By Namrata Pathak
We Don’t Discuss 377
in a board room
packed with twenty salivating men
in striped ties, polished shoes.
No, the sanskaari men married to petite sanskaari women
in a sanskaari Bharat should be respected.
The twenty sanskaaris. That’s the figure in total.
The twenty sanskaaris take to the only woman
in a dingy room
of mahogany tables
and floral curtains.
(“What size is your Levi Jeans?”)
We don’t discuss 377 in office hours.
Not over notices and agendas,
clueless meetings, one after the other.
Not over boring work-distribution sheets,
garam chais making rounds dryly,
flyers and folders in disarray.
The peering eyes of sixty devout Hindus,
Christians, and Muslims. That makes sixty in a classroom.
Then twenty sanskaaris ogling. Leering.
That is a handful.
To teach a queer Hyderabadi poet’s
manifesto on same-sex desire.
Men loving men. Men fucking men.
(“Are you straight, professor?”)
We don’t discuss 377
over a wasted youth
in a hideaway –
thirty three summers back,
hands running all over a scorching brown body,
the clink of anklets, big kohl-lined eyes,
the smirk of that face.
Then, Darwish and Rumi.
A face that was fire.
Then. The stupor. The pinch.
(“You motherfucking bitch!”)
Why Does my Mother Ask?
about that non-descript ceiling
in my 3BHK?
You saw the peels of paint
in heady, sublime days of a Guwahati summer.
Now the cement is falling off. It is scaly.
Draconian. The crocodile-concrete sometimes
picks a book from the shelf and reads for hours.
Like you. But the real disappointment is the M-Seal.
More than the urge to keep
the ceiling the way it is. The colour changes.
It is a rusty brick red now, not a silky crimson of yesteryears.
Mossy memories in sprouts here and there,
clusters of soul-stirring green,
creepers hang, run diagonally –
No! Is it a cross of mauve
and a forgotten love?
Water trickling down
drop by drop,
drop by drop,
one, two, three –
does it also do to you what it does to me?
Listen, this should remain between us.
Not a third soul. As you said.
Our bushy moist evenings,
wild shrubbery, baarish,
the adrak-chai that you drained
in the kitchen sink later, fatigued
after an intense round of Bell Jar, your bangles,
my bangles, bangles
that we wore, each other’s bangles.
Look. It is pouring down heavily today.
The city would drown again in an old
lingering hint of mint
in your chestnut hair.
A Street in Dighalipukhuri
With a pink, crumpled story in hand she marches out –
Pink and White. Pink and White.
Today the street wears a flamingo look.
Beak and talons.
Feathers verb the grimace of the wind,
a flapping bend.
Claws. A solid, angular
Curiosity heavy on warm colours,
Birds, gigantic, pecking
at the jagged ends of a busy day.
Today the street is a flurry of flags.
With placards in hands, she reclines
on a bench. She puts her red heels aside.
The toes hurt. She takes
the purse out, buys a chilled coke.
And a newspaper.
Sits to read. Sighs.
Samiana did not come.
Samiana’s mother did not come.
Samiana’s brother did not come.
Today the pond looks tired.
The loud egrets swoop down
in anger. In flocks, they mock and laugh.
Rowdy ones. She looks away,
in strife. In desolation.
With smelly hands, rising high in mid- air,
in circles of routine,
a papery self glory,
the chanawalas shape
the evening conical.
break the sanctity of the hour.
Hats, caps, slogans.
Cameras, interviews, shots.
She darts out, a giant leap
at a time, broken.
Today the street is the motley of a clown.
Dr. Namrata Pathak teaches in the department of English, North-Eastern Hill University, Tura, Meghalaya. She has two books to her credit, Trends in Contemporary Assamese Theatre (2015) and Women’s Writing from North-East India (2017). Her debut collection of poetry, That’s How Mirai Eats a Pomegranate (2018), is brought out by Red River, New Delhi. Her articles and creative writings have found a place in Vayavya, Nezine, Cafe Dissensus, Northeast Review, Kitaab, Coldnoon, Setu, Indiana Voice Journal, Muse India, Raiot, The Tribe, Dead Snakes, The Thumbprint Magazine, to name a few.
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