It rhymes. Anything that rhymes sounds dismal to my ear. It is as if my senses cannot handle harmony. Maybe that’s why 11 years in Delhi have left me unfazed. The wounds of displacement healed in less than six months and the scars are faint.
East Pakistan Displaced Person.
I just know that a part of my family came from East Pakistan many, many years ago. I have no stories of struggle, violence, revolutions or painful familial displacement to talk of. Maybe, I was never told those tales — maybe we just did not have them.
But many decades down the line, I was the first in my family to be ‘displaced’ — by choice. And that’s a story I do have, 11 years and counting.
For a person who has never lived in Delhi, and has neither encountered it on stray vacations nor stop overs, the city slams into your solar plexus like a calculated punch. The heat knocks you off, the dust chokes you, the crowds move in and before you know it, the winter gets to your bones.
But despite being knocked off my feet a million times over, no other city feels more like home. Home that I want to take a break from every month, but home still.
You know how it is with home and family? The hate, the love and the reluctant familiar.
As I look back at all these years, three things in Delhi shaped me. The very three things no one can escape. The school of thought, the travel and the houses I have lived in.
I call it my Delhi starter pack, my triumvirate.
Alma Mater: Dust and the Storm
This is not the dust of brown and shards of life,
Reduced fragments of existence — letters, faded photographs;
Tears and bird feathers.
This dust shines — shines down from other worlds into the alethiometer of Pullman’s novels.
Dust that circles our footsteps, day in and day out, of so many classes and so many hours.
Fragments of existence and sand and coloured stones, sea shells and echoes of temple bells.
This dust is me. And you, and us.
It settles on my shoulders on calm quiet nights and speaks of spectres and daemons -
This dust mingles in blood and spikes tears to ashy droplets.
The red dust.
Of votes and elections and false ballots;
Of politics and sociology and Korean studies.
This dust is them. And those there were and are yet to be.
A dust of dreams, and passions, and empty words.
The dust of uncertain futures, jailed comrades, dissolved cases, lost marks and lost chances. And one lost scholar and one dead one.
The others hung their worth out to dry.
Then the skies darkened over our little intellectual heads and colourful umbrellas opened up.
The dust rose from our prayers and term papers and diary pages.
Circled the souls of new little puppies and left-over colour from yesterday.
It slipped out through those fingers and through our skins.
The dust settled in thought puddles.
The dust flew with emotions to every lover under every tree shadow.
Who knew our existence was trailing away?
And the lives ran unending races and sweated dust in plenitude that soiled the paper money and fuelled our banks. The notes kept changing colour, waters dried up and souls took to Parliament Street. Screaming. Demanding. Echoing.
The dust rose and fell like a sleeping child’s breath and the echo police sirens.
The storm raved the rocks, raped the trees and took the dust.
The dust and the storm of a thousand hungry years of bloody revolutions and misplaced thoughts.
The storm was them and the dust — us.
Have you ever wondered why you still feel