Category Archives: Poetry

7.19

“For several hours my heart ached,
but I woke up—smiling.”
– Ha Jin

Seven minutes and nineteen seconds
Before the digital clock starts beeping
Before I kick my blanket
open my eyes
wear my socks and
shiver as the first wave of cold air hits my bare arms.

Seven minutes and nineteen seconds
with my bed holding me
with the world outside still not awake
Seven minutes and nineteen seconds of
seeing and hearing and
feeling and thinking about –

How the scar remains from when the
steaming cups of coffee had burnt our hands
How the dog is sitting, panting at the foot of the bed,
wearing an ugly sweater your grandmother will keep
on knitting for him despite refusal, after refusal, after refusal
How the heater refuses to work for ten minutes
till you curse and yell and promise yourself that you will buy a new one and
will then start when you don’t need that warmth anymore
How the gloves lie on the table,
a wide array of colours and patterns
and how I pick up the black ones every single time
How the windows of the cars are shut tight and
glazed with fog, random things drawn
– a tree here and a heart there and a name scribbled all wrong by
tiny hands and old ones too.

How the dogs howl and growl at each other
while a stranger shrinks back from them
shoving his hands into his pockets
casting shadows all across the street under the lanterns
How the workers grumble and whisper complaints
disappearing into the fog and
how their families make homes on the frozen pavements
with a fire warming them through the endless nights
and the days filled with grey skies
How the people will rush outside as soon as the sun comes out and
sit on the foldable chairs and beds
eating oranges under the slanted rays.

How the old lady in my building will sit outside,
soaking the last bit of the sun
her grey hair scattered across her face, her hands knitting mittens
she hasn’t completed in three years
How the crying child on the first floor
with a running nose and a fever
is asked if he wants soup every five minutes
with his mother whining,“Oh god, it’s flu season!
into her phone every time I pass by
How I long for the soup my mother used to make
and how it would’ve been easier if I had just
agreed to this last night
How the boy in the neighbouring house
will come outside in the evening to play
his violin, the tunes getting more melancholic
as the air gets harsher
How the soft music flows
and how the winter blues enter each soulit
will be months before they come out
How the remains of the tune still remain
in the air in the mornings for me to catch
if I listen closely enough.

How you drove from the library, your coat covered with snow
and your face smiling
at the passages in a book you found
How I can still see the smile and
can still feel my hands brushing the snow off your coat
How your nose and eyes were red
as we sat on the edge of the grass that warm winter afternoon
and I told myself
it was just cold and not tears
and how I believed myself
How the polaroid pictures
stuck to the refrigerator
are beautiful and necessary
and not brutal and unwanted
How the months in the calendar are now filled with X’s
and when did the year pass by – so suddenly, so quietly?

How you can faintly hear the birds screeching and shrieking,
flying across the horizon
I wonder if they are cold too
but deep down, I know
none of us are warm
at least not warm enough
But I also think of the little boy who
hated winters here
looked at pictures of children playing in the snow
and said, “It’s cold here but not cold enough.

How after
seven minutes and nineteen seconds
of this and that
of life turning and twisting and tossing
and settling,
my weary hands will go all across the bed
past the empty space next to me
and the empty space within
to shut it off completely.

Written by Pragati Sharma

Image by Chetanya Godara

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Coping Mechanisms / Things You Don’t Say Over the Phone

“How hot is it in Delhi now?
You had better be
Drinking lots of water,
Eating the right food,
Wearing the right clothes.”
(We wish we were there to take care of you.)

“It’s okay, mom, dad, I’m taking steps.
I have
A full water bottle,
Yogurt in the fridge,
Light cotton clothes,
Knowledge of what foods will heat me up from the inside.
I have all the wisdom borrowed from you.
I am taking care of myself.”
(I wish you would come and do it for me.)

“Mom, the weather was actually nice today.
For once, I didn’t feel sweaty the whole time.”
(I’m sound much more excited
Than I actually am
For your benefit.)

“Oh, really? It’s so cloudy and grey and depressing here today.”
(But I’m vicariously enjoying
your pleasant day.)

“Mom, I had to wear socks today.
It’s getting chilly.
By the way,
when should I add the tea leaves
to the water on the stove?”
(I’m trying to keep warm here
The same way I keep warm at home.
But I wish you would make me tea —
I always tend to overbrew.)

“Make sure you ask your Delhi friends
What kind of covers will be enough.
Will you be able to go buy it on your own?”
(I know you’re putting off these essential things
And I hate that
there’s not much I can do about it.)

“Dad, we were all choking in college today.
The masks I bought are just fabric,
They keep out dust, not smoke.”
(This experience was so surreal
And so scary.
My description doesn’t do it justice.)

“Please buy better masks.
Should I order them online for you?”
(I’m cursing the strange, faraway city I sent you to.
The city which is so fast and harsh,
With a survival code of its own.)

“Mom, dad, today I went to Lajpat Nagar
and bought a nice, thick razai.
Dinner was quite sad last night
But my roomies and I made eggs.
My new masks arrived in the mail,
And my friends are taking me sweater-shopping soon.
I have to go now–
The tea I made is getting cold
And I have a reading to finish for tomorrow.”
(I have a lot on my plate
But I am as chipper as I sound
And I think I am doing okay.)

Written by Madhuboni Bhattacharya

Image by Aanchal Juneja

 

Cold

“The hills, they’re glowing with warmth,”
You’d say
As you shivered
Underneath the hand-knit sweater
That Nani had compelled you to wear.
You’d be loath to admit
That the sharp winter breeze
Left you
Chilled.
“The sun burns earnestly this time of the year,”
You’d say
As you’d sit staring at the river,
Lost in the decaying memories
Of places you’d almost forgotten.
You’d come out of your musings
With songs that would speak
About the glory Of the rains.
“There’s something comforting about this weather,”
You’d say
As you nursed the scalding cup of tea
Thrust forcefully into your hand.
You’d sit in the balcony,
Prolonging the sunsets
With your delicately short
And sparse
Sips.
“Conversations are cozier in winters,”
You’d say As you gasped for breath
After a coughing bout.
You’d barely manage a croaky hello,
Yet we’d hear you the most,
Within your muffled coughs.
You’d feign good health
For the sake
Of words.
“It’s unnaturally cold for this time of the year,”
You said, that day
As Nani reluctantly turned the fan down
On a sultry, August evening.
That day, within the orchards
Of your private world
It snowed.
Icy snowflakes kissed
The cherry trees
That watched you grow old.
Soft gray clouds beckoned
With morbid comfort,
And silence,
Calming,
Reassuring,
Gnawing silence
Enveloped everything.

Written by Avani Solanki

Image by Sheena Kasana

Year’s End

What does one want in any body but the world?’

The other day,
I drove to the pond we grew up near,
Because I was learning something about goodbye.

I don’t know how to drive
And the distance will always be too much or too little
For a drive,
But that day, I drove.

It was quiet, it always is.
When I say quiet, I don’t mean
Silence, I don’t mean
Peace, I mean the stillness we knew to be palpable
To be so delicate that even whispering it would be
Acknowledging it
And acknowledging it would mean
Destroying
The silence which was truly that.

It’s a safe space, not because it offers comfort,
But because it doesn’t offer danger.

*

In the recent past, I’ve learnt that.
I’ve learnt that how are you is a question spilling over with potential
And doesn’t necessarily formally inquire after your emotional state
I’ve learnt
We exist in the spaces we create
Between our selves
And we can’t breathe when we talk because
You can accept either the words or the air that existed in a body.

I’d rather take the air because there is something you can’t control
And swerve and veer and stop and slam the door on
And there is no safety valve, no fire escape, no water to swallow pills
No first aid no punctuation no rehearsal
No moments of indecision over conversations and situations you handpicked
And stitched together in a patchwork sweater, of
Bad sentences, bad beginnings, terrible conclusions, a body that
I completely ignored because of the ringing in my ears.

No, I’d rather take your heavy breathing into my mouth
And your heavy breathing when you slam the door
And believe that both of them is love.

*

The other day,
I drove into the pond we grew up near,
Because I was learning something about goodbye.

Because I don’t know how to drive
Because the distance will always be too much or too little
For a drive,
So that day, I drove.

It was quiet, it always is.
When I say quiet, I don’t mean silence, I don’t mean peace,
I mean the stillness we knew to be palpable
To be so delicate that even whispering it would be
Acknowledging it
And acknowledging it would mean
Destroying
The silence which was truly that.

It’s a safe space, not because it offers comfort,
But because it doesn’t offer danger.

‘Of course it is happening inside your head. But why on earth should that mean that it is not real?’

Written by Stuti Pachisia

Image by Megha Chakrabarti

 

Sweater Weather

I love winters
Because they remind me, how
being warm is so important;
not just by the body,
but by the heart.
How proximity,
when knitted with affection
sometimes, to great boundaries,
can calm the soul down

I love winters
Because the fog reveals
how oblivious I am
to the power around me, which asks me
to shine apart
Which teaches me
to be fearless and
to celebrate the oblivion
that harbours inside me

Yet

I love winters
Because of the longer nights
for me to decipher
What exactly is scarier,
The demons around, or just
my conscience,
Personified.

Written by Megha Tej Kaul

Image by Joy Malsawmhlui

A Wednesday in Pink

“On Wednesdays, we wear pink.”
The Wednesdays are not pink anymore
like your presence,
like your absence.

The petals of the Alliums you gave me were pink
with a stiff stem
and
fabricated leaves
hanging like a tongue.

The silky sheets on our bed were pink
dented and scattered
that the street lamps outside would illuminate
in the darkness of the night
like our breaths mingled in the frosty air.

The pencils kept on the table were pink
stacked together to write notes and letters
full of words rejected and thrown
into a dusty bin
and hugged and stored in a small box
at the back of my bookshelf.

The Cali CD you loved was pink
and it played in the background
with you whispering along
C’est quand le bonheur
I didn’t understand it then and now
I do.
When will I finally be happy?

The tissues at the restaurant were pink
as we ordered through
audible sighs and hissed breaths
hot, hot anger
flowing through our veins, as it
spilled over and died
unlike the ticking clock which exploded in the back.

The cherry blossoms in our local park were pink
as they fell on the bench
and then the ground
slowly, slowly
and were picked up by me for my niece
and were trampled upon by you.

The last piece of cheesecake with
too much strawberry syrup on it was pink
which you ate
leaving the crumbs on the plate
in the overflowing sink
for me to wash away.

The leash of our small dog is pink,
filled with white polka dots
who will sit in the tired sunlight
at your feet
like the world you believe you live in.

The post-it on which you wrote
“Need toothpaste, butter and socks”
for me was pink
that will stare at me
until the cheap glue dries off the wall.

The laughter between us was pink,
soft, ugly, true
and loud, loud and loud
just like our anger, just like our tears.

And the memories of you are pink,
bright, happy
vivid, furious
pale, faded
and just out-of-reach
like your old and warm t-shirt
kept at the top of my closet
wrinkled at the sides
and ripped
in the centre.

The skies were pink too
on that Wednesday
Tinged with pink
Stained with pink
Consumed by pink
As you screamed me, me, me all the way down.

Written by Pragati Sharma

Image by Sheena Kasana

Lunch-Tables

The lunch table buried itself
Under the cover
Of a dozen books.
It hid itself
Within the soft strands
Of hair
That fell comfortingly,
Inconspicuously,
Over thick lashes
And dark-rimmed glasses.
It brooded over
Its half-done homework.
It talked
In soft murmurs
About the world
And how it worked
It talked
In muted words
About life.
It glowed
With the soft sallow bloom
Of pale yellow skin
It saw the world
Through half-open eyes.

The lunch table simpered
With frothy giggles,
It blushed
Under the rose-tinted hue
Of fake laughter
And expensive perfume.
It flaunted itself
Through crisp, blonde curls
That framed
Animate, inquisitive eyes.
It conversed over
Its latest exploit.
It babbled with urgency
About the mall,
And about the people.
It talked
In staged whispers
About the life
Of Others.
It shone with
The bronzed glory
Of a summer spent
Tanning,
It saw the world
In Pink.

The lunch table
Was bursting
With irregularities.|
It was a constraint,
A self-imposed restriction
That did not know
That you,
You were an anomaly.

Written by Avani Solanki

Image by Joy Malsawmhlui

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

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