SUNDAY MUSING: I sleep to the storm and I wake up to it ... The smell of mildew is familiar and stains my clothes...  It's days like these the cold always seeps to your bones

Mao, Manipur


I can recall with mostly hazy memory

And sometimes clear as frozen water in pipes near 

Rows of earthworm'd, rich dark chocolate treasure 

Fingers digging, grasping harvest, at the cost of a painful ant sting 


Next, a walk on cement floor and brick wall 

Outside, inside, filled with smoke of kerosene, cherry and pine 

I can feel the heat, I can taste it in chewy animal hide 

Cooked by a mother in a black, orange and green hand-woven shawl


Swollen plums and cherry blossoms paint a dreamy countryside 

Conflicted weather; rain drizzles like soft kisses

The sun, undeterred, scattering light in little rainbow'd messes

Children frolic unconcerned, lost in their games of paradise 


Sometimes, a lot of times, this war is won by rain and cloud 

Thundering down on loud corrugated ceiling 

Streams of milky coffee trickling, gushing, flooding.

Soggy shoes and rubber boots gathered in verandahs in a crowd 


I sleep to the storm and I wake up to it 

The smell of mildew is familiar and stains my clothes 

It's days like these the cold always seeps to your bones

I arise only to bathe in coal and electric heat 


I am rich. I am poor. I am both rich and poor.

Here, gold is traded for indomitable stacks of firewood 

Your money is so good if it feeds you to adulthood 

Green is money: paper for you, a stew for me, we're both left wanting more 


Gravelled roads and bumpy potholes lined my journey 

I dreamt of blacktopped roads to a childhood rumour

Nurtured by falsehoods, that pointed to West as greater 

My loud singing turned to gargling with questions of identity 


Grown, I lay and let my thoughts wander- divine balm to an aching soul-

To skinned knees and traditional herbal remedies  

To a spear, a holiday, a war cry sung in perfect harmonies 

Echoing across mountains, swallowed and stuck in heaven's throat 


Thick, overcrowded air; I breathed in bricks in the city 

Lungs on the verge of collapse, looking for a change of scenery 

Plastic shields guided me back home safely 

The air is clear and smells like evergreen trees; it pierces through my skin 


My suitcase lies half unpacked, with no constant state 

And I shall leave here forever, or until the art of paddy atrophies 

Even then, I'll carry these images like a vestigial phantom limb 

And I'll itch and I'll groan and I'll carry on my day.

First Published:Oct. 18, 2020, 8:49 a.m.

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