//a mug hung around their necks like the curse of Ashwaththama// – by Abhijit Khandkar


An overturned anda-bhurji cart of a hawker during a riot.
She who had borrowed money to set up this stall
brought in twelve crates of eggs for the day,
freshly baked loafs of bread, 5 kilo onions wholesale
and few cheap refined-oil cans by selling
all the clothes she owns
except the sari that she now adorns.
Stocks of beedis lying on the ground;
awaiting whores
for you to take a drag from your filthy mouths,
trample them and walk away.
Gutkha piles,
carnations around the necks of messiahs, disowned.
Those that fuck this democracy of yours every night,
cheat on her in the day
with their arson and might.
Bourbon biscuits discarded in a corner
like a river that has forgotten to flow with time.
Distraught, given up on its fate.
Just a damp marsh now, sludge.
A single dangling lighter under the rubble
limp like a penis
that’s drained of all its cum.
And haunted by the screams
of that freely flowing gutter nearby
running amok on charas
from Kamathipura to GB road.
The stench you breathe everyday
en route to work.
This air that stinks of potassium cyanide.
That’s how the streets of my city look tonight.

An urchin hungry, feeding its dog
flour mixed with water,
some sugar and salt.
And their snot and tears
for garnishing and seasoning.
This dish on their menu
that doesn’t exist on any à la carte of yours.
A trickle of sewage in the spring,
An honest moan between all your screams.
An uneasy itch
between the damp folds of your thighs.
What you suppress under the pleats of your fancy tights.
And rabidly rub when the lights of your homes are out.
Zombies on steroids,
neatly dressed
in their halter-ops and turtle-necks.
Oblivious to the stench of sweat
that drips onto the ground
from the hairy armpits of Mathadi kamgaars
who silently build roads and hoist your obscene towers.
This city of dreams
you walk on,
dance on,
piss on,
fuck on,
die on.
A gecko’s tail, your existence
shed yet wriggling
dead yet alive.
The sheer insignificance of the useless information you consume
and the cookies you forget to delete every time.
Until the system finally can’t take it anymore,
stops responding
and one day crashes down
That’s how the streets of my city look tonight.

A massive oil spill in the Atlantic,
one that’s red not blue.
On skins that have been yoked
like castrated bulls, burnt
like heaps of cow dung to thatch
the shiny walls of your homes.
Go stand near those ceramic tiles.
tell me if they don’t smell like death.
Take a breath deeper for each time
you had done nothing but walked away.
Caress those walls for each time
you had been unmindful of your privilege,
have said nothing about the religious criteria
on those dumb-ass matrimonial websites.
Kiss those walls, dry hump them
for each time you misappropriated history,
went by with your routine life…
the lynchings and killings
in the name of religion
that you watched on prime-time
as you nibbled tandoori chicken
on another weekend eve.
That gore which makes you tune into something else.
Something that’s more ‘palatable’ and ‘fun.’
All that blood and all those cries,
such murderers of your appetite.
A stand-up comedy or sports
you’d prefer perhaps
to unwind at the end of a long day,
life is stressed out anyway.
Give us some entertainment for the love of God!
Or some poetry?
No! No poetry, please.
Poetry is such a bore, such a prude.
A maiden who talks about death and dreams.
Such a turn-off, no action,
just a buzzkill.
Makes one reflect, and that’s such a vice.

Whenever you discreetly outcasted that servant,
his teacup always kept aside.
whenever you didn’t squirm when you read about how it was back then.
A mug hung around their necks
like the curse of Ashwaththama,
for them to spit in,
for spit vile like an undead
breathing eternally with no demise.
And brooms around their waists
like a thousand cacti have together bled.
For their footprints cursed
and hands meant only for dragging the dead.
Eyes meant for not shedding tears
until every eyelash stood burnt.
But it was back then, no?
Now? Look now everything is fine!
Just one-off incidents.
But those can happen anywhere,
The crutches that we provided them with-
weren’t those enough?
These hapshis won’t ever be satisfied.
So grab a knife and stab them all with it
in one go.
Then stab yourself.
Make sure that the knife is rusted;
that way if you don’t die from the wounds
you certainly would from tetanus.
Let’s just be doubly sure.

The point is to kill yourself before they outlive you.
You don’t want to die at their hands
when that happens.
That would be such a disgrace.
So go ahead, stab yourself with all your might
for each time you read
Plato, Camus, Sartre, Kafka, Baudelaire,
Gorky, Kalidasa, Ambedkar, Dostevsky, Phule, Lenin, Marx, Che, Maykovsky, Neruda
and didn’t think about the rules
peeling the skin of a manual scavenger.
Whenever you didn’t feel like
opening the manholes of every sewer
that exists in this godforsaken city of yours
to fling everyone inside,
then close it
shut tightly with a giant boulder—
a holy text with ancient relics.
These demons, trap them all
between the never ending cycle of life and death.
They were never alive anyway.
This moon of yours acts as a pimp now
and whores your soul away every night.
It’s about time you grabbed the moon by its collar
and flushed it down the drain.
Let there be no light.
It’s about time you rubbed your
cataract – laden eyes
and saw this sinking ship
we are all sailing in
for what it is.
All of us turning into savages,
ravaging each others’ intestines.
Ruptured, overflowing filth, bile
potent enough to dissolve everything in its wake
as it spreads across the entire continent.
The ocean should now show us no respite.
So hug the nearest corpse tightly tonight,
sing it a lullaby by Begum Akhtar,
if you can.
Death by poetry just sounds so nice.
Cry, scream, stab, break, rot, burn.
A graveyard desecrated by gods.
An eclipse fucked in the arse by the sun.
That’s how the streets of my city look tonight.