by | January 11, 2021

I don’t see it as a word anymore

spell out every letter

enunciate every syllable

begging for kinship from a word so distant,

like your grandmother’s saris,

the one in the pictures

where she smiles unaware of being photographed

woven in Banaras, home to poverty and colour,

eyes wandering from street to street to find the next child

wearing red and orange

smiling at the white man.

 Your grandfather’s khadis,

one with history of freedom

of rebellion and fires that burn as tall as buildings

now greenwashed and housed in sweatshops,

 your aunts jhumkas

heirlooms like recipes

and your uncle’s Chandi

passed down through generations

relative to relative

spoons and necklaces made from the same silver.


Keep them in a trunk, lock it forever

sipping tea in the dark,


fold up the shawl

that winces at the sound of cashmere.

You won’t need warmth;

“it’s always sunny in New Delhi”.

So I sit here freezing

walking barefoot with Sher Khan

holding The Tempest when I’d rather read Une Tempête.

Place some Shakespeare, Kipling and Dickens on top

Weigh it down, make sure they don’t spill out


What do you call the thing

that slithers across your waist?

What shines like white tusks on your ear and neck?

Words that are on the tip of my tongue

but no longer mine

now each spoken with softened r’s and double o’s,

ornaments so unknown

I don’t know if they belong on my ear or my chin,

so exotic that if they were at the British Museum

I’d applaud them.


Words by Anoushka Chakrapani. Art by Sasha LaCômbe.