Brown Girls Don’t Have Homes

we are mutilated,bandaged into womanhood when we are here-in splintered lands we call h-o-m-e

and when we step out we carry the sun-shame onto the frozen honour of civilisation.

when we are home our mothers teach us to soften our tongues- mellow the edges of our anger so

others don’t get hurt. fold the knife inwards-the only rightful claim to the wounds is you.

when we step out their eyes trail our erring adolescence-reminders come, shroud yourself in shame

a few steps forward, and we are chained by those who seek

to save us from our own.

when we are home we are too much

we step out and spill out and the world doesn’t have enough room to house us

our hair curls wrong. our bodies rise and swell and recede as they please.

our voices ring too high. our words are too big. our desires too crude.

we carry too much spice. too little ease.

our mothers were right. the streets are not for us. not the way men’s eyes

sneer in the guise of desire. women’s bodies cause men to sin – on our part,

desire itself is.

the only real way to escape is to pick one man and build his home.

pick your prison. not everyone has license to choose. savour your luxuries.

squeeze out a child maybe two. pray they are not cursed like you.

brown girls build homes in words. you are lucky if the vultures don’t follow you here.

pillow-homes, shake out the feathers. you are selfish if you write your self into being.

brown girls don’t have selves. look at sita. how she sunk in dishonour.

if we write about others it does not matter.

the blood in the north does not matter.

the cries in the north east does not

matter.

the flesh at the border is just part of a procedure.

shut your eyes. brown woman. brown man is only protecting you from the other.

don’t dream of home. don’t you learn.

your grandmothers left theirs. in more ways than one.

if need be. build one in your head. but don’t speak

don’t flaunt it don’t plaster invitations on the wall

all your womanly sentimentality it gets in the way of progress and development.

only progress builds you a home. we will build you a home.

a home where you can veil yourself in discarded respect. a home built on blood and bones.

brown girl don’t scream don’t speak so loud

what is home to you if not a noose our great empire flung down?

brown girl take the noose. take the hint. don’t blink a lash don’t bat a lid.

we build you home brown girl we give you safety we ask in return one thing

one thing only

your vision and  voice.

It was a hazy summer afternoon-June I think,or maybe March

(The summer is always early in my land,how about yours?)

Four years ago,nearer five or so I think

(We are careless about ticking away of clocks here,how about where you live?)

I think I think

I unearthed a musty photograph

and the light was low

and I am not sure but perhaps your eyes were clouded over

from the little I can remember

(It is always cloudy here from smoke or steam).

And I never thought I would write about you again

If only a ritualistic rumination of distance in a bid to purification

of this soul-if i have one (we are careless about these things here)

from what came after.

But I remember the cold nights, face down mathematics notebooks,toes twined

and all that fierce love bubbling in the cauldron,

and I am a little sad it never got to know any fate other than spewing over.

Now that all those years keep running into each other

And all the burnt over rust of memories start to taste the same

Stay stuck under the tongue as a metallic aftertaste

I remember this,and I remember that the end sees always a folded over home

But I remember that night-or was it nights-and I remember the stars outside

My window by starlight,and I remember being fifteen,and it all

Smells and sounds and tastes like

All the love I never got round to clothe disaster in and carry over

But I remember being so young,the universe always threatened to spill over

All over my faded tshirts and baggy cargo pants,and I remember the. storms

and the stars and the rustle of the leaves

And I remember,four years in I still couldn’t learn what

love means what love is what love should bring

And I think there was a great deal of light

But talking of light this is what I do remember

The sunsets were glorious in my city that year,how about in yours?

Dusty dusk and a sunset playing out in your eyes

I caress the tender in your throat and wonder if this is a wonder the sea washed ashore

Or if the gold in the sky conspired with the melting glory of summer’s end

To leave a sad-eyed little boy in my arms.

But we were seesaw hearts stuffed to the gills

With rotting sorrows and half cooked aches.

A year later,we are stranger souls taking the long roads home.

Even when the blue and the glory and the gore

Still nightly floods the sky every other sunset.

A year in, six months of grasping at anchors made up of stumbling blocks

A year in,the only difference is this

I no longer care if they sense you still

Smeared through the length and breadth of my second skin home

Through the course of all these half scribbled unfinished tales

Through the wrecked ashore bodies where nothings go to

So majestically

Happen.

“Maa looks different this year”,she says
And indeed this is another year and another fall
And another bout of fevered dhaak with broken bits of sun
Peeking through white tufts of cloud for company.

And indeed this is another girl
Half suspended in the realm of the future
And this is another goddess
With darker eyes and a fuller mouth
Stained a little redder than it was last year.

And this then is Maa,still,in all her tender fury
But now we know how the earth spins
Too fast for us to keep track
And now we know that glory is spun everyday
From mud and clay and smirched faces bathed by the sun
Still brutal in September

And we know how our mothers were built from the dirt
And sunk and splintered and sown over and over again
And now we know our hearts home a thousand glorious deaths,a thousand bloody births with every new dawn.

So now and so what,that the goddess is a little different this year
And we are a little more broken,a little more saved
And this is enough for us to open up our selves to be claimed
By the melange of lights twinkling at us
From darkened window panes.

Happiness is an elaborate,long drawn out ritual that leaves you feeling drained- a party you spent months arranging for but you hate every one on the guest list,a restaurant with decor that looks on point on your Instagram feed but with really,really sucky food.

Its lack is the strange comfort of the peeling paint on the walls of your room,so you slip back into it like crawling into an unmade bed at night,still in your denims.It is the faded t-shirt you put on after a shower when you are going to be alone at home all day,it is the faint stink of sweat drying on your skin when you’ve been too lazy to shower,too tired to get out of bed at all.

Unhappiness is-not gray exactly-but the faint purple the shadows under your eyes take on when you haven’t been eating or sleeping much of late,it is the dusky rust the scars on your wrist took on at eleven before fading out of existence.

There is nothing glorious or glamorous about it.It is a hastily prepared midnight snack-some fruit jam smeared between two crackers-and gobbled down hastily,leaving a faint trace of guilt but enormous satisfaction.The parts of your life that do not find a place in social media,but are the overwhelming majority of your reality.

It is a power cut on a summer night and the way you become accustomed to the sweltering heat,a few minutes in.It is the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle you never solved but haphazardly threw back into their box.It is coming clean to your mother about failing on a math test at seven,the scolding that comes with it and the subsequent unknotting stomach.

It isn’t glorious and sometimes it intensifies into something stronger,something that leaves you awake with a broken down record player of a mind at two in the morning but till then.

Till then it is the comfort of familiarity.It is taking off a pair of heels and facing your inadequacy in the mirror,it is the meet-and-greet with a not too personable truth,it is a deep breath and simply letting go of pretense,of letting yourself be.Just be.

Because this is life and it’s not supposed to be a Drew Barrymore starrer or a Disney movie and you owe no one a goddamn performance.It’s ok to birth a bastard loss in the lining of your skin,it is ok to not hide the sharp edges of your soul.It is ok to feel piercing joy or crushing grief with no explanation in sight.It is ok to stink and shrink and swell and break out in acne.It is ok to eat too much and throw up,or not.To clutter people’s newsfeeds with ramblings like these.
Because this is life.And you are allowed to be.Just be.

shubho nobo borsho!

mango pickled. fish steamed . and banana leaved . body offending. draped pretty.

today we close eyes and wish. happy new year. wish away that wound of a border.

as if we know how to spell c-u-l-t-u-r-e without tongue breaking throat burning with conflict with shame

we will pack away the truth tomorrow. tuck it at some dusty corner of an inherited closet.

but today we will smile and our tongues will rejoice at the memory of tripping out trailing syllables we say no more

we will be bengalis today.just today. just that.

I woke up this morning and my throat was still burning was it whiskey or was it swallowed truths I never got to say because they are always stuck someway between my throat and my mouth I don’t know but I woke up and I was on fire so I got up and washed my wounds in cool water to reify the fiction that they are not there and I smudged the secret shadows below my rotting reeking eyes and I pledged to be okay but today I saw her again the girl who wears my favourite shade of night sky better than I ever will and it sure did hurt but I smiled and I walked on and I didn’t flinch and I walked on and I wept and strangely enough I thank god I lived