Had I known love only in its form of making four walls and eight corners of the world, I would have felt a warmth instead of tasting so much gutter in that song.
Illustration by Ajinkya Dekhane
At a barber’s shop, the radio plays “Zinda rehne ke liye teri kasam, ek mulaqaat zaroori hai sanam”— lyrics atrocious for their precision. They are harmless really, only until it takes flesh. Then the doors are banged late in the midnight to alarm like a threat “You love me or not?” or one last call dialed to sing it like a begging or an apology. This grieving is fine as long as it stays behind kitchen curtains & confined to one’s body. It is normal until the haze of the day turns into a withholding in the stomach, the flesh bleeds in the light paring the visible, and then living in them fills you with an unbearable indignity. Had I known love only in its form of making four walls and eight corners of the world, I would have felt a warmth instead of tasting so much gutter in that song. I keep myself afloat thinking what are the dead missing that the dying have turned blind to? The changing paints on the walls? Cleanliness of the public toilets? Husband’s pension? I don’t know. Sitting outside in the evening repeating how tired we are is the sound of the wind, tired of washing utensils, clothes, cooking, sweeping floor, collecting hair strands, standing in a line outside a government office, going about a day that has no edge to it, no breaking, no altering, no traversing. The fear of the worst persists only till its occurrence, after its passing there’s nothing. Time is a blood stain on our dress sleeves that we pass in by overwashing with bleach. But still there is love, always, like the room of this SRA building in Chembur & overlooking from the window of its tenth floor a crack of light below, I think that a body is an orphan without its hunger, which is to say without a street. Bodies on the street, bodies as the street; a procession to nowhere, a field full of seasons. Bodies with words burrowing potholes inside chests, bodies afield thought of, horizonal bodies, surplus bodies, bazaar bodies, nonmunicipal bodies. Bodies with uncertain hands confused if bodies without arms splayed are even bodies at all. Bodies wearied by defecation, by bending over to reach their hands out. Lyrical bodies pressed under the melodies of unsung ballads. Lithe bodies with talcumed cheeks, & dark lipstick; dark as the eyes that questions: why is our history so ripe with so many dead bodies?
I pray if our arms are reduced to a pyre of bones, let only our tongues set it to fire.