Quiet In Movement, Loud In Dissent: A Poet’s Description Of Delhi

Mulberry silk draped over dreary dirty skin, arms covered in green glass bangles, estranged women with scalps soaked in sindoor like the tongue of Kali; the land beneath Jallianwala Bagh on April 13, 1919, the lanes of Bengal on the last day of Durga’s residence and the reddened foreheads of devotees who line the streets of a city clothed in Mughal architecture, Islamic chants and a distant mourning – a simmering refrain heard in the hallways of a mausoleum; the conversations between the door and the widow and the tourists and the travelers who eavesdrop on a grief four hundred years old –

the synchronised azaan echoing from lane to lane from bazaar to bazaar from within mosques and around cathedrals, synagogues and temples built beside universities – wombs of homegrown heresy – rectangular pieces of cloth held by hands covered in wandering marks of blue ink; women in khaki standing across from those in saffron in white in red from shirts printed with the face of an Argentine Marxist to women dressed in a rage cultivated on coerced courtesies –

The Red Fort through a different perspective. (Photo: Waitforyuvi/Wikimedia Commons)

on an adjacent street – a group of young wives dressed in floral-printed synthetic sarees of magenta and watermelon pink; a ghoonghat pulled over the head and a red bindi between the eyebrows like the moon amid a lunar eclipse; a northeastern woman vending colouring books under a banyan tree, her skin beaded with sweat a collection of scars and stretch marks over her breasts: maps, parched land, sheets of aged paper, dried drops of blood on unsated bed sheets occupied by tired bodies and untied marriages that are enclosed within torn albums titled with the names of people who are immigrants to each other;

another woman in a hand-knitted woollen cardigan selling spiritual jewellery, agony dances on her forehead as she sits under the sun breasts bared while a six month old clings to her body sucking at her flesh skin against skin dusky like a desert in the afternoon like the winds of kalbaishakhi; the soil in Assam, the faces of the indigenous and sits there calling out to shoppers and strangers a hand resting on a knee another holding her child an indifferent kind of liberty –

walls stained with tobacco covered in scattered campaign posters half-ripped; an abandoned child staring at a series of peculiar shapes assembled in straight lines read into loudspeakers and microphones at evening demonstrations by men in half-sleeved cotton kurtas and beige vests by women in imported chiffon sarees, by unknown people who address the poor from a pedestal and speak of liberation in a colonial language –

at a distance, a barber’s shop with brick walls painted in shades of blue a sky falling over a town and a child staring at the repeated hand movements of his father between conversations in broken khariboli Bangla and Urdu; a set of framed pictures above a mirror covered in fingerprints imperial reminders of 90,000 deaths, a yellowed photograph of a palace built for the viceroy, a monument of sandstone that still houses authority within the five hundred seventy-three square miles of land that still carry the regret of 1857, that still home the poetry of Ghalib and Dagh that will always wear the scent of a religion, abandoned –

the minarets and the tombs, the roads, the corridors, the bicycle rickshaws, the scorned hawkers, the sight of a young girl in a burqa and niqab within a taxi with paisley printed seats; the quiet lifting of the niqab; red lipstick unbottled and briskly shifted underneath kohl-lined eyes that move to the rhythm of her hands until the niqab is repositioned the bottle returned to a hidden compartment of a glossy black handbag and hands folded in anticipation – a silent kind of defiance.

This is Delhi – the deep plangent sound of an empty earthen vessel being filled with well water, the hollow screeching of the wind making way through the peeling edge of a locked wooden door stealthy footsteps on a muddy field unclasping of a sweat-soaked cotton blouse the sound of temple bells at midnight – the curtain-raiser to a riot;

Delhi, Delhi is the sound of dissent,

simmering.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: TitiFaitSonTour/Flickr.
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