Rabindra K Swain’s poem takes up a protagonist, and a dilemma, that has long consumed Indian public discourse—the question of how to understand the prime minister, poised tragically between personal integrity and a puzzling, provocative impassivity in the face of disorder and caprice. Swain refracts the prime minister’s predicament through the prism of mythology, seeing him as a solitary, ambiguous, inscrutable Shiva-like figure who must drink a bitter poison so that all those around him, whether devas or asuras, can thrive. The poem’s concluding image, of the bird that derives pleasure not from eating but from watching another bird eat, is an ironic recasting of a similar image from the Mundaka Upanishad.
The Prime Minister’s throat is blue.
The sea has been churned