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I Have Failed Them

As I write this
My mom sleeps lonely at night
In a stranger’s home
Her new found profession of a nanny
How the kids remind her of her own
No more near
Walked away into their own lives
Leaving her nothing but memories
Good old memories
Only memories
My poor mama

As I write this
My dad sleeps lonely at night
Thinking of his wife, my mom
Restless nights
He could never adjust to the bustle of the city
It never felt his own
Especially with mom gone in the weekdays
And long, laborious days at the construction site
The hour-long slumberous train-ride back home
And no warm dinner waiting
He cried, suffered, bemoaned
In an empty stomach
My poor pala

They had dreamt of happily retiring in their village
In each others’ company
A quiet life, a quiet ending
Sowing barley, pruning apple trees, tending yaks
Breathing the cool Dudhkunda air from the north
Alas, here they are
Catapulted thousands of miles away
New York City
A strange city, a hard life
Fate’s bad joke

They labored in their restaurant
Uncountable late nights
Unbearable Kathmandu heat
Working for a better alternative for me
Boarding school, Indian college of repute
And what has become of me?
A cab driver
My education — down with the whiskeys
My English —only good to pick up customers
“Buckle up your belt — Welcome to a rough ride
Down the alleys of failed hopes”
They had imagined me someone
Trying to make it before the red lights
A bee in a yellow swarm

They say, “son, we are happy
With all our relatives and other
We like it here”
But I know them well, I can read their faces
The fabricated, nervous smile
The defeated expression
All too obvious, all too painful

I used to believe in hard work, perseverance
Used to believe in charting your own destiny
Now I realize
How forces larger than our tiny lives
Shape our existence, our well-being
I feel entrapped, I feel powerless
But again
How weak it is of me to blame it all on the forces
I have failed them
That is the truth, simple and naked
Why evade it?

As I drive down Second Avenue
Lights after lights
Streets after streets
Passengers after passengers
I just hope that I will not fail my own child
My one-year old
Making his first steps into this world.

Migyul Magazine, Vol.2, May 2004