In the swelter of barsha kal, the
rains which patter steady streams,
taps and clicks, against tin roofs
signal a respite to window people,
who, with their muddy soles and
Cheshire grins fill their pots to a brim.
Like the sun’s twin of the night,
handfuls of rice trickle along palms, veins
sinewy and protruding, snaking
blood to gated hearts (much like their gated
enclosures). Dripping into the dekchi
and following, a barrage of daal flakes:
orange, uncooked, sinking gracefully
unlike greedy lotuses on murky ponds.
The deluge persists and clouds drain
themselves of window tears, for,
there are enough to flood a city. For,
there is a city of cardamom. A bay of leaves.
Cumin dust and seeds of chilies,
a ladle full of ghee, pooling in
crevices along concrete walls and
potholes on shit-streaked highways.
Buttering up moneylenders whilst
swiping oil from the candles of
cardboard Hooverville houses.
Their occupants meander between
honking taxicabs with boxes
filled with sooty lollipops, fruity
plastic juices, waiting for a stream
(or a trickle, or a whisper) of rice
to run through their babies’ veins,
who stand against flat paper walls
gawking at flat-screen TVs holding
protruding bellies with railing arms.
Simmering for hours, people at their
windows – soaking in the sight
of the monsoon – remove the pot.
Steaming wildly, dancing hot
Staples mingle together, the vestiges
of their separate parts coalescing
amalgamating into a savory, crunchy,
over-burned, overcooked mass.
Sticking to the edges like moans at
night in shadowed alleyways with
tomcats and the like. Steaming
and viscous, poured out onto steel
thalas, a trickle of fat and a burst
of acidity – this is to cure you
and calm you. To heal you. Here
is to stopping the rain. Here is to
burning your tongue, swallowing
in tears, and to people in hollow
windows scraping away the edges
of their plates, breaking free the
atrophic pieces perhaps of your
desh, but really, of life collated.
– Khichuri (Marginalia 2016)
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