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Shoba Narayan

Shobha Narayan

Handmade in India

You cannot weave with your legs
no matter how hard you try
You cannot weave. Not with your legs
The warp would curl up and smirk.
As would the weft.
…clumsy feet on colourful thread
that stretches like railway tracks
Clattering loom. Rattling like vessels being washed
like your sister-in-law's mocking laugh

You cannot embroider with elbows
Even if you swing them around
Try it, I sayMake chaklis. Swirl and swivel.
a Brahminy kite's flight path
Your elbow makes useless embroidery
or for that matter, rangoli

Your thighs can block an express train.
Uh.anh. Not mine, you say
To block print endless fabric
a blousy diaphanous sky
Slap your thighs. Sift some colour.
Ajrakh. Sanganer. Thigh-prints?
No good.

The curve of your stomach.
Mm…hmmm. Powerful. Holder of babies.
Mother Goddess!
Can your stomach dance on a potter's wheel?
Lift up fleshy wet earth?
Fashion posh teacups and plates
that go from red earth to Good Earth?


We primp our hair. Plump our lips.
Push and lunge. Butt. Thighs. Cellulite. Liposuction
We massage and maalish. Facials. Steam.
Slather expensive creams. Thread and tease.

What about that most precious part
that hands and holds
shapes and caresses
weaves and varnishes
stitches and sculpts
paints and puts together

Handmade. Handcrafted. Handloomed
Handwoven. Handpicked. Hand.....

Give me hands anyday.

Sky conversation

High up in the sky,
the north wind asked the bird
Why do you prefer to fly at such a height?
that too all alone?
Who are you that sings so ethereally?
I am KesaribaiMalkauns," said the bird
I sing of eternal flight

The rumbling volcano asked the spark inside it
Why are you so fiery; so deep in here?
The spark turned glittering eyes and said,
"I am Bhimsen Joshi, the spark of immortal music."

The twinkling cool stream in the Himalayas asked
A peacock green fish swimming in its depths
Who are you that swims so flippantly; so gracefully?
I am M.S. Subblakshmi," said the peacock green fish.
My voice is liquid fire

The girl with long hair
flew down the corridor
Her yellow sari mixed
with chocolate wood pillars
She stood shyly out of sight
to watch Abdullah sing

Ode to Tagore?

Where the mind is without fear
and the head is held high
Easy for him to say.
Robbie-da; Tagore-ji, Nobel Laureate.
Easy for him to talk about freedom
But what about me?

Slinking into school like a cloud
To escape her one-eyed scorpion sting

My hair curled up like a mango thoranam
Oiled. Parted. Braided. Polished. Ironed
And yet

I am the whining school girl
With a satchel, lunch box and shining morning face
Creeping like snail unwillingly to school.

Of course I am late
Do rain clouds wait for the koel to sing?
Does the breeze wait for the kite to swing?
Does the assembly bell wait for the students to ring?

But here she is, summoning me to sing.
I slither up the steps like a crushed cotton bale
Eyes downcast like a whipped dog
Heart thudding like a running deer

Shanti shantishanti, I tell myself
Shanti I say, and sing.
Give me strength.



Sunil Uniyal and Ranu Uniyal: In Conversation with Charanjeet Kaur

Literary Articles
A S Mohamed Rafee: Naipaul’s India
Anindita Ghosh: U R Ananthamurthy
Indrani Das Gupta: Bama’s Sangati
Rudra Kinshuk: Agha Shahid Ali
Swati Srivastava & Avneesh Kumar Singh: Rohinton Mistry & Vikram Seth

Book Reviews
Alka Dutt: God I Am
Ambika Ananth: Ink and Line
Glenis M Mendonça: Teresa’s Man and Other Stories from Goa
Gopal Lahiri: The Reverse Tree
K K Srivastava: Rotations of Unending Time
Pramod K Das & Narayan Jena: The Whispering Grove
U Atreya Sarma: One Year for Mourning
VVB Rama Rao: Emotionoceans
Payal Das: ‘De-Coding The Silence!’

Amibka Ananth: Editorial Note
Arnapurna Rath
B R Nagpal
Bem Le Hunte
Bidyut Bhusan Jena
Javed Latoo
K N Shivshankar
Murali Sivaramakrishnan
Nar Deo Sharma
Pranshu Prakash
R K Biswas
Shobha Narayan
Vijay Kumar Roy

U Atreya Sarma: Editorial Musings
Ajay Patri: God's Own Taxi
Bem Le Hunte: Divine Confluence
Indu Parvathi: Two
Narayan: A Mother’s Grief
Neera Kashyap: A woodpecker hammers at my throat
Sunil Sharma: A story told by a maid-servant’s preteen daughter
Sushrut Bhatia: At School

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