4 min read

Anthems of Countries that Do Not Exist

 Anymore It is easier for me to talk to strangers,
than sit next to my friends and nosedive into their woollen jumpers. Each friend has a flag,
not the ones that are romanticised on call - out posts, 

I’m talking about the rectangular ones -
single coloured, starry, decorated with shapes and fingerprints, illegible curses written on them, pukish, nerve-wracking, blanket substitute 

(No friend is as cool as Nepal, having a combination of two single pennons) 

The flags of the friends are hurriedly slipped inside the back pocket of the jeans, Which assume a burnt green colour,

after being brushed against the dwarf grass, 

and is lost in the metro hustle

Each friend has a government, 

A political dalliance that administers the regular functioning of the brain - 

1. Adrenaline winning 23 of 34 seats, Oestrogen winning 6 and Cortisol with 5, 

2. Testosterone sweeping the polls with a gallant majority of 33 

3. A hung assembly with serotonin calling for a re-poll, 

Anxiety has been selected as the chief advisor,
running around the cerebellum with the oath papers, 

Imposter syndrome is the leader of the opposition,
keeping the flaky Government in check,
harsh measures / bitter words / crumble at 9 pm with the TV on 

Each friend has a name, 

Multiple ones depending on the number of years the friend has existed in your headspace, 

One that she is born with on the day of independence, 

One that you gave her when she snorted like a pig,

one for her tripping on a wet, level road, 

One for the time she melted into the flowers, 

Some others like Republic / People’s Republic / United States / trouble / Maggie / potato / Polynesia

Each friend has a capital, 

A ruined city that houses lost architecture,
large bathing areas,
a war cry 

And/ Or a technopark with flying butlers made of steel and aluminium,
where tears harden into nut bolts that are used to fix the lacrimal gland, 

Each friend has a map, 

Their individual locations in your headspace are marked in green,

with the maps of the other friends looming around it, 

Each map has an elaborate legend -

traumas marked as volcanoes,
abandonment marked as ponds,
abuse marked as plateaus,
loss marked as forests, etc 

I was never good at maps in my Geography classes,
confusing the borders of countries and states and districts

Each friend has an official language, 

By language I mean -
Curses / swear words, Some curse while drunk,
some curse at the Police,
some curse their external locus of action,
some curse while shaving their legs,
some while dancing on broken glass,
some while having sex, some while 

And whine. 

A dictionary of curses gather dust as I look for opulent language in my friends 

Each friend has a religion, 

Friend from school is kind to strangers / Friend from undergraduate college likes to sit on wet grass / Friend from random birthday party snorts cocaine / Friend from outer space follows Buddhism / Friend from Facebook cross-dresses every Tuesday / Friend from the poetry reading class likes to talk about cars and sangria 

I am religious in my free time, 

My religion is of convenience, overthinking

Each friend has a population density, 

By that I mean some are fat,
and some are thin and the cells/dust/memories occupy space accordingly

Each friend has a GDP, 

They have a market value or street cred, 

Sometimes the final monetary value of the good produced in a year amounts to zero, 

I don’t disown those friends, 

I try and shift their production capacities to another set of goods and services,
and then to another,
and then to another
till the economy collapses or the factories are burnt in a conflagration, 

Each friend has a time zone, 

That can mean multiple things - 

Like each of them has different sleep/work schedules; 

Some wake up at 7 am,
some masturbate and go to sleep at that time, Some drink beer at 11 am,
some sleep in the afternoon,
some forget to change the batteries of their wooden wall clocks,

Like each of them is at different stations; 

Clocking different hours of productivity /sex / idyllic supine 

I forget to add and subtract the time differences every time, 

Even though I’m good at Math,

or that’s what my friends tell me, 

Each friend has an anthem, 

Some start with a trumpet,

some with double bass, 

Some have minor falls and others cover three octaves making it difficult for residents (permanent/ expatriates) to sing along,

Some rhyme,
some are written as laundry lists although,

Litany is the word the friend would prefer, 

The anthems are played every time the friend shows up from her rat hole / every time the friend learns a new instrument / falls in love 

With failed musicians,
university professors,
fountain pens,
Shrewsbury cookies,
a pretty news anchor 

Each friend is a country, 

That has been lost to nuclear attacks,
or a massive corporate burnout,
or a new crush on the artsy girl who wears sleeveless dresses to all her dates, 

Or due to falling in love with the same girl, 

Or distances growing bitter in proportion to the morose 11 pm news, 

Or an MCQ with names of friends with one correct answer, 

I’m the wrong answer, 


It is easier for me to talk to strangers,
than nosedive into the anthems of the countries that do not exist anymore

My Gay Friend

My friend came out to me yesterday
I congratulated him,
and told him that the violet flowers had been blooming for precisely this moment 

His workplace has been insolent,
They pulled a corrugated carpet over his orientation,
and spill wine on the carpet every day hoping,
that the alcohol will rub off the blemish underneath
They refuse to acknowledge his leap towards the moon,
His transformation into a Goddess, 

But he has made a shuffling home out of the denial,
putting fluorescent lights all around the curtains,
40 watts x 12
that keep the homophobia outside,
like used condoms strewn on the neighbour’s moss-covered sunshade 

A few years back,
we were talking about suicide attempts
we were drunk on a beer that didn’t bother to spend much on its label,
just like my friend;
and there was an indie band playing songs about a strong coffee,
and a stronger sense of not belonging, 

I treated the conversation as a sticker,
that you put on the irregular passage of inebriated times, 

I wanted to tear the sticker yesterday,
and pour warm mozzarella cheese borrowed from the back street of Naples,

on the soggy remnants of the flaky beer bottle label,
and swirl like Dervishes with my friend

He had his sexuality hidden for all these years under -
coarse wooden blocks of girlfriends/ iron shackles of a well-trimmed beard/ tight shirts/ gym sweat beads/ whisky breath/ weekly haircuts /tearless shampoos/steel rims of loneliness 

I told him,
That the anatopic fog on the windows of Bombay,
has come all the way from Darjeeling to dissolve in his hands,
in his cocktail breath.
That the streetlights have spoken long about his sexuality amongst themselves,
igniting their filaments on cold, winter nights.
That the colours of all the Neo-Impressionist paintings,
want to huddle in the middle of the room,
and splash his body at random curves, at his Venus dimples
without brushes and palettes.
That he is the storm that had been brewing for centuries,
and it is ready to break every dockyard down,
that chains love and do not let it bobble along its own course in the ocean,
unhindered, un-judged, un-compromised 

My friend came out to me yesterday,
And I couldn't be happier

Tathagata Bhowmik as a poet is an avid observer and an affluent dreamer. He is also a singer songwriter who talks about paranoia, longing and the countless objects that define our emotional spectrum in this century. He has released his debut EP called ‘Love in the Time of Getting Stoned’ across all major streaming channels. His writings have been published in Feminism in India, Livewire and Scroll.in. He is currently based out of Calcutta but aims to be a global and full time flaneur.

* The email will not be published on the website.