I Cannot Tell the Difference. {poetry}


The recent news on May 14th of the killing of infants and mothers in the maternity ward in Kabul by three men dressed as cops shocked me to the core.

How could people be so barbaric as to kill babies who had not even opened their eyes, and women in their most vulnerable position?

On 25th May, another news shocked me: the live footage of George Floyd suffocating to death because a police officer pinned him to the ground. That racism is still rampant in the most developed nation in the world is a shame, and that an innocent person could be killed in these times and nobody could do anything but record the killing on video is how far we’ve come.

When I read the news on Afghanistan, I remember saying, “Mad men, those terrorists,” but the news on the United States left me without words.

Over the years, there have been several events that have stunned me into silence. For instance the death of Nirbhaya, the 23-year-old girl who was raped in Delhi on 16th December, 2012. Despite nationwide protests, it continued to happen across the country while the judicial system busied themselves in tightening the rules.

Six years later, another case made the headlines, that of eight-year-old Kathua in January 2018. This time the focus was religion — a Muslim girl had been raped by Hindus.

I remember waking up with a question after George Floyd’s death: Have we really evolved or gone back in time? And I remember feeling that I could no longer pray for just me or for my family, but I had to pray for mercy for all of us, for the horrors we’ve wreaked in these times.

I am shocked into silence
I have been here before —
A dark place — where the senses go numb
Like my fingers holding ice, a stinging pain first, then nothing
And a question, “Have we come far?”
If ‘Yes’ be the answer, then “How far?”
There are things I do not understand
And presumption would be wrong
like the neighbors who brought down the tree
Its roots had spread under the earth on which stood their home
My heart sees no difference
In the killing of George Floyd in the United States
and that of infants and mothers in Afghanistan
But they tell me it is because I am secular
Like it is a bad thing
but I found no difference
in the killing of eight-year-old Kathua in Kashmir
And 23-year-old Nirbhaya in Delhi
Which one was worse, I do not know
But what I know is, it’s no longer enough
That I pray for me and mine alone
For we live in a world under attack
From blind racists and wild forest fires
Barbaric rapists and ravaging cyclones
I see no difference
If the perpetrators are not booked
Black or white, uniformed or not
Educated or imbecile, elite or commoner
Hindu, Muslim, Christian, whatever
My brain says, “Murder is murder.”


Smitha Vishwanath is a banker-turned-writer and a management professional, who embarked on the writing journey in 2016 with her blog, while still heading the regional cards operations of a bank. After having worked for almost two decades in senior roles in the banking industry in the Middle East, she quit and moved to Mumbai, India in July 2018 with her husband and two daughters. In July 2018, she co-authored Roads: A Journey with Verses, a book of poetry. Other than writing, she enjoys reading, traveling, painting, and going on long nature walks.


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