Category Archives: Poetry

Truancy

She said she knew something about leaving
Its familiar shape turned vague
The weight curling in your bones
And refusing to leave.

She said she made that mistake once
When she named two cats she knew
Were not hers,
“were nobody else’s, really,
But definitely not mine”
They hissed at her,
White snakes in their anger,
Claws ready to grow inward.

She left them before
“They bit their white out”,
Like what you love
Can despise itself.

She said she nearly broke down
Again
When they gave her a plastic pink whistle
The kind that had a bell in it
That rattles every time you breathe.
The kind chewed down with use
The kind that lodges itself in gaps
And never returns.

The kind that you give to miscreant children
With which they scream-whistle
“I’m still here, I’m still here!”
As they sink into the night
Purpled with slipshod suns.

When she heard of those birds
Who come October,
Dive into flames
“for no fathomable reason;
Reverse phoenixes”
She said she gasped,
“Heart, my heart, this, my heart.”
Meaning jigar, meaning liver, meaning easily torn apart meaning
so so so precious
meaning gone.

 

Written by Stuti Pachisia

Image by Chetanya Godara

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Foreign

So, here you are

too foreign for home,

 too foreign for here.

 Never enough for both.”

Ijeoma Umebinyuo, Diaspora Blues”

I am used
to the never ending roads and the abundance of trees
people smiling at you from inside shops, inside houses
remembering you from a time when you roamed the streets in your muddy dress covered with bread crumbs.
To a human connection, a familiarity
that was comforting and exhausting all at once.
To the city which never belonged to you
but to which you belonged.
To the burger place
where my dad and I used to go while my mother ranted about the ill-effects of these things-
we ordered more each time,
with sparkling eyes, full to the brim with grease and love, the latter killing more hearts than the former.

To the dozen pots full of an uncountable variety of flowers that will bloom for half a year and then
wither for the next half,
scattering petals all across the stairs
which my sister will later pick up and present to
people with an
innocence that is hurtful to watch
because it is not possessed by you.
To the house that is a little too overused
but welcoming
full of blue walls with frames
hanging and clocks on every wall
because time never moves fast enough here.
To the old kitchen table with two cups of
half-drunk tea, one of which
my mother will forget in a hurry or because
she accidentally put four instead of three spoons of sugar
and exactness in everything is something she aspires for.

To the towel, always thrown on the bed after a shower
which I will later pick up and leave to dry in the
sunshine
and to the glasses left behind on every table
because there’s nothing left to see.

To the keyboard on which I can play three songs and Swan Lake perfectly
which my sister will imitate
like she always does.
To the stars that shine too bright and to the car where the same songs are
played because we are creatures of habit and nobody really likes change,
they just like the sound of glass breaking.
To the air hockey table, the old deck of cards, the Game of Life which
I always lost.

To the coffee table books that I bought from
the withdrawal sale in the library
near the cafe where the hired band played every Saturday.

To the this is home, this is home, that you say repeatedly
like the chorus of a song you never wanted to
remember in the first place
but somehow it attaches itself to your mind with such an intensity and stubbornness that is hard to shake off.  You’ve said it enough times
to believe yourself.

 

I am not used
to the irregular street routes and the cracked and unmaintained gravel roads,
teenagers under age, with their hearts pumping faster than the speed of their cars
rich boys with their shiny cars, loud music and unfortunate reflexes,
lonely drunks with slippery palms and wobbly legs and
people who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
To the people with too much perfume,
too many dead eyes in the crowd full of
faces without names, without identities.

To the rumpled up guitar case and the guitar resting against the small table,
overused’ your aching shoulders and bleeding fingers would say

To the dusty room
and the mug you never got around to cleaning, the stolen apples, the rotten pears.

To the murmur of the voices in the hallway and the bangs of the door that will shatter the bones of your existence.
To the audible sighs and dirty shoes,
the chipped off wall that leaks,
the scowling Van Goghs and the illustrations made by steady hands a long time ago
taped on the wall which will
fall every week, leaving marks
that will last for eternity.
To the neon lights and billboards that leave no room for the stars to shine,
whispering, “you scare me”

into the darkness of the sky.
To the whiskey breaths and the glassy eyes
and the tears that will follow
after a gentle touch, a considerate word because you can forget what kindness feels like. To the sadness and suffering that doesn’t
come as a shock
because you are used to it.
To the this is home, this is home you say repeatedly
like the chorus of a song you never wanted to

remember in the first place
but somehow it attaches itself to your mind with such an intensity and stubbornness that is hard to shake off.
Say it enough times
and you might just believe yourself.

Written  by Pragati Sharma

Image by Megha Chakrabarti

Homespun

The first time I thought of home,
Was when I turned the shower on.
The hot, cascading water
Was like a warm hug,
A reassurance,
A comforting hand,
In an unfamiliar place.
The second time I thought of home,
Was when I sipped coffee.
That uniquely mundane drink
Enveloped me
In its velvety warmth.
The third time I thought of home,
Was in the leathery cocoon
Of the passenger seat,
When the dulcet hums
Of cars whizzing by
Lulled me to sleep.
The fourth time I thought of home,
Was when the fondling droplets
Caressed me, as I walked
In the falling rain.
The fifth time I thought of home,
Was when the sultry breeze
Kissed me
Under the gaze
Of a dying sunset.
The sixth time I thought of home,
Was within the din of the metro crowd
When, with bag in hand
I stopped midway.
Cloaked within the humdrum,
My heart throbbed
With the beats
Of a dynamic city.
And, amidst the mellow voices
Of bustling lives,
I felt
Like I belonged, at last.

 

Written by Avani Solanki

Image by Megha Chakrabarti

 

S-87

Last I remember
The house was peach
It was peach
With a black and red mask hanging from the second floor balcony
Whose purpose I never really understood
But it had probably been there before me
Much like the guard hut
With the guard bhaiya sitting inside it
Calling me gudiya
Till the day I showed him a gudiya
And told him to stop calling me one

Only he knew what treasures the store room held
The store room that smelt musty
But now I think it was the smell of past
Because we no longer have a store room
And in the process of de-cluttering, neither enough things to store
Nor the guard bhaiya who was a part of our family.

I think he still is
I hope he still is.

This house of peach walls
And of marble green staircases

Each time I look at the cut in my right eyebrow
I think of that staircase
I haven’t seen THAT green ANYWHERE else

These scars are bittersweet memories
Of a time when I would go to my dadi’s old room
To soak in what felt like her smell units that lingered there
It felt like she still lived inside me
Through these secret trips to the empty ground floor.

I’ve lost access to that empty ground floor
And the plastic blue swing that hung beside the kitchen
Our house, like our kitchen, was open to everyone
No bells to be rung
And no lock that couldn’t be opened from the outside
We now live in a house all locked up
With no driveway to play ball in
And no strategically located corner to make rangolis in

Memories of Diwali mornings when my sister and I used to make rangolis fill every corner of my heart

When I was young
I was always scared that somebody was standing behind the curtain of our living room
But now, in our locked up house
I don’t have that fear anymore

I have a new fear.

 

Written by Sidika Sehgal

Image by Megha Chakrabarti

Love, Delhi

The places we live in make us, my dear,

They created us in completeness:

I loved the way you spoke and breathed,

And I took it in a stride

 

That people were quieter,

That traffic was slower,

That life was a little easier –

Somewhere far away.

 

It was a home I never quite understood, I suppose

And Lucknow – my love, my first place,

It was something incidental

Something my mind conjured up

 

To battle with smoke

And traffic

And first heartbreaks

Maybe a few lost friends.

 

But heaven help us all,

I created Lucknow from my mind, I know

Just as much as I breathed out the smoke and heartbreak

When I created Delhi.

 

And I quite hated Lucknow when I made it first –

Like my first writing,

It was backward,

And forward,

And sideward,

All at once again.

I hated the way everyone hated English,

I hated, even more

How quiet I had to be to get by.

 

But Lucknow grew into something I enjoyed

I constructed something beautiful from whatever I had

I made Lucknow the way I made myself

I made it pink, and pretty, and decidedly loud.

 

I suppose we begin again right now, don’t we?

Because Delhi is smoke

And ash

And anger

But more importantly

Delhi is me.

 

Written by Tanvi Chowdhary

Image by Sanna Jain

Time

the skin of your hands
will wrinkle
when you hold them
in water too
long.

So long–
long before the muscles underneath
shrivel.

*

you will bathe at midnight and
expect the blackness
of night.
you will find the blackness of night
but you will also find the blackness
of your dog’s fur, brushing
against your fur. Tail
scoping to make sure you’re still
in your night clothes
to make sure you’re still
not going away.

 

Written by Sanna Jain

Image by Anushmita Mohanty

New Girl, And An Old City

As old habits die hard

I still realize everything too early, but

acceptance takes a lot of time.

It’s six thirty in the morning, and

my existential crisis is an old friend now,

it says, “Hey, I’m back for three hours!”

It wears blue, and then violet

and keeps changing with the changing colours of

the Delhi metro lines

And I still think, “You suck in violet!”

With each passing station,

each passing day of first year,

I really tried hard to let go.

 

Results and heartbreaks,

irrational fears, cigarettes, Nescafé’s frappe,

societies and interviews

which still try to label me with different terms;

moving on and forgetting come easy with busy schedules,

submissions, NGO’s, department trips and chilly potatoes.

You will now find me,

only once in a while,

at the back of the reference section,

in the basketball court, sometimes,

and only sometimes on the terrace of the new building –

leaving, forgetting, knowing,

learning, always learning.

 

Old habits die hard, but they do die

if you want them not alive, and

somewhere in the middle of all this –

I was just a girl in an old city,

I am a new girl in an old city.

 

Written by Aneesha Sopori

Image by Megha Chakrabarti

Things I’ll Tell My Children about My Childhood Home

When the lights went out, we came to life.
We were always sitting at the edge of shadows,
Waiting for the light to break, ‘Load-shedding’ we called it.
We lit the darkness in little candle flames
And ate from a single plate by a single light.
Even at five, I knew where the candles were kept,
And that darkness meant candles which meant stories.
We laughed and talked without looking at each other
Like we had learnt the maps of each other’s faces by heart.
Even now, when I need a story, I need darkness
To have it come to light.
Load-shedding, we called it.

The houses were always in primary colours.
Every evening, for eleven minutes, the sky would be
Yellow in the middle, pink at the edges, and
We’d wait until the houses would start shining,
Yellow in the middle, pink at the edges.
Every time my mother found a colour pastel scrawl
On the pristine white walls,
I’d blame the sky for seducing children
Into acting the drama of eleven minutes
In eleven untidy seconds.

The pond was marmalade because what else could it be?
The sofa set was a castle because what else could it be?
My mother’s double bed was an archaeological digging site because what else could it be?
And I was the best girl ever,
Because what else could I be?

When it rained, each house turned into a island.
For seven days, we would look down from the verandah and hear
In the crashing of the rain:
Holiday, holiday, holiday.

And on the seventh continuous day,
there would be fishermen, ferrying
Us travellers, explorers, paired animals,
From shore to shore.
We never saw the fishermen except on that seventh day,
And one rainy evening, I read about fish that slept in the soil until rain,
And I wondered as I saw them, the next day, singing, shining in the rain,
If the authors forgot to add ‘-ermen’.

We’d wait until we heard the jingle of their nets;
Little, scurrying fish jumping into their little, scurrying vessels
And sail into the sunset, in this tide of this temporary ocean.
We’d return, world-weary and hagridden,
And state wisely to our parents:
‘He was right, Magellan.’

There’s very little that goes perfectly
Against the backdrop of a purple evening.
I got a boyfriend here once, and he seemed wrong.
I got an almost boyfriend once, and he seemed wrong.
Once I got two kittens home, who played in front
Of a television on static,
And they seemed wrong.
So I cushioned myself into the purple sky and thought to myself,
‘Thank God I cannot be seen.’

There was always a new summer, and always the pond,
Always a litter of puppies, always a lost frog,
Always tadpoles in the stream nearby and
Always dead earthworms in the muggy field,
Always the crow hatchlings on the same telephone pole,
Always a new summer, and brief reminders that the day was circular
And the year was always whole.

This time was the last time I returned.

I found a lane I never visited in my nineteen years.

Because there were other boundaries I was breaking,
I broke into a run
And I found an unexpected wall,
And in its middle,
I found an unexpected sun.

Written by Stuti Pachisia

Image by Sanna Jain

Dear Mornings

Mornings see the crackle of the Bluetooth speaker

It whispers
Because everytime you open another program on the computer
The laptop listens to your commands
And the problem is tackled
The fans overwork
And can’t breathe
So the music crackles

And every morning the curtains have to be drawn
For spring sunlight to filter in
And super moons and skies don’t make a difference
To all the syllabus you have to complete.

And every morning, I walk my dog
In a sleeping world
Of terrified dreamers
Watching as the weather warms
And hearts become colder.

There are so many things I have to say to you, mornings,
About the pink that you gift to me
Everyday
About the birds that you supply
When music starts to crackle on Bluetooth speakers
Everyday
About the way Simon and Garfunkle twinkles
While I open essays
Hoping to find Narnia
Or Hogwarts,
Or magic
Somewhere in the middle of the PDF,
Everyday.

The funny thing is, mornings,
For every spring ode I want to write to the world
About the golden leaves
I can feel you giving me snippets of conversations
Between birds and the sunlight
Conversations that settle on gravel roads
Or on natural tracks
Because every morning I can feel you whispering
In crackles
Always softly writing back.

 

Written by Tanvi Chowdhary

Image by Sanna Jain

Spring, For those Things that Don’t Grow

I’m plenty familiar with spring.
I spring to reach my bookshelf’s topmost row,
Stretch to grasp the overhead metro ring,
Vault sans faith o’er road construction furrows,
And when he dares snigger – the terrible pest,
Leap to smack the back of Little Brother’s head,
He might have sprouted a teensy bit taller than me
But he ain’t getting away with anything else.

Oh, I know you meant the other kind of spring,

But let’s never talk about growing things,
I was tragically spared the gift of growing pains,
The season’s of waxing, and I am perpetually waned.
Now, as I was saying –

I stand, tiptoe, for a glimpse of the concert stage,
Then, tiring, tell myself the music’s so very great,
That it would be a crime to be distracted by Image.

We moved houses.
Mom set me to sorting the garbage pile,
Hung, solo, the pictures, curtains and lights.
(The latter would have, admittedly, taken me a while.)

Spring to get myself spotted in a crowd,
Spring to make it to a group selfie.
Spring to keep up breathing when,
Pool depth climbs a half-hair over five-three.

However.
Here we short ones are, preparing to dance.

When we depict the many-handed Goddess on stage,
Our tall friends behind us consigned to playing Her hands,
We are She – we have dibs on the front of the line,
We are those who slay the demon and we wield the lance.

When we take partners for a ballroom dance,
We swish and swoosh in floating, jazzy gowns,
Our towering mates stuck with dull fancy pants,
And we are the dancers they twirl prettily around.

And then there is contemporary and ballet and jive,
And here when we spring, we needn’t come right down,
You lofty giants have to perform the lifts,
We’ll strike a merry pose up there above you, our mounts.

So, next time don’t ask us how the weather’s down there,
And refrain from your tall-person victory prance,
We know we don’t have much else going for us,
So let us at least have ourselves a ball at the dance.

 

Written by Swathi Gangadharan

Image by Hitashi