VERSE | FALLEN ANGELS

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre, also known as the Amritsar massacre, took place on 13 April 1919. A large peaceful crowd had gathered at the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, Punjab, to protest against the Rowlatt Act and arrest of pro-independence activists. In response to the public gathering, the temporary Brigadier general, R. E. H. Dyer, surrounded the protesters with his troops. The Jallianwala Bagh could only be exited on one side, as its other three sides were enclosed by buildings. After blocking the exit, he ordered them to shoot at the crowd, continuing to fire until their ammunition was exhausted. Estimates of those killed vary between 379 and 1500+ people.

I’m wearing my yellow chunri today
I look at my reflection in the mirror
And I see a girl in front of me
Her face is shining, her smile wide
I look into her eyes and laugh
I’m the happy lass today. That’s me!
It was going to be a lovely week
Of friends and melas and cream sodas
Baljeet and I were going to fly
Up, up into the sky
On rose-festooned jhoolas*

I waited at the bagh* with bhai Jan*
His friend was organizing something
They were busy but I was busier still
Absorbing everything
From the smells in the air to the sights and sounds
I bought a set of bangles
Red, gold and brown
For myself and some for Baljeet
Emerald green with silver trim
They would play on our wrists, tinkling

Mohammad Bashir bought me some moongphalli*
He was bhaijan’s friend
Organizing something at the bagh
The sugary pinkness melted in my mouth
I got kissed by a little breeze blowing in from the south
I turned the other cheek
Laughingly and waited for Baljeet
For kulfa falooda* and gajar ka halwa*
For nimboo mirch wali garam, garam challi*
My heart soared at the thought
I looked at the kites gliding above
I closed my eyes imagining I was
One of those magical things
Floating, flitting on currents of air
I felt the breeze play with my hair

Baljeet didn’t come that day
Bhai Jan forever went away
In front of me, while in my arms
Bleeding, gasping for air
There were screams and sobs
There were gun shots
I’d lost my voice; but inside me
something broke piece by piece
There was no comforting, caressing breeze
To sweep the stabbing bits away

Silently I looked around
My bangles were broken, there was no sound
From there either
There was a wildness of colour on the ground
The red of blood spilling fountain-like
The wet brown earth where life
And breath congealed in the grass
There in the April sun’s golden glare
I saw fallen angels everywhere
At the Jhallianwala bagh.
* Chunri: fabric pattern with little white specks on colourful backgrounds 

* Jhoola: Swing in Urdu

* Bagh: Park in Urdu

* Bhai Jan: affectionate term for Brother in Urdu

* Buria ke baal: Literally meaning “old woman’s hair”. Colloquialism used for cotton candy/ candy floss in Urdu.

* Kulfa falooda: A rich summer dessert very much like ice cream.

* Mongphalli: Peanuts in Urdu

* Gajar ka halwa: A traditional sweet made from carrots

* Nimboo mirch wali garam, garam challi: salt and chilli powder doused hot roasted corn on the cob

VERSE | TEA FOR TWO

It was two for tea and tea for two
Both meeting after a decade or two
Friends of old, kins of the heart
Separated by time and circumstance
Chatter and laugh over tea for two

Tea for two and two for tea
Neighbours for a year, kindred souls for twenty-three
They’d seen each other through thick and thin
Loving Kintsugi* mending walls where they’d grown thin
Catch up over two for tea

It was two for tea and tea for two
From working together their friendship grew
They had rejoiced in one another’s highs
And had held each other’s hands in trying times
Rendezvous over tea for two

Tea for two and two for tea
The sister and the brother sat quietly
The coolness of bruised hearts lay around
The air was rent with empty sounds
As they tried to build bridges over two for tea

It is usually two for tea and tea for two
That brings hearts together, both the sunny and the blue
Loving ones forge more joyful memories
Aching ones for a while find some peace
When they come together over tea for two.
* Kintsugi: The Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold — built on the idea that in embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art.

KIDSBOOKS | GOLDEN REPAIR

Golden Repair or Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum.

There was once a china mug
He was some twelve years old
He’d done a very good job
Holding drinks both hot and cold

Over the years the china mug
Had seen his share of strain
His rim was chipped in two places
He had permanent tea stains

But he was quite a trooper
He never lost his smile
Even when the bright new mugs
Would tease him all the while

One day the lady of the house
Was wiping down the sink
Her hand brushed by the china mug
And down he went crashing!

He lay in six odd pieces
Across the kitchen floor
The lady picked them all up
And put them in a drawer

Ten days later the other mugs
Saw a creature most divine!
A pretty china mug laced
With delicate golden lines

“It’s me the old china mug”
He said smiling at their stares
I’ve just been mended gently
with love and Golden Repair

And so it is with old things
Friendships, mugs and toys
With love and care, gentle repair
They bring constant joy

VERSE | GREATER PURPOSES

It was the weekend finally
We were going out on the town
We each had our agendas you see
Both, earnest and profound

My friend, she got dressed to kill
There was no other way
I put on my tinted chapstick
Fixed my hair around my face

She was going to Dolmen mall
To see and to be seen
Popping mouth, bouffant teased out
Skin whitened with sun screen

I was going to walk and walk
Get in my daily step count
And then to sit at the cafe
Watch the flowing, madding crowd

The two pursuits although at odds
Gave neither of us cause
To sigh in consternation and put
Either mission on pause

We roamed around the mall, my watch
clocking my exertion
She flitted from store to store
Appreciating her reflection

She tried on half a dozen shirts
I tried on two or three
We emerged victorious
Light of wallet, full of glee.

Then we finally set down
Our retail therapy loads
At the strategic little cafe
To eat and people-watch.

A pretty boy was walking by
She willed him to look at her
They exchanged a longish glance
She blushed, her heart a-flutter

She fiddled delicately with her food
While checking out the scene
I demolished what was on my plate
Crumbed chicken and salad greens

At ten I eyed my watch and grinned
18k steps, I felt like a champion
She looked at her new clothes and smiled
Both our greater purposes were done.