By Shreenidhi Rajagopalan
Sangh is a word that never rested inside my mouth,
I always threw it out
in a flurry of waved arms
and abandoned newspapers
into the gallows.
Insidious serpents spitting out trails of smoky poison
never found residence in my bleeding mouth
till the air was pulled into
vats of saffron substances
that the brave thought smelled like blood
till their noses were cut off,
oh how seditious.
the saffron hued air infused itself into
trampling upon their curves
to treat the ones that didn’t stand straight,
to straighten squiggly spines
so they wouldn’t lean against each other,
to connive against the masters.
Their scaly hands reached around
their fingers nooses tainting
skin that had seen history
and was determined to be on the right side of it,
they did say they were the right.
The pressure in the fingers
made the pens slip down sweaty
and scared morals
fall against the asphalt,
the ink would no longer flow down veins,
it had been thickened deep enough
to falter against paper,
bidding remorseless goodbyes to the medium it had strangled.
The paintings were next,
the fading pinks of roses past their prime
saffron was splattered across buds
that never would be written about in reverential metaphors,
for they never smiled unhinged smiles
to adorn braids swinging unabashedly.
They would never be witnesses to crumpled sheets and inky sighs,
they wouldn’t fulfill the creative destinies words ascribe them to have had,
they would be saffronised.
I once split saffron in the kitchen,
my gentle mother’s looks of despair
didn’t escape me,
saffron was expensive,
and the flecks on the countertop espoused the erasure of everything
generations held tangible,
I couldn’t sweep them up without a few strands catching in the broom,
I couldn’t pull them out
without the split of fibres that had embraced uncertain ends.
Now, thoughts are tinged with saffron
dots that escape visibility,
our WhatsApp forwards with 2002 splotches of fear,
as Sharmaji says we could be arrested for “spreading propaganda”
and Ammas call us frantically,
telling us to take down political posts,
the police could be on their way.
Worms slip out of the ridges of conches,
into the mouths of those blowing them,
they say fates are written on foreheads,
I look for faultlines and warzones on those of the RTI campaigners,
tectonic plates swinging wildly across the winds.
Sangh does mean conch in Tamizh.
Shreenidhi Rajagopalan is a 16-year-old poet and feminist. Her work has been published in Spark Magazine and the editorial of The Hindu, and will appear in Esthesia Magazine and Disquiet, an anthology on Indian conflict. Apart from being a reporter at YoCee, and editing her school magazine, she also hunts down obscure music and smashes the patriarchy.
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 ‘Masculinities in Urban India’, edited by Madhura Lohokare, Shiv Nadar University, India.