Volume 4 Issue 2, June 2020
Special Issue for Indian Poetry
Often have I had gory dreams
Of being shut up in prison, of rape
Life threatening situations with no escape
Gruesome visions that oft made me scream.
But lately I had one of unspeakable horror
It was all the effect of Wilde's book
Dorian Gray took me off the hook
The dream made me weep and shudder with terror.
The one whom I love, I planned to kill her
I planned to kill her while I slept
The grossness of this I cannot forget
Cold, cruel, bloodthirsty murder.
"Please tell me she's alive, tell me she's not dead!!"
I cried out full of shame, repugnance, dread.
Cubicles in a dormitory
Or berths in a train.
Night. Three girls on each
Scrambling for space, packed
Like sardines, lying side by side
Trying to sleep. Shifting, adjusting
Alternating places. Loving, fighting,
Exchanging partners, and back to loving.
Because they loved each other
And would not stay apart
And nobody would stay with them.
Our mother was not in the house
And me and my little sister, a child
Kissed together, lip to lip
Ah! What sorcery made me dream such incest!
Another night, another face
Another kiss, each lip to lip
Such sweetness, such joy
I thought it was real—
But dreams are sadly fragile illusions.
Licking a trail of chocolate
Like a fast vanishing, slithering snake
Dressed in school uniforms
For big words like decency. Sobriety.
Climbing tipsy turvy curvy monkey bars
In twists and turns and shapes
We would be afraid to climb today
Did we climb these monkey bars in college
while saying “awesome mausam”
To reach buildings, one class to the next?
No indeed, sadly we were far too grown up in college
For careening and spinning like pinwheels
No, you won’t have to cartwheel either
You need not be afraid of returning to
A mother. A father.
An erstwhile couple.
A daughter. A film.
A train. Policemen. Cops.
People disappear from this train.
Especially, their caste is important
Sometimes women are punished
For unwomanly acts. Like walking
Out of marriages. The train
Is spiralling out of control.
They have to go from Lucknow
To Magatpur. But where
Is Magatpur? It seems that they have
Left Magatpur behind. It seems that
Magatpur is in Lucknow. But then,
Where is the train going?
Where are THEY going?
A girl disappears from the train.
She is like my sister.
The mother and the daughter, weeping.
Inconsolable. The film ends.
There is an elevator. They are
Going up. The mother and the girl.
Are in agreement about the film.
The father differs. Suddenly,
The girl holds the mother: “I love you, I love you, she cries.
“You would not have been alive
If you had not walked out of the marriage.”
I was called at night. 3am.
To somebody’s house. Alleging
That I had harassed their daughter.
A night spent with two little children
and their parents, found me pleading,
Confessing, begging to be let off.
Then I somehow escaped
Somebody helped me across the city
Crossing local stations, in that dead of night
And miraculously reaching home, safe Home.
I was looking for internet
And there was no electricity.
Modi and his men were
Somewhere in the vicinity.
I decided to go out far and wide
To hunt for internet. I walked
And walked and walked and walked
And again bumped into Modi
And a bunch of his followers.
They asked me to have a snack
And I sat down with them
Evening tea with Modi. I tried
To smile and appear sweet
And to sugar coat my words
But eventually, idly
My mouth popped out the word “bhakt”
I was gazing and reading from a piece of newspaper
But they were quick to catch on
And seized the word, pounced upon me
The sweet talk turned to hostile stares
And grins into grimaces
I tried to be a dissembler
Somehow managed to escape
With my life and my freedom intact
I smacked my forehead at my dumbness
I should have glibly told them—
“Bhakt is what others call me.
College was opening after hols
a billiard table occupied our class
We were scattered here and there
Someone removed the table
You came in, wearing glasses, goodness knows why
I wore a red kurta like yours
You told us some very interesting anecdotes
About your hols, but I’m sorry to say
I slept through quite a bit of it
I was not allowed to be there
But I had to finish my last year of college
You see, so I was there.
Then we all went out, A on horseback
Or was it a motorbike? I behind her.
I called her N by mistake
There were boys too, I wonder
What they were doing in a women’s college
A boy said A and I were lesbians
I said that A won’t be with anyone
Then the boy and A were lying on the ground
Kissing, and I wondered what had happened to A
And you? You were looking on at us.
Sometimes I see the pretty pictures
Of your little niece, your sister’s
Daughter, (does she call you Mahi?)
on her dad’s social media.
Restricted viewing, of course. Only
What I am allowed to see. I love
to see those pictures. They are so full
Of love, of happiness, of warmth.
And gaiety. And beauty.
They draw me into their circle.
The spirit they exude for brief moments.
As bountiful a forest garden as her name.
I wish I could hold her, cuddle her, play with her.
I wish someone held and played with me
As he does with her.
Last night I dreamt that I was being punished
For looking at these pictures
You visited me, angel, perhaps at midnight
We were someplace and you turned around
and said “Is this Shru-tea’s room?”
With a slight smile, a graciousness
And a sun rose within me, with its warmth and light
Its glow caused flowers to blossom and bloom
This abundance of plenty and beauty to me
Was rainfall to the parched earth in drought.
Wouldn’t it be the beautifullest
To wake up and just live into the Dream.
I don’t remember who else was there
Or even where
But you spoke to me
You were speaking to me in one-liners
Which you did not bother to explain
If I needed explanation
But isn’t that the way you’ve always been
But maybe you deigned to say more to me
But we were both there
And you spoke to me
You had quit your job because
the education sector was ruined, you said
And was falling apart at the seams
And you had joined a government textile store
And I wondered why because
you had a government job anyway
But then they increased surveillance
And you quit social media
And they told me that though roused
And groused by their actions
You refused to comment against them
Because they increased surveillance
And you had a government job
They blamed you but I
Kind of tried to understand.
I meanwhile tried to battle
The communication blockade
I think I ran over fields chasing cattle
While some weird men looked on
I tried to get a broken ring repaired
A ring which had a million beads
A million beads which had all
Scattered and had to be restrung
I tried to explain to my family that
The blockade and surveillance was not okay
And I followed you faithful as a dog
Until I woke up, crying your name out loud.
We were all in a fast moving train
Students and faculty from over the globe
I had to tell the driver to stop after one lakh kilometres
But I had no idea when that would happen
The train itself with its huge cabins
Became our classroom
We had to choose from courses of study
That the faculty offered, though I
Had a strong urge to dance instead
You stayed in your friend’s cabin
But you came to mine for dinner
And I spoke to you, and you
Spoke to me, not just once, twice
Thrice, but many many times
And we ate dinner together
And we would have so many more
Meetings in our classroom train
So easy for a witch like you
To make this dream come true
About the poet
Shruti Sareen studied in Rajghat Besant School KFI, Varanasi and went on to do English literature from Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi. With a keen interest in Indian Poetry in English, her MPhil looks at the depiction of urban spaces whereas she has submitted a PhD on twenty first century feminist poetry at the University of Delhi. She has had over a hundred poems accepted by Indian and South Asian journals, and a handful of short stories. She is passionate about poetry, music, teaching, Assamese culture, queer love and sexuality, mental health, nature and environment! She blogs at www.shrutanne-heartstrings.blogspot.com.