Category Archives: Poetry

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

Dedications

If you were to write something, would the person you dedicated it to
Be the person who makes you laugh a lot?
Can you tell if someone is being earnest, in jest?
If you can hear the same joke over and over, and still laugh,
If you can hear someone tell the same joke over and over,
And still listen, and still laugh, each time,
Maybe you’ve found dedication,
Because I read a book on the psychology of humour, dedicated
‘To Myra, who keeps me laughing.’

Written by Anushmita Mohanty
Image by Kanishka

S’Laughter

My aunt laughs a whole lot,
And half the time it is glad.

A reluctant chuckle at a silly joke,
A grin cracked at her sheepish child,
Laughter that shakes her frame
Dissolving into giggles and breathless gasps.

My aunt laughs a great deal,
And only half the time is it glad.

A self-effacing smile attends her silly little opinion
Which goes out dressed like a sillier, littler joke.
(These are important matters, and she wouldn’t know.)
Prefaced appropriately by one of those softening grins,
The sharp edges of her rage have to be smoothened to a nicety
And the whole thing is so hilarious
That she then joins in, in their laughing away of her,
Dissolving into embarrassment and studied silence.

My aunt ‘laughs’ a great deal,
But she laughs a whole lot less,
And certainly,
Not half as much as my uncle does.

Written by Swathi Gangadharan
Image by Stuti Pachisia

A Boost over this Threshold, Please

Underneath a perversely-Four-Thirty-AM pall,
Two sorrowfully frigid hours before boarding call,
On a Jan pre-morning,
I find myself fenced in.

Walls of wire ring fiercely this place,
Interrupted intermittently by these infernal locked gates,
And no, Madam, they will not yield before eight.
At this time of distress and Frost, I spy,
Two roads diverged in a yellow smog,
And sorry I had to travel both,
And find twice the wall had no give for,
This poor citizen just recently turned rogue.

My colony steels itself for siege
So superbly well at times like these,
That I wish we were living rather more dangerously.
For that blessed-and-barbed slit-of-a-gap
Betwixt the wires I tumbled out of, madcap,
Snagged the collar of my coat
Snapped at the mess of my hair,
And for all the likeness to a castle-and-moat,
And for all that I lacked my jousting mare,
This is home, not a warring citadel, remember?
And could I perhaps leave it not-dismembered?

You’re supposed to bless a journey to its very end,
But I would argue it a much more useful trend,
To invoke your gods thus: I pray,
That you, fellow traveller, find your way –
Not home, dull wit,
But out of it.

Written by Swathi Gangadharan
Image by Hitashi Arora

Expectorate This Man.

The 45th man is not exactly
the definition of ‘considerate
or ‘progressive’.

This man who is affixed to the
red tie. Is he happy? Does the
glamour blind him?

This man is divisive and several
marches across the country
corroborate that.

This man who loves to fondle
vulnerable women will be the
captain of a gigantic train.

The engines will work on his
command and people will be
his puppets.

What does the 45th man dream
about? Walls and violence?
Sadness and immigration?

So many questions to so little
answers. I like to think that I
can grasp the indomitable future
in my grasp and somehow control it
when I can’t.

 

Written by Avantika Singhal
Image by Sanna Jain

The Yellow Brick Road

We didn’t use to care so much,
Well, we did –
It was just about different things,
About stars
About the wind
About futures
About breath
About touch.

Somewhere along the line, Srishti
Somewhere along the road
Things became coloured
Reds
Blues
Yellows.
We became pieces in a never ending sky, Srishti
We became unstable and uncontrollable
Screaming, for a thousand years
About the words
About the numbers
Always, always, always, ignoring,
The hands behind the carefully written notes.

It was a fight, Srishti,
A war
With intermittent battles,
To get our numbers up,
To win, always,
To be popular,
To be the generals
Of scattered armies in a world
Where stars are the only ones looking for guidance,
Where the universe itself is smoky
And the moon and the rivers are dying.

And we
We looked for the yellow in the road
We needed the best
The biggest numbers
We needed the God that had destroyed the universe
We needed heaven when earth fell apart
When schools end
Colleges start
And when planets die
Souls are lost in quiet sighs.

Srishti, it was the dream
Heaven’s touch
Achieved in numbers
The constant yellow of the brick road
A golden opportunity
And as we stopped caring
About stars,
The wind,
Futures,
Breathing,
And touch.

We achieved God
The only problem, Srishti,
Was that we forgot earth,
Just as much as God forgot about us.

Written by Tanvi Chowdhary

Featured image by Stuti Pachisia

To Be or Not To Belong

A single strand
Amongst the sea of hairs on my head
Is an unapologetic red.
I discover this quite by accident
(How else)
One afternoon when
Usually muted-golden sunshine alights,
Un-usually,
Blindingly,
Upon a – bronze thread?
I meditate vaguely
On the surprises that a twenty-year-old body
Whose secrets you thought you were the keeper of –
“It doesn’t belong. I’ll cut it off?”
Whose secrets you thought you were the keeper of,
Can so easily spring on y–
I register, I turn, but my mother’s gone
In that purposive manner of hers.

A thin line of red interrupts,
Sure,
The sea of black.
(If you look closely,
Nay – obsessively.)
On the globe of my skull,
Yes,
It is an oddness.
And yet, it cannot help but belong.

Has it not –
Drawn on the same soil as its dark peers to shoot up?
Softened under the same shampoo-soaked fingers?
Cowed under the pushy teeth of the same comb?
What a regressive question to ask –
Whether it was indigenous to my head!
This, when the genes of its genesis
Trace back to the same nameless ancestor.
What a perversion this is,
Of belongingness and its meaning.

Let Red have it,
A belonging,
With all the meanings of it –
My favorite being,
A fulfilled longing-to-be Home.
Let the reds and the blacks of the place be;
I know the shearing off wasn’t done right once,
And the saffron-green-whites never made it up
With the green-whites.

Belong, young Red.
Be long and prosper.
And if someone prods, I will be sure to tell them,
I do not have a hair out of place.

Written by Swathi Gangadharan

Image by Kanishka

 

Love and Carrots

With you in my arms, I think of only
poetry curving in on tongues, then pages, then entire landscapes of bodies
that grow into war fields of words,
every weapon a stuck syllable that eats into the insides of being:
how do I say it all to you?
Do I say it all to you?

With you in my arms, poetry comes easy, I like to think.
I call you both the Muse and the Maker, your breath
writes in different fonts across my skin
and I don’t know if I’m the poet or the poem.
This is bound to happen, isn’t it, with a work of art?
Is this how we create art, then-
by holding the people we love in our arms
and hoping that something will come from this union,
something tangible, a poem, a photograph, a little locket of love
that will stand as a reminder of hope
in all the times to come.

With you in my arms,
I feel the need to create something eternal
as much as to create something only meant for this moment.
How does one then deal
with this feeling of passing-ness?
How does one write it down?
How does one make poetry
of an empty, empty feeling?

We can write it down as our favourite words, I guess,
but love
is as much a favourite
as carrots
and I hate choosing.

Although, with you in my arms,
it is a bad idea to pick ‘carrots’.
I risk sounding like a creep with everything I say,
any which way.

Written by Swastika Jajoo

Image by Stuti Pachisia