She rolls up the bed sheet and bundles herself up in the blanket. A hint of fear clouds her eyes. Her breathing quickens and the dim bedside lamp casts a ghostly glow on the deep wounds on her neck.
“They will come again, armed with grenades and AK-47’s. They will hand over these explosives to those young kids with freckled cheeks. They will kill us...”
I swatted it away by saying it’s just another anxiety attack. She’s been on pills lately; one dose before breakfast and another after lunch. Often, she charges into descriptions about the snaking roads, strewn with bloodied corpses and torn shreds of clothes; the children, huddled under the old bridge, their bodies trembling against the backdrop of military bombardment. I shush her by brewing a warm cup of ginger tea.
“Look behind you. They’re back. They’ve caught me. Save me, oh Lord. Go and get the rifle from the glass case and hide behind me.”
I ease her down and point toward the window behind her creaky bed. The plants are dappled with the warm, caramel glow of the evening sun, about to plummet into the crevices of the the sky. The gardener shares a laugh with the watchman, that dwells upon the light brown stems of handpicked botany.
“Smoke. Smoke. I see smoke. I can’t breathe, I’m choking.”
Just the pressure cooker, I tell you. In the near distance, a gunshot ruptures the silence.
the moon patiently waits
for my banter
No Place Like Home
“You know the story of my life is something very twisted”, she said, settling herself on the sofa, twirling the rosary beads. “I never had a home. Yes, I did get to live in a cramped apartment, when I arrived on this land. There was a kitchen, one bedroom with a dim bedside lamp, a kitchen and a bathroom - enough space for me, my two young sisters and the straining memory of my deceased parents, the burden of which weighed down upon us. The four of us even had a neighbour, Mr Gulzar, who we called ‘bhaiya’. At first, he was content to have found four ‘sisters’ but later asked us to call him ‘bhaijaan’. Everything was new to us: the altered plan of the house, the trees, the blood-splattered streets and deserted homes. What remained the same were the sights, sounds, smells.
“Gradually, as the future unfolded in front of our eyes, I eased myself into a much larger and palatial abode. There were three bedrooms, a shoddy living room and a kitchen, as large as my mother’s. But, I never had a home.
“All of this began and developed before I was even a teenager. I was clambering my way into the phase of teenage, teetering on the cusp of womanhood, the most significant part of a woman’s life. But, I didn’t have the joy of holding on to a baby that I could call mine, a father who could lull me to sleep, a mother who could tell me how gruesome being a woman could be at times.
“I was born on neither side of the barbed wire fence. I was born on the piece of land, that straddled the two named lands, which had no name itself.”
pressed beneath my fingers
They came today, again, the same set of officers who come everyday, telling us that we have to leave our home now.
“You don’t belong here!”, they bark everyday. Our chest tightens everyday, at the mere idea that all that is around is, will soon be burnt and devastated to nothing but broken fragments of stone. Plumes of smoke would rise and the lungs of those left behind would be filled with the dark juice of suffocation.
with each layer
What they, the hefty men stretching in their reclining chairs, don’t understand is that they are waging destruction. They are waging that small, three lettered word, curling at the edges...
They don’t understand that this destruction would seep deep into the soil, add to the bitterness of the stray dog’s meal, deepen the veteran’s wound.
But, no... there is no peace without war. Let’s pack our bags, now.
after the war...
every grain of rice
a bullet shell