I. Afternoon naps are difficult
without the croon of drills breaking concrete
labourers’ feet that warble under the weight of cement
pigeons’ wings slapping against windows
yellow knocks ignored by orange, translucent curtains
the warm fur of my golden, paws that smell like boiled rice
Maa, and the purple shawl with tassels covering only her eyes
the palavering in my kitchen in a language I’ll never learn
dishes scrubbed with steel wired buns, soak and dry,
the sound of water delayed by hands foaming with soap; wrung.
my hand on the soft ears of my spotted beagle,
our tummies heaving in unison, lulling each other to sleep.
II. On my way home I sit in the back of a chauffeured car
lights turn green and horns bark as if talking through windows
cows saunter to the sidewalk carrying the flies around their tails
with them to safety, in the company of begging children:
their skin stuck to the bodies of cars polished with sweat
hair crawling with lice and a dozen fake roses for ten rupees
vendors, students, women and the bricks tied to their head
slippery with the dampness staining their backs and breasts
a hand over their eyes like a visor searching for cool in shade
little beads of water form: on eyelashes, in the cupid bows of mouths,
the bend beneath the lower lip, in the hairs of eyebrows…
the afternoon sun is as bright as it is unforgiving
of painted faces melting into white powder and red cream.
III. Hands that belong to diseased teeth, red breaths
reach for a bottle of coke and ask for camel lights.
Panwaadis sat in the shadow of an awning
sell loose cigarettes, betel nut, gutka, pan masala:
a one-stop shop for maladies of the mouth.
plastic wrappers hot from the summer
holding candies and crisps hang
in chaplets as advertisements
hindi songs sound from an old radio
not heard in cars anymore
drivers, road workers, young men on office breaks
soften into the steam from their chai, smoke from their cigarettes
after seven minutes two others nod hello at the panwaadi
different men with the same requests
‘bhaiya, ek coke aur ek camel light’.