Untouchable- Part 1

the whispers echo
through the front yard
as I brush my teeth
in front of them.

she’s come from bombay
they whisper with reverence
with a feverish glow in their eyes
and chapped lips parted
a grin directed at me
with their loving, reverential gazes.

eppo ethi? when did You reach?
they ask me
as I rinse
not knowing what to tell them.
my mother taught me not to talk to strangers
but what about strangers from home?

they buy their milk
from our touchable cows
that they take care of
they but their curd
from our touchable vessels
that they wash
they buy rice
from our touchable fields
that they plough.

they thank us
tell us we’ve saved their lives
by letting their children
in our touchable schools
with their untouchable money
that we paid them
for cleaning
our touchable cows
our touchable vessels
our touchable cars
our touchable house
our touchable kitchens
with their untouchable hands

they whisper
an unviable dream
(for them)
that came true
(for me)
because they cleaned me
with their untouchable dirtyhands
when I was born
when I was dirty

they buy the milk
and empty the vessel
clean it up
and push it away
to the touchable side
and go back
to protecting
and feeding
our touchable cows
with their untouchable hands
This week, I’m going to publish a series on Untouchability in India. Here’s Part 1/7. 

It’s of course just the way I’ve seen it around me and nothing concrete/universal. 


The Girl with the Square Glasses

Her dark kohl eyes
Have sunshine and stardust in them
And when she smiles,
Diamonds falter.

Her innocence radiates from her tongue
Everytime she rolls out a word
Long legs, short skirts
Laughing with the boys like she’s one of them

Words of worship for that one fictional hero
Distributing chocolates on his birthday
Broken up with her boyfriend
The day I left her behind.

See her photographs with a hundred likes
And her funny status updates everyone can relate to
Her ideas, her wisdom, her humor, her isms
Growing up into a wonderful woman.

The girl with the square glasses
With her good girl faith and her tight little skirt
Her long, shiny hair and her hot red lips
Reminding you of your imperfect life.

It was, but, a month ago
When you swore it was a joke
When you saw her status update
And a picture with mehandi
Till you saw the video
You didn’t believe it was true.
But the cheesy song and the congratulations posts
Took you out of your reverie.

Engaged to be married, she says
Happy to be his soon-to-be wife.
Photographs after photographs pour in
And the cheesy video of an orchestrated act
Chokes you a bit. With disgust, you’re sure
Who does that in front of family and guests?

Unsure of what to think
A quick phone call and a panic attack later
You’re sure you’ve heard the truth
Not pregnant, not forced,
At twenty she’s tying the knott.

You think back to seven years ago
Eighth grade, her first boyfriend
Like Romeo and Juliet-from fighting schools
An affair for all of you to remember
When they broke up over the telephone and she cried for a month about him

You remember your school plays
Your basketball games, and cellophane crafts
Your pyjama parties with make believe tea
And your love for that popular TV show
Which paired characters with your and your crush’s names.

You think back to your grand plans of world tours
And living together as roommates,
Because you can cook and she can clean
The idea of growing up improbable
For an infinitely long time.

I live in Denial

My lips curl in an involuntary curve
As my phone blinks to reveal your name
My heart glows a warm fire
As you write me a beautiful letter
In a hot summer afternoon, I live in denial,
As you draw me to you, inch after inch

As we tread softly, and slowly through
Word after word, universe after universe
And dream after dream, plan after plan
And as it becomes clear that we are a team
I live in denial, as you fill me with joy unbound
And leave me hoping for a happy forever

All the bright places we wander through
Dim out the monsters within us,
And the darkness that engulfed our past
And threatens to endanger our future
I live in denial about where it all starts
The potential of a you and me, and a here and now unrecognized.

As we preach about the phases of the human mind
And the beauty of the human kind
As we laugh about the clueless colleagues
And the stupidness of the grand scheme of things,
I live in denial about my feelings
About the impossibility of you and me.


I remember when we were talking
About our lives, our dreams, our insecurities
I remember your distinct flavour
You’re a cinnamon roll, with a paprika piece
Not too sweet, just the right taste.

I remember how we kissed
For the very first time
Under the street lamps
On a New Moon night

Now I see your ghost
In every thing I do
When I’m watching a movie
About taciturn men;
When I’m reading a book
Doubting if therapy works:
When I’m crying tears
Hoping you’d hold me.

I see your ghost
In the strangers on the crowded subways
Who have the same hairstyle
And my broken laptop
That you knew how to fix.
When I want to score
The beatiful numbness.

I see your ghost
In stories that are funny
Because you’d have rolled your eyes at them
Now I look over and see plain white sheets
Impregnated with black ink
That mean nothing to me.

I see your ghost
In poems I write for other people
Before you and I were crafted
Into a beautiful melody
Before I gave my heart to you
Under the laurel tree.
Before you said you loved me
And you always will.

I see your ghost
Haunting my memories
In the darkest of hours
Haunting my dreams
In the most beautiful nightmares
Haunting my day
In the busiest of hours
Haunting my nights
In the whitest of sheets.

Going back in time.

Do you sometimes want to go back?
He asks me, his eyes full of fear and hope
He’s looking like the home
I ran away from, because it was time.

To the place in our lives
When you could hold me all the time?

I miss his soft lips,
The way they move against mine.

I still love the way your brown eyes shine
I miss his hoodie that he’d given me to keep
I miss the prickly hair on his cheeks
I miss his soapy scent just after a bath.

I still love your insanely frizzy hair
I miss the paragraphs of love declarations that he’d send
I miss the side eyes that he’d give
I miss his reassuring bear hugs.

I still love you, let’s make it alright
I miss the heated debates that were never fights
I miss our late night phone karaokes
But I do not miss him.

If I could travel back in time,
I’d want us to be back together

If I could travel back in time, I’d like for him to hold me again.

If I could go back in time,
I would never let you go

If I could travel back in time,
I swear I’d love him right.

If I could go back in time,
I’d want us to be together forever

If I could go back in time,
I would choose not to.


Is it toxic,
If you ask me for my opinion
On everyday mundane things
Like what to wear
But also the big decisions
Like should you take that job?

Is it toxic
If you laugh at me
And laugh with me
And make me laugh
But also make me cry?

Is it toxic
If you proclaim eternal love
When you’re drunk
And tell me I matter
When we’re alone
But in front of others mock me
About things that I hold dear?

Is it toxic
When you want to only talk about yourself
But then get mad at me
When I don’t tell you
Things that happen with me?

Is it toxic
When I want you to be there
And you want me to be there
And we both talk to each other everyday
Without any discomfort?

Is it toxic
If you tell me about your favourite cousins
And that aunt that annoys you
And that grandfather you never knew
But they say you are the copy of?

Is it toxic
If I tell you about my first love
Who was also my best friend
And you tell me I should try again
And after 6 years, I reconsider?

Is it toxic
If you care for me
And respect me
But then insult me
And annoy me
And boil my blood?

Is it toxic
When I fall in love with you
Deeper and harder
But you think of me as a little sister
But also your good friend?


The Colour of my Skin doesn’t matter to you. Until it kills me.

You tell me you don’t see colour
But I’m a caramel mocha brown
While you’re just a Flat White
I’m a black board you write on
With white chalk
But you are a white board
With a redgreenblueblack marker.

You tell me you don’t see colour
But my skin is not dark enough
To be in a ghetto
My skin is too dark
For you to look through the barrell of a gun

You tell me you don’t see colour
But my skin is too brown
To not be diagnosed as a nutcase.
But I’m a PakiAfganMuslim Terrorist
My skin is too yellow
So i must be good at math
And that’s a compliment.

You tell me you don’t see colour
But ask me to pose for your university catalogue
I’m a statistic of multiculturalism
While you forget to teach my ancestors
In your Literature class.

You say you don’t see colour
But it’s me you check through airport security
Twice. Thrice. Four times.
Oh no, of course it’s a random check.
Of course you didn’t see my skin
Or my beard. Or my turban.
You didn’t call my sister a Paki bitch
Because of her skin colour
Even though she’s from Sri Lanka.

You tell me you don’t see colour
But it’s your blue uniform
That my mother has nightmares about
That my father is deathly afraid of
That killed my brother without a gun
That pulls the trigger every time
And gets away by the name of self defence.

You tell me you don’t see colour
But when the sirens come
It’s me who’s facing the gun
It’s me against whom the trigger is pulled
It’s me who is another statistic
Of a 17 year old boy with marijuana in my pocket
That’s dead murdered.