Untouchable- Part 3

the smell of chickens
and cows and bulls
hit me as i reach
my grandmother’s house.

she lives alone
with the echoes of her past
haunting her.

her only friend is
the maid who now cooks
mid day meals to support herself.

the maid’s daughter married
an alcoholic to save herself from poverty
but came back running home
when she had a son

All these people
Getting divorces now
Back then we stuck to our spouses
In sickness and in health

My husband had cancer
And I stayed by his bedside
Till his last breath
Taking a sabbatical from work

Kunju ettan taught me
how to pick mangoes
and how to make manga chamandi
with a stone mortar

he taught me to play
catch, and seven stones
and to act for a play he’d written
about forbidden love

he teased me about boys
i was friends with
and girls i wasn’t

he told me to call him kunju
or vaishakh,
because ettan is too formal
i now know why.

he sat a bit away when we were eating
and my grandmother didn’t touch him
he had to throw his leaf elsewhere
and burn it to the ground.

every evening
my mother interrupted me
from our games
and i had to go
to our kollam
and have a bath
to rinse him away from my skin.


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