, rice, sugar and kerosene. The government-owned Food Corporation of India maintains the PDS while local dealers, through public distribution shops or ration shops, deal in the direct distribution of these items. The entire system is infested with corruption.


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