I posted this poem a year or so ago, and I think it bears re-posting again now. In fact, I think I should post it repeatedly every year until everybody understands the situation most of these people find themselves in through no fault of their own.


The first time she ever set eyes on the sea,

She was forty seven.


It was a long road there.

She set off with little enough,

And arrived with much less.


She had a home, once.

A house,

In a well-to-do area of the city.

Life was good.


But fear came,

In the form of bullets, shells and bombs.

Once, gas.

Then everyone lived in fear.


Her house is rubble, now.

Memories and possessions buried,

Alongside her husband.


Alongside her daughter.


Alongside her middle son.


Her hands are scarred from the digging.

For weeks,

Her palms were raw and bloody,

from blocks of masonry,

Too large to move.


Dust and tears.


It was bad enough to lose everything,

But when you’re caught in the cross-fire,

And the food runs out,

What else can you do?


Her eldest son paid for the crossing,

With borrowed money.



He is ‘paying off’ the loan.

A bonded labourer.

A slave.


She fears for him.


Her youngest son was washed away.

The dinghy was too small,

The passengers too many.


You could smell it,

Alongside the despair.

The panic.

There were fewer of them when the sun rose.


There is shelter here,

Of a sort.

But when the wind blows she shivers,

Drawing near to the oil drum blaze.


There is food,

Once a day.

Of a sort.


There was a welcome.

She soon learns what sort.


Now, she walks down to the sea.


She wonders whether she should,

Whether she should just,

Just, slip under,

The waves.


35 thoughts on “Refugees

    1. Thanks, Shail. While I understand the worries many Western countries have about finding it difficult to cope with huge numbers of refugees, I feel that what so many have been through means that simple common humanity dictates that we do what we can to help. After all, who can predict what situation we might be in ourselves, 5 or 10 or 15 years from now? And in many cases, the West has done quite a lot to create the situations that give rise to the refugee crises in the first place.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Ishaan Sharma

    A really meaningful poem from today’s context. Applicable almost everywhere around the globe. Yet people look upon refugees as if they are here to pollute the native culture and take away jobs.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ishaan Sharma

        I would say the reason in case of India is rather modern. India was known for offering refugee to every persecuted group. Be it the Zorastrians killed by Romans, Jews driven out of their homes, or anyone for that matter. But when that act of allowing everyone to come in led to foreign rule followed by imperialism for extremely long time, the views towards foreigners changed. But even that is a minor point. Now, the reason is more political.

        Liked by 1 person

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