Shantaben, Bat Granny
Up the mud house walls, the limbs and heads of my little ones make pentagon stars clasping onto the bricks. Underneath them, I sweep their droppings into a large metal bowl. I sweep every day: stroke, stroke, sweep, sweep, scoop, scoop; my friends flutter in. They depart at night, squeak, squeak: we’re home we’re home, granny, we’re home, we’re home, good night good night. They are my mouse-tailed bats.
This little one here, with the very straight teeth, he’s got nice elbows and he flies so smoothly, you hear only his wings in flight. We see eye to eye. I try not to have favorites because that is not good karma to pick one above another. So every time he makes me smile, then I smile to whoever else is looking. I sweep up their droppings everyday otherwise it gets messy for all of us. I’ve moved out of the back room now. Now over 400 stay with me. I don’t need much space, only someplace to cook and sleep.
My neighbors didn’t scare me when they came with shovels and broomsticks to kill my babies. They yelled—You’re making it dirty in our village because of those bats. Why do you let them stay? They carry disease! We got new tin roof bungalows just because of things like this. Get out, Bat Granny!
It was one of the few times I raised my voice in my own home, but I didn’t shout: I will not go.
After my husband’s electrocution, there’s no need for much noise. Not too much unnerves me. My children have moved to Mumbai and married. I like the company of bats. I’m not lonely anymore. The little bats, they make a nice sound. I hear them breathe and daydream.
I would never want to be swatted off a wall and killed, looking for a place to sleep. I know about karma. They will live with me till I die. Who am I to decide their fate?
ANNIE BIEN has written two poetry books—Under Shadows of Stars (Kelsay Books, 2017) and Plateau Migration (Alabaster Leaves Press, 2012). The Soho Theatre Company in London awarded her with her first seed commission. She translates Tibetan Buddhist scriptures into English through 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha. http://anniebien.com