A Pandemic in Solitude
By April, perfume starts fading off the clothes in the wardrobe
Two new chikankari kurtas sob together
Their paisleys would now bloom in another spring
Shoes gather dust; the silver wristwatch is forgotten
The house is one person less and the teacup doesn’t have company
We spend hours envying the trees outside
The Neem is a blazing yellow, dripping onto the pavement
Once a week, the gardener rakes up a mountain of gold.
Next to it are the Mangoes in a hurry
Flower and fruit arrive together- partly embarrassed.
In June, I have company.
An unlikely lover who doesn’t reciprocate
His cold stares pierce through me
So, I lock him out of the bedroom at night.
In revenge, he raids the kitchen like the Income Tax department
And knocks my precious teapot off the counter
His nails leave long shadows on my skin
He snarls like a swearing sailor.
Dressed in a tuxedo, my cat is gruff
Somehow, I convince myself this is love.
August must have followed the rains
By now my friends call me an ascetic
“Only you can make isolation look good”
“Do you meditate?”
“Your Sattvic diet keeps you zen.”
I don’t tell them that I survive on leftovers
Or go to bed when dawn sneaks into the hall
I try to separate Mondays from the Fridays
My week feels like five decades
Sometimes I ladle up supper for an imaginary friend.
In November, I step out of the shower in delirium
My head is hot and my body shivers
102.3 degrees- the thermometer sighs
There’s no paracetamol in the house
Flashes of a lonely death punctuate my desperate attempt to live
I cook food with my weary hands
“If I survive, I’ll move to the coast,” I lament
Eighteen days later I book my tickets
The chikankari kurtas revel with joy
They would meet the sea before spring.
Five Kinds of Rejection
The first one is from a time long ago
When from the substitute’s bench I prayed
Not for a goal, but for an injury
To prove I was as good as the rest.
My unkind coach had said, “To be a goalie you need expanding hands,
not painted nails that are long and frail...”
Thus, with a sigh and a whimper, I accepted defeat
Long before my match was played.
The second one trailed along
When my best-friend hopped two desks off
In the mathematics class, I equated hard
On why she changed her seat.
‘We are two peas in a pod, Piglet and Pooh,’ she would say
But the next day I spotted the intruder in our Hundred Acre Wood
In ribboned ponytails and a shiny brooch
She sat next to the new girl in school.
This one might sound silly, but it hurt as much
When six Ubers cancelled on me a rainy morning
One asked for cash, the other had to fill fuel
Then there was one that couldn’t find the entry gate!
Pantsuit all drenched and in wobbly heels, for an auto I scurried
But that day luck was misaligned
A group of uniformed drivers idled near the corner
One of them yelled, “We are on a strike!”
The next one I remember in shameless details
Of love slipping my grasp when it was almost mine
At first it felt like failing an exam
Then it was a torrent of bullets.
For years, the wound was unattended
It sored and festered, pussed and spilled
When a scab appeared wilfully I
picked at it in vain.
The last one must be five months old
When a poem I wrote was sent back home
“While it is interesting, we won't be able to publish it,” they wrote.
In dejection, I thought I would change my trade
I could become a carpenter, a doctor, or a cook
Maybe a sailor, or a soldier, or a dancer in a troupe?
While I sat wondering, moonlight glazed my face
So, I decided to become a poet again.
Cut Me Some Slack
Soon after I turned six, my mother warned, “Those who don’t recite their prayers before sleep, go to dozakh”
In fear of divine reprimand, I mumble the recently learnt duas once I am put to bed
Arabic isn’t my first language and retention is impossible
Anyway, Miss Patsy also said I am a slow learner in the last PTA
Not surprising then that one night I forget what to say after Bismillah hir rahman nir rahim
I pinch my elder sister for help- a little cheating for a good cause
She’s snoring next to me- lips smeared with Boroline, forehead with Vicks Vaporub
Allah seems to be granting good rest to those who remember their duas
By now, a headless demon is looking at me from outside the window
Or is it an urn?
I am scared and hunted
Desperate, I nudge my pudgy sister again
But she is in no mood to save me-
Just tsk-tsks and turns to the other side
Now, what do I do?
An impromptu idea slyly arrives.
“O God, Our Father in heaven, infinite wisdom and the source of all knowledge… I am heartily sorry for having offended you, because you are so good. Amen.”
Convent schools teach you easy prayers
This is the second time I offer this one in the last 24 hours
The first was after Jerome rang the school bell at 3 PM
But don’t be fooled- English is not my first language either.
Samin Sayeda is a copy editor based out of New Delhi. Her life has been mostly nomadic and the idea of ‘home and homelessness’ is an exploration that she attempts to make through her writing. She is a tree-hugger by spirit and jumps at any chance to see the world.