By Yash Pandit
Stop for a moment to step back,
Breathe in worlds that slide over
And between the gaps; listen to the
Hawker hawking his wares; or gaze
Upon the untidy chicken cage that traps
The inmates inches away from death.
There is always some space for a simile
That sits and stares in askance,
Crafted with precision, airy, and smooth
Like the finest Pashmina from mills now silenced.
Listen closely, and if we’re lucky,
We might just string enlightenment from
Beads of senseless chatter that rise and fall
Like rivers gushing through plateaus;
Constantly overlapped by the hawker, whose
Voice wobbles across the evening.
Look closely as he sprinkles water
That pearls on the edges of his vegetables.
Breathe in the fragrance of a torn orange
That spreads its arms across the sky.
And now each step taken
Is one closer to home;
We just might find a truth or two,
Coloured in shades we already stand
Draped in; or in voices not our own
Yet not too unfamiliar; for in the end,
We all choke in the same air, the difference
Being our persistence to breathe.
Beyond Andheri I see you,
Walking amidst hordes of heads.
You search for a seat, the sweltering
May heat has taken its toll on you.
Pearls of sweat gather on your collarbone;
The end of your dupatta becomes a fan.
In a place for three, we are five, with Abdul
And his son, and on his radio, Khanum sings.
I hold you as one holds a shadow; in my eyes,
I lose you between the flickers of light
And darkness. The radio screams,
“Don’t persist on leaving today.”
I see your porcelain neck through the thick curls,
And suddenly all the faces in this train
Sway and fall like yellowed almond leaves
Suddenly at Bandra, people move
Like flocks of startled crows.
And before I could know what language
Lied trapped within your lips,
You were gone.
And the job was done.
Romancing The Andawaala
Wearing a loose cotton kurta
Two sizes too large, but crisp,
Charan Singh fans himself
With yesterday’s newspaper.
His wife sits behind the trays
Counting and shuffling and arranging
Eggs that storm in.
The eggs sell in dozens
Or by number, as the afternoon heat
Trembles over the tarmac.
Four and a half rupee each, wrapped
Carefully in paper and tied by thread.
Singh and his wife juggle Ghalib’s couplets,
Recalling childhood memories.
The kids, returning after school,
Run home and out of their uniforms,
To sit bare-backed,
And drop pebbles in the sewer
Counting each ripple.
I’ve grown fond of this man, who says,
“Broken hearts, like broken eggs, emptied best
Before they drip dry.” And how at dusk
He learns the alphabet from his daughter
In a dimly lit hut. And his wife too,
Smiling as she cooks, searching
For the shadowy figures of her boys this evening,
Who run behind trains with light feet
And smiling hearts, forever waving
Goodbye and goodbye.
Painting: George Atsametakis
Yash Pandit is a 12th grade commerce student from Mumbai. He began writing on an old typewriter inspired by the Beats. Apart from reading and writing, Yash also takes part in typewriter poetry gatherings.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘In the Shadow of the Larger Faiths: The Minor Faiths of South Asia’, edited by Prof. Sipra Mukherjee, West Bengal State University, Kolkata, India.