‘Nishiddh’ (Forbidden)

Holi, The Festival of Colors, India

Image Credit: “Burst of Red” Poras Chaudhary.  Indian Holi Festival

March 12th
We talked. About Nothing. Everything.
Our fingers entwined beneath the silk cover,
she tells me about her childhood in Uttar Pradesh.
For the first time in my Life I am not afraid to speak.
So I tell her about the three babies
I was not strong enough to give birth to.
She pulls me closer and kisses my shoulder.
She tells me that I was never weak.

3 am. I kiss her sleeping form goodnight,
carefully etching her graceful beauty into my memory.
The gentle outline of her naked breasts beneath the sheet.
The delicateness of her features, laced into a sleepy smile.
Her luxurious dark hair cascading over silk pillows.
I slip away quietly, swallowed by the darkness of the Street.

March 19th
I slip into the shower and reluctantly wash her away.
Suddenly  I  am child again. Dhuleti  in Gujarat.
I cry in the shower because I want the colours
– the joy, the laughter, the memories- To stay.
Only now, she- her hands, her mouth, her breasts-
They are the red, yellow & orange hues
that I want to stain my skin.

I crawl into bed and savour the faint smell of Jasmine in my hair.
Twenty minutes later I feel him next to me.
The smell of English Whisky invading the fragrant air.
I recoil from his demanding hands that only seek
to conquer the exotic terrain of my body.
He pins me down, ignoring my protest.
His  guttural moans of victory echo his imperialist ancestors of 1860.
He smiles boastfully, proud of his conquest.
And like my sisters before me,
I ache in silence. I weep in shame.

May 21st
There was an accident last night.
All I remember is his blue eyes steeled with rage
and crimson blood staining the hardwood floor.
This morning he took me to Mumbai.
To a doctor with blue eyes and pink skin
Just like his.
He warns me not to mention “our little fight.”
& reminds me that disobedience is a sin.

In his crisp English the Doctor
tells me my Baby is gone. “God’s will.”
I wonder about this cruel God of theirs
who can continue to steal my babies from me.
When I have offered countless  prayers to
Lord Shiva and Parvati.
I cry silently because their God is stronger than mine.
I cry because I feel alone. Afraid and….empty.

June 10th
I have not seen her in 3 months.
Yet I can still feel the softness of her finger
skilfully tracing the outline of my lower lip.
So clearly that I shiver with a shadow of excitement.
Her touch. Her smell. They linger.
Like the Agarbathi that Dadaji would burn when I was a girl.
I am a child again.
Sitting in bed and wishing I could wrap myself in its aroma.
Except it is her distinct scent- Jasmine,
that intoxicates my soul, filling me with bitter-sweet pain.

August 17th
The noise of the market is punctured by a piercing scream.
I run to the scene,  nearly collapsing in the stifling heat.
A woman is being attacked in the street.
Her face is covered in blood so sickeningly red.
But I would recognize those eyes anywhere.
Those eyes whose tears have trickled down my breast.
Now they are glazed from intense pain,
yet she does not take them off me.
They silently plead with me to walk away.
I want to run to her,
cradle her head in my lap and wipe away the blood
that stains her porcelain features.
But her eyes…. they will me to flee.
To not look back.

September 8th
“Thugs charged in viscous murder.”
I can hear the news report over the sounds
of my morning sickness.
I fight back the bitter taste of bile in my throat,
collapsing into tears at the feet of a coward in a suit.
My husband tells me that I am an embarrassment
& orders me to clean up my mess.

November 13th
“You don’t understand how much I love you” he whispers.
He kisses me roughly,  his fingernails digging into my skin.
My face is stained with the familiar cocktail of blood, sweat & tears.
Frantic cries stifled under his overpowering weight.
Is this how we felt? Colonial 1928….

“Where would you be without me?” He taunts
“Starving? Praying to your God dolls?”
& I wonder… where would he be without a wealth,
built on graves… On 200 years
of my people’s blood…sweat…& tears.
“Always remember that I love you enough to kill for you.”
I close my eyes, longing only for the ones
who loved me enough….to die for me….

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