smitha photo
The Invisible Men*
by Smitha Vishwanath

I don’t know them by name
Or by face
I know them by what they wear
A half-sleeve shirt untucked and trousers
A safari suit like the one worn by people in the government
But this one’s brown like dust or a blue- grey
So, you only see
the emptied bins and the clean gardens
Not them

You can see them crouching sometimes
In the lift scrubbing the walls
Until it shines like a mirror
And reflects your face
Not theirs—
as their heads are bent
and they carry on
Focused like the ants

Even if you do not see them
You know they are there
Like the air you breathe
somewhere, everywhere
Like you know you’re alive
You’ll see the building spic, the tiles shiny
And the grounds cleared of fallen leaves
and the path cleared of wrappers or anything that does not belong

I pass them by
Today, as I always have
And they keep their eyes lowered
As they always have
But today; I want to give them a smile
Like I never have before
For staying inconspicuous like Santa’s helpers
And not halting even when the world was called to halt.

*Men to be read as to include women

Copyright @ SmithaV

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photograph shows some of the prime movers in our apartment block who have stayed in the premises during the past five months due to Covid. They have ensured that everything has been maintained as before. This picture captures them celebrating Indian Independence Day on August 15, 2020.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Smitha Vishwanath is a banker-turned-writer. A management professional, she embarked on the writing journey in 2016 with her blog,, while still heading the regional cards operations of a bank. After working for almost two decades in senior roles in the banking industry in the Middle East, she quit and moved to India in July 2018 when her husband was transferred on an assignment. In July 2018, she co-authored a book of poetry, Roads: A Journey with Verses. Her poetry has been published by Rebelle Society, Spill Words Press, and other publications. Other than writing, she enjoys reading, traveling, and painting. Visit her blog at