2 min read

Long Distance Call

We have moved from Chennai to Delhi,

you and I, you 4, not a word

of Hindi you have spoken, ever. On a walk

around the colony, we meet my colleague

and her son. Beta hello karo, she says

you look at me, your face

a question mark, Isey hello karna nahin aata?

Shake hands with him, I whisper and you catch on.

We wait for the DTC bus no. 520 and army

trucks rumble on, you wave

at the men in fatigues and say,

Amma, just like Bosnia on BBC, no?

I drop you at the daycare at 9 and worry

at work until 5. Evenings, we are at the ramshackle

swings in the colony you, building

a conversation bridging Tamil,

Hindi, English and Haryanvi,

making friends at a speed I envy.

One day, you tell the press wala’s daughter

Achha, aaj muffler pehenke aayi ho! I write

about it in my next letter, your Appa can’t believe it.

Once every week we go to the phone booth

in the Sector 6 market at 9 pm, to make long

distance calls at half rate on the patchy phone

line with your Appa in Chennai. I ask

him about his job search in Delhi, my fingers crossed.

This RK Puram is nice, you declare approvingly,

and you know what Appa,

here all annas are bhaiyas, and akkas are didis

did you know?

We laugh heartily and I hold back

tears of I don’t know what.

Churning Butter 

On days like this 

alone in a house full of people 

I wait, 

for the sunrays peeping into 

my kitchen to envelop 

me in a hug, like you used to, 


Mann anand anand chhayo, mityo gagan andhkaar, 

Raag Ahir bhairav sets the tone for the day, my 

tub of cream full, thawed overnight, 

wants to become butter. 

The blades of my electric whisk plunge 

headlong into a sea of cream, 

whirr- whirr….

I’m eight, it’s mid-morning in your kitchen 

window a green rectangle 

of leafy cul-de-sac in downtown Chembur 

sunrays make a pattern on the yoghurt in your urn 

you are sitting on the floor, cross-legged, like 

you own the place, 

your insecurities tucked invisible among 

the hundred folds 

of nine-yard cotton draped over your petite frame 

your crimson kumkum third eye defying gravity, 

nose pins flashing fire, 

hands working the wooden churn 

dancing to your tune, clockwise, 

then anti-clockwise, swish-swish…. 

There’s just you and 

just me. 

Slowly, ivory globules float 

to the surface, gathering 

mass, until they are creamy icebergs; your fingers 

swoop down, deftly roll them into 

glistening blob of butter.

By now, my whisk has done its job, there’s butter where blades

meet cream, and I collect it like you taught me how. 

But when did slow swish become the whirr 

of maniacal, hurried chore? 

What do I do with all the time I have saved?                                       

Your marriage sighed between eight 

children, yawning 

gap between paydays, marks 

bestowed by husband, carefully hidden, 

your body a vessel 

to contain his rage against the world. 

Your sunny voice created a world 

of kings and queens, good and bad, 

we soaked up with ghee-coated balls of

dal rice, then curd rice spiked with 

Chidambaram brinjal gothsu. 

You had it all sorted.

Or, did you?

Sudha Chandrashekar is a writer and French teacher living in New Delhi. Her poems have appeared in The Bengaluru Review and her personal essay has appeared in The Punch Magazine.                      


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