My city always travels-
Those who flee today come back tomorrow
Robbing starlight from the eyelids of the dead,
pickling them in spicy, salty ambitions.
Don’t be surprised when you see
the diamond-merchant’s wife selling
seaweeds to jobless millworkers.
Concealed in the cracks of the railway tracks,
Paradise is here –
Stray dogs and gods litter platform with
Fragrant sins of their bodies.
This is almost a surreal siege-
No one is happy or sad here.
When the daylight blurs the edge of sea
Iron wheels cry in chorus –
like aging water buffaloes in pairs,
passengers sit cramped between grief and relief.
Slowly, they melt
into the rhythms of unknown destinations.
Would you believe,
stations mirror themselves?
Silent prophecies of random riots,
and Mercy Killers-wet in the monsoon rains-
pounce on the office goers urinating under the footbridges of
Parel, Bandra, Kalyan stations.
A country of broken tiffin-boxes we are-
If you come from my village
for lunch at my city home
let me know beforehand;
we shall meet at Curry Road station,
both you and I…

Photo by Shripad Tak on Unsplash

Ashwani Kumar

Ashwani Kumar is a Mumbai-based poet, author and academic. Widely published, anthologized and translated into several Indian and foreign languages, his major poetry volumes include 'My Grandfather's Imaginary Typewriter' and 'Banaras and the Other". Recently, he has edited 'Rivers Going Home' (Red River 2022). He has served as the jury of fiction for Tata Literature Live 2020 and also helped co-found Indian Novels Collective, an initiative to popularize translation of classic novels of Indian languages. In leisure, he writes a book column in the Financial Express.