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Kaku holds the toothbrush with a firmness with which she could never hold Kaka's hand. She fixes a piercing stare in the mirror and parts her hair in equals, a precision of a teacher who also knows the mathematics of life. Her hands steady, wrapped in small plastic bags which previously preserved coriander, now have a new purpose. The cheap dye, which gives her scalp an intense itch, colors everything it touches, leaving faint traces like fading faces of long-lost times. I once got my worn-out dupatta dyed, only for it to color my face black in the slow drizzle of Dharwad as I covered my head with it. ‘Do or dye’ is a reference I personally loathe ever since. Ajji says combing hair is an act of kindness. I apply henna and tea decoction paste for a good brown color. Hiding flows naturally in me. It's hereditary. We are a house full of women. The noon is when we hide our skins in vegetable peels, leftover fruit juice, and masks of weird herbs, hoping to hide flaws. Incompleteness is simply not permitted. Every Grey is plucked out; every acne consoled, every crooked eyebrow fixed, every nail cared for. The house is our hideout until we are pushed out, and the world starts tracing the potholes in our bodies in 1, 2, 3… 


Eleutheromania is a word for excess. To be unable to be alone, even in loneliness, is the summary of my existence. The only secret second, I slip off is when I sieve the jowar flour in the morning. It’s when the sunlight falls tenderly on the quiet window, and I make plans. Only the timid plan, I am told. That’s where they breathe dreams. I think of the quaint town at the foothills of a mountain with snake-like roads, bend-bound rivers, and clouds, always the soft drifting clouds. Drifting is my courageous act, but the dare rests its head in sure exits. Lumps are leftover in the sieve, and weevils crawl through, unable to take in the freshness. They bury themselves, and I dig each one of them out. I want them to have what I don’t. I am an extremist, I am told. But tell me, what’s good about grey? The tea comes to a boil, and I strain it. I am back to this city’s limits.

Poornima Laxmeshwar resides in Bangalore. Her books of poetry include Anything but Poetry (Writers Workshop), Thirteen - a chapbook (Yavanika Press) and Strings Attached (Red River).

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