3 min read

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 dua

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. 

I mutter, 

“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.

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