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.