Tuesday, 24 October 2017


I waited for the day someone would ask me my number
Until the state did, and I smirked,
"I know you've used that line on a million others."
At that it should have left,
But it persisted,
Insisted it would give me one,
If I did not have one of my own.
It didn't take no for an answer,
And now I have fingerprints instead of handholding,
Iris scans, while I wait to be seen,
At least I would be safe, I tried to tell myself,
Until yesterday, when I found myself exposed,
Every single digit of me, up for sale as data porn.

First published in The Wire, 6 June 2017.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Dubious Deities

If you go to the Aadhar centre in Delhi,
You'll see, on the board where UID has anointed itself,
That the department of electronics and information technology
Has fondly acronymed itself "DeitY",
And they aren't entirely off the mark.
Queues at the centre
That wait for Godot
With nowhere else to go to
Will attest to the fact.
Denied pensioners
Losing-their-pay-daily wage labourers
Made-to-return-seven-times householders . . .
All will confirm
That they are up against the wrath of a deity,
Though they had done nothing to invite it,
Whose mysterious workings they know nothing of
But whose shrine they've to keep visiting, lining up in the wee hours of the morning,
Where they'll submit their prayers
But can never be sure of a hearing.
They know their deity like Shakespeare knew his:
"As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods,
They kill us for their sport."

First published in Women's Watch, 2017.

Friday, 13 October 2017


You were so brave that night, I'll never forget. Single-handedly you took on the driver of the 'shared' auto to assert that the correct fare was five, not ten rupees. An icy bead was frozen at the tip of your nose, your wrinkles subtly frowning at it not to act up in front of strangers, withholding it within their folds. 'This is what I always pay,' you said. I looked with awe at your mouseholed monkey-cap head that remained proudly erect while saying it, 'This is what I always pay.' You stood your ground, not moving away till you had made your point, though you could have moved away, now that you stood on your own ground.

The rest of us sat quiet in the auto, breathing a bit easier in the vacant space you had left behind. It was soon going to descend on us that the cold would also bully us worse, finding us weaker by one. Till an hour ago, we had not known of your presence. Now we found it hard to make do with just the memory of you. We missed the easy intimacy our knees and shoulders had established with yours, discovered in the rhythm conducted by the auto. I had become related to you when I had inhaled the bonfire ash of your clothes and had make-believed warmth.

And now that you were out there, the 'out there' we had all been saving ourselves from, we did not even dare to unshawl our faces lest they got slapped by the wind. We did not know whether we should commiserate with the plaintive driver in his losing battle, who was whining, 'If this is what you always pay, you should've said so in the beginning.' We did not know if you needed us to be with you, in an already won but long lost battle, at least sharing your triumph if not your struggle.

By the time the frustrated auto restarted, I was glad of one thing. I was relieved that you said so in the end ('This is what I always pay') and not in the beginning (good for you). I am glad you did not say it any earlier, when you could've been left behind by the auto driver (though it would have been pure business, nothing personal), between a lonely village and an urgent town (Date: 13 January, Time: 8.26 pm) with hardly any other vehicle around to bail you out, neither for five rupees nor for ten.

First published in Anti-Heroin Chic, 14 Aug 2017.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Midnight yearning

Your body
Middle-of-the-night Maggi*

Soft warm noodles-comfort food
Has me soothed

And yet, not full.

So I am always left feeling
I could've done with more keeling

Pea flowers and joined palms
Sliding thighs and knotted arms

When finding it difficult to breathe
We could’ve bloomed open as gasping seas.

*I try not to think of lead when I am thinking satin

First published in The Squawk Back, Oct 2017.


Every second day my mother goes to her tailor
And he sends her back with a false promise;
I don't know why she doesn't give up on him.

But the day I get out of my wheelchair and walk
I plan to go and see this guy
Who makes my mother walk so much.

First published in Broken Head Press, 1 Oct 2017.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017


Teaches you the worst habits,
Like talking to someone
Without checking if they’re listening.

First published in Radius, 30 Sep 2017. 

Monday, 9 October 2017


The little girl jumps up with her frills
To lunge at the umbrella
The mother was about to forget in the bus.
The woman pulls her back with one hand,
With the other, pushing forward the boy
Who's still in a daze made up of his mumbled dream.
In the time it takes Mother to unfurl the umbrella,
The sky over their heads
Has already changed colour.

First published in Radius, 30 Sep 2017. 

Sunday, 8 October 2017

It gets lonely in echo chambers

So many of us are not present
In your mind
When you claim to re-present us
We do not know
How to address you,
How to write you letters
That begin with a "dear",
An "Hon'ble".
You who rule by fear,
Don't you feel like knowing what it is like to be ruled by love?
You speak for us
But not to us.
If you do not learn how to converse
Our listening too-
The listening of those who did not receive a hearing-
Would be one that is not listening
But only waiting for you to stop talking.
And we would not wait forever,
It gets late even as we speak.

First published in Radius, 30 Sep 2017. 

Saturday, 7 October 2017

For whom no bell tolls

“What would you do if you don’t study?
Do you wish to become a rickshaw puller?
You would fail your exams and be thrown out of the school
Then you can join the school for shepherds and herd goats.”
We got scared, we studied some.
Now someone else pulls the rickshaw;
Someone else goes to the school for shepherds.

First published in Radius, 30 Sep 2017. 

Thursday, 5 October 2017


The women of my house 
Breathe with their hands.
Tongues bitten by their own teeth beat a hasty retreat,
Eyelids securely tie stormy words within the eyes.
All’s silent but you know that they live 
By the beating of their hands:
Folding clothes, moving furniture 
Stoking the fire, breaking coconuts.
They had been trained to fall in line 
With the lines on their palms,
Conduct literature they couldn’t unlearn,
But they did what they could
And got calluses of their own making,
Lines they had earned, lines they now fiercely own.

First published in Radius, 30 Sep 2017. 


Every moment for scrutinizing eyes are delivered performances,
And then we lament they judge us by appearances.

First published in The Galway Review, 1 Sep 2017.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017


They kept on offering
A penny for our thoughts;
We went on becoming
Penny wise, pound foolish.

First published in The Galway Review, 1 Sep 2017.

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