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Kavita Jindal

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Kavita Jindal

Photograph by Priya Rajesh

Where Home Was

These flaking walls are of the house where
      My broken strings lie
In the whirring blades of this fan
My future was glimpsed; sliced

Revolving on the damp ceiling
Were suitcases packed with dreams
It’s where I saw clearly that I would leave
The past would be segmented; diced

I dreamt for years of earth so sweet
Not knowing the earth had gone under
I ached for the smell of mud rising in the heat
Not knowing the earth had gone under

There are traffic swarms and roundabouts
Rose-shrubbed, tended, smogged
Marble mansions and balconies
Where the forest has been logged

We are rooted to the busy road where
      My broken strings lie
Here is where they meet at last
The past and the present; spliced

Still the cows riskily meander
In the ear crushing din
And in the corner the old palmist
Has stories to spin

Does he remember he spoke to me
When I voiced unreasonable hopes
He said nomads have freedom, if no home
He is the one who foresaw that the ropes

Pegged on the voyage up
Pulley you home
Pulley you back, when
It’s not time to return

Because the voyage is endless
Because the earth has gone under
Because in this blemished land
In a hollow of a rain-soaked sigh
My broken strings lie.

(First published in ‘Asia Literary Review’, summer 2009)

These are my excuses

Like the kurinji flower of the Nilgiri hills
I blossom once every twelve years

Like Kumbhkaran, the brother of Ravan
I must sleep months before a call to action

Like trains to London are thrown by leaves on the line
I too am derailed by minute distractions

My lists are long yet I have mastered
The lost art of not-ticking-off

When slow living comes back in fashion
I will claim as I have always done

That I was here first.

(First published in ‘Asia Literary Review’, summer 2009)

It was in May. The sky poured.

The day the gutters overflowed
I left Kottapuram Port.

Abandoned on the platform were black trunks and tan suitcases
forsaken to their drenching while the porters huddled
under the whipped red awning.
The long brown train awaited the flutter of the guard’s green flag
as with slick-wet hair, from the window I stared
at a shadow I thought was there.

Friends wrote after long silences to say they’d told you
I’d shed tears on a platform awash with water
Scraped on to the train and cried again.
It was too good not to repeat.
You were puzzled when you heard this
or that’s the version I received.

It wouldn’t have changed anything, you said
if you’d been there, if you’d spoken
It wouldn’t have erased the train timetable
or the date of leaving Kottapuram
If you’d said ‘best of luck in life, my friend’
or another farewell equally inane
I’d have lived exactly the life I have
it would all have panned out the same.
I would’ve left on the day the sky poured
the day the gutters overflowed
Even if you’d stood there
to say ‘Hello. Goodbye. I care.’

‘Tears?’ you’d asked, with perplexed brow when the story was repeated
of rampant lightning and umbrellas twisted by the storm.
Of the face squelched to the streaky window.
‘Tears, for what purpose?’
There were pillars on the platform
Posters on the pillars, imploring us to
Stick No Bills
The yellow of the posters was shiny-succulent, water-lashed.
The pillars were white and round, the sodden green flag was down,
the train slipped out, pulled away my stare,
away from the shadow I thought was there.

It was in May. The sky poured. The gutters overflowed.
I left Kottapuram behind. The trains ran on time.

(First published in ‘The HarperCollins Book of Modern English Poetry’, July 2012)


Focus – Poetising Indian Heritage

  Usha Kishore

  Ambereen Visharam
  Ami Kaye
  Arundhati Subramanian
  Ashoka Sen
  Bashabi Fraser
  Brian D’Arcy
  Debjani Chatterjee
  Karthika Naïr
  Kavita Jindal
  Mani Rao
  Rayla Noel
  Richa Joshi Pandey
  Rizio Yohannan Raj
  Shanta Acharya
  Soumyen Maitra
  Sudeep Sen
  Tabish Khair
  Usha Kishore
  Vivekanand Jha
  Winston Plowes

  Debjani Chatterjee: Of Sanjay Bhattacharya (Bengali)
  Priya Sarukkai-Chabria: Of Aandaal (Tamil)
  Shankar Rajaraman and Venetia Kotamraju: Of Gangadevi (Sanskrit)
  Santhosh Alex: Of Rishabha Deo Sharma and Badrinarayan (Hindi)
  Santosh Alex: Of Savithri Rajeevan & Abhirami (Malayalam)
  Sarita Varma: Of Manuj Brahmapaad (Malayalam)
  Usha Kishore: Of Kalidasa (Sanskrit)

  Kameshwari Ayyagari: ‘Sarojini Naidu – Poetising Indian Heritage’
  Priya Sarukkai Chabria: ‘My Many Ramayanas’
  Sutapa Chaudhuri: ‘Radha Poems of Sarojini Naidu’

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