Pristine Lineage of Shrinking Women by Pritha Jain
/you cannot light yourself on fire to be the center of somebody else's universe/
my body is birthed, a fallacy
a crinkle in our otherwise
pristine lineage of shrinking women.
i take after my father in height
which is to say,
my mother finds treason etched into
the cartilage running alongside my traitorous bones.
my mother is not a religious person, you see
but she names me after the reincarnation of the goddess of perfection
and i can't help but wonder if that, is her attempting to annul my betrayal.
/i do not have the courage to ask who Nani named her, after/
shame is a withering ember burning bright.
the flush of Mumma's cheeks runs
in meek rivulets across the expanse of my desert skin.
elixir, just enough to tame
the poison ivy we've let bloom in between us.
evidence, as the world wraps me
tighter around its fingers, so i call them penance.
she scoffs at how dramatic i make everything sound
and names them stretchmarks, instead.
/tell me, isn't the only difference between a mother and her daughter, what she chooses to pass on as a family heirloom?/
my mother's love is wedged deep into my throat
and i cannot find the strength to cough it all up
afraid, that if i did, we will never speak the same language again
because i, am the childhood she never had,
the freedom, fight and voice she never had,
because i, am the opportunity she never had.
there is no way to describe this intertwining of our beings better
than to say, my mother is as me, as i am her.
/the mirror we hold between ourselves is cracked with the weight of possibility/
jamais vu, the opposite of Deja vu,
is a phenomenon wherein a familiar situation
is eclipsed by a novel haze.
which is to say,
in an alternate universe, i finally see my mother's love for what it is; violence against herself,
which is to say,
when we will wake up in a world with no recollection of our own names,
i will look her in the eye and she,
will no longer need proof of my allegiance.
I hope to retain a little of my aloneness by Prashanti Chunduri
Dawn's radiator fingers
light up the asphalt below my window.
The city stirs after three hundred and eighty
days of slumber. I decide to name it
But I lay under my blue blankets,
unwilling to move into the light.
I beg your pardon, but I have decided,
that I suit my own company better. I call it
No masks, says the mandate,
and as friends celebrate, faces bare, in clubs and streets,
I tremble a little in remembrance
of those no longer here,
their warmth long gone. I think this is
Three hundred and eighty days ago,
I remember agonizing over how I will ever find friends,
if all my friendships are virtual.
Today, a cat leaps over my balcony wall, I feel found. I call it
I must now sound excited about wading through traffic floods,
breathing in despair-laden smog,
spending less time talking to my plants,
more time exhausted, reeling from grey interactions. I call this
Tomorrow, I'll wake up and hope to
retain a little of my aloneness
even as I inevitably give in
to the planet's rotation. And this, I'll call
First parallels drawn by Mayukh Dutta
Wishing to write a letter to the woods
The carved inscription on the bark of the old teak
Years ago while fragile hearts meant only softness
Now, falling out of words, a message for my past.
Bringing the dawn to my murdered pen
While I sit down to rename, encounters for the first time ever
I cannot feel the painfully numb fingertips
Or a zeal to feel myself at all.
The first time I spoke, a three syllable word in my mother tongue
I chose the dialect of my grandmother,
I wonder if it breaks the notion of a 'family'
Or dictates my solace in a home my mother left.
The first steps I took were towards the door
Away from the walls and into the bright light
I wonder if it means I never belonged;
If I searched for a home like a tourist in a foreign land
Like a ship searching for a shore during the storm
Like a bard singing for wars and wine alike,
If home was only a resort from thoughts hauntingly dark
If home only remained an idea, while I made ideas my only reality.
The first heartbreaks were many
From failed tests to successful jealousy,
From failing people to falling while failing them
Learning how to breathe again always felt like a first.
I do not wish to narrate the broken tales
Of times that bring in the frozen souls beyond my home
When the old lady asked for a penny at the traffic point
And the kid sold flavoured 'baraf' for a rupee
When my mother would bargain with the vendor in wrinkled skin
And I would understand
We are only moisturised enough to not feel how dry the winter is
But in this desert of lifeless tundra we all live.
I have also countered the contradictions
The simplicity of a heart in love
Often breaking apart tough questions
Never answering them, but disposing them altogether,
The precondition of a daily war resolved
But as I feel the plains of a lover's life
I happen to feel the floods of a human alike.
And in mundane thoughts which don't qualify as mine
I ask myself the same question every other day
Do I survive this life while I live some days
Or do I live this life surviving until the end?