My domestic duty is to do the dishes
while my classy wife takes care of cooking —
no gender bias in this mutual arrangement
rather division of labour by dexterity.
We synchronise our steps and walk together.
With practice balancing becomes an art
and any form of art is an anti-stress.
When anxiety attacks my wife, she cooks
and as a by-product we eat more, I wash.
Effect and after-effect form a cyclic circle
like a clock that keeps going ceaselessly.
Stories My Grandmother Told
For Bou, my mother’s mother, who refuses to leave my mind
Stories from mythology, my unlettered grandmother told
In Odiya (her own tongue, with her own trademark twist)
While winnowing the chaff away from paddy grains, float
Fresh in my mind like the steam from rice cakes she made,
They felt so natural, so native, like the children of
My village playing naked in rain and mud, unbothered.
For my son, now when I read the same stories in English,
Retold by the new-age authors, they feel uncomfortable
Like an urban cousin who comes visiting the village.
I turn silent to grasp my inadequacy as a storyteller,
I feel her absence etched permanently in my mind.
Barcode on a beer-can
The beer-can feels empty
like a page of history unheard,
I lift it and hazily see
a few lines, shaky and blurred.
I read them all —
the ingredients, the alcohol content,
all the fonts big and small,
half my interpretation and half what they meant.
More or less, I decode
everything that’s printed till
I reach the barcode,
which forbears my freewill.
I rush to make a rash plea
to the crafty computer.
with a forged glee.
The machine reads everything clear —
even the series of bars of varying width.
All at once it starts raining,
this is after four thirsty months,
I look up to soak my face
for a while. Enough.
I want to run away now
back to the shelter of
a dry ceiling and a dry floor
and walls made of concrete and glass,
on the other side chatoyant is grass,
all smelling of muddy earth and fresh rain,
an emotion of joy in boundaries and pain.
Bright red and yellow
like hibiscus and marigold,
on brown faces, young and old.
Pink, green, blue, purple.
Audacious spring on a placard.
On the floor. Splattered.
Colourless water escapes. Dried
colours smell like nothing, plastic man-made.
How long before the stains will fade?
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