Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry II


Hiraeth, pronounced [hɨraɪ̯θ]. A Welsh word that literally translates as 'longing', homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home that never was. Homesickness tinged with grief or sadness over the lost or departed.


After Nirbhaya

You are the one with more than one name: Braveheart, Lightening, Fearless One. A star is a star is a star is a star. Is what you are. Aspiring astronomer's dream, galactic dirge, lover's requiem.

Celestial layers crumble at the touch, scattering savory stardust. Traveling at the speed of light, you halt in front of a hammock made of stars. Soul pinballing through the universe, zig zag zoom, Mars to Jupiter to Neptune, you break off a corner from Saturn's rings. Too salty you think, as it falls through your tongue. Touch is taste and taste is touch. 5-4-3-2-1. The black hole unfurls its movie screen to show big and little bangs. Today, the movie is you. The body you carefully maintained, oiled, plucked, rubbed, anointed, scrubbed-undone by a thread's pull, the silver one binding you to earth, broken by betel nutstained canines. They bite into you tasting type-A blood and like plaster of Paris the skin holds impressions, soaked with local hooch and seasonal employment. The breast with Kannagi's scent is lobbed at their faces, and your uterus, an umbrella, opens out to shield the rain. Albatross. You feel its ancient weight between breasts and legs. Nose cut off, turned to stone, following him into the fire, because that was always your designated place. A city's neck grows heavier, as you writhe on an empty road, intestines uncoiled like Rapunzel's hair, willing someone to grab hold. Intubated, medicated, operated on-once they find you, they outsource you, each breath more precious than gold. 'Braveheart! Lightening! Fearless One!' News anchors, politicians, protestors chant. The hospital clock ticks like a metronome, inhale exhale, inhale exhale. And as they name and blame and pray, you slip out quietly from the day. Stardust now, getting used to deep space, you zig, zag and zoom from place to place. A star is a star is a star is a star. Is what you are. An albatross in the Milky Way, soaring in a figure eight, that some would call infinity.

Nirbhaya (Fearless one in Hindi) was the name given to a young physiotherapist who was beaten and gang-raped in New Delhi, India, in December 2012, after boarding a bus. She succumbed to her injuries and died thirteen days after the incident, creating furor and outrage across the nation.

Kannagi- The central character of the Tamilepic Silapathikaram (100-300 CE), who took revenge on the King of Madurai, for wrongly imposing the death penalty on her husband Kovalan, by lobbing off her breast in anger, while cursing the city, inciting its destruction.

Genocide Gatehouse

After RB Kitaj's painting 'If Not, Not'

A madman's
its slogan
to the entrance gates
Arbeit Macht Frei
fringed by 
charred palms
swaying under
umber skies 
I stole Matisse's
while he was 
siphoning off 
other lives
a dead man
with his boot
a breathing one
on his belly 
at our love
as you sit 
beside me
a star burned 
into your skin

You ask me 
to trace it
with my tongue
taste the light
that always follows
and when I do 
my mouth fills up
with ashes
the color
of azaleas