by Yashodhara Trivedi
Every Home I’ve Lived in is a Papier-Mâché Piñata
from my fifth birthday party overrun by balloon animals
that broke free of blush streamers flying off the wall
like panthers on the prowl in the dining hall
of Chittaranjan Park. Giggling cousins parked
‘round my fairy princess cake with M&M buttons and candy floss hair
as I blew out candles to may-God-bless-you renditions,
Dad’s the loudest while Mum, no stranger to competition
and blessed with the diction of a convent education
could sing us all under the table if she wanted
but saved her breath for Deshbandhu Road instead,
where every Sunday was a playdate for Lionel Richie and Elvis
jailhouse rockin’ down the hallway to blow me a sleepy kiss.
Impromptu sing-offs in our music box apartment
tempered to a low hum during business hours but the weekend —
oh the weekend bloomed like dinner plate dahlias with boombox petals
cartwheeling into our not-so-private jam sessions.
More birthdays brought the sweet music of democracy
as Eminem rubbed shoulders with Jagjit Singh
as Dad played the dad card to play God with the playlist
but the joke’s on him ‘cause I snuck all my favourites
into Samsonite suitcases to Atherton Street,
where a crash course in Indian classical awaited
the white kids that shared a party wall with me.
Their tenacity was impressive, dishing out cheeky meals
of Radiohead and earworms from 2-4-1 Friday deals,
a melting pot till I shut shop and hit the gas
to Church Street Head. We broke bread
as the kitchen table wheezed under charcuterie
that blew kisses at dim sums and Darjeeling first flush tea.
My food porn fantasies formed a spank bank of such ferocity
that it sprouted fangs and skulked away to Gardenia Glory
where sev poha and stuffed paratha lay in wait for me.
Leafy greens fisticuffed with my coastal dreams
of pomfret fry and spotted lakes of posto ilish
till a puff of smoke blew me over like dandelion seeds
to Amrapali Sapphire where spiders wander free.
Now the King shares closet space with a pest control kit
and M&Ms coronate fairy cakes as a Sunday morning treat
so ask me about the time machine that runs on memory
and I will say I don’t know much but just enough
to build a home wherever life takes me.
A Survival Guide to Seasons
I rally with a wall of clothes –
six layers of Indian cotton turn to mush
against the tyranny of an English winter.
My freezing bones are built for a sun plucked clean
from the horizon, winking from the corners
of snapshots parceled across the Himalayas.
I outlive a snowstorm
spooning the heater in a walk-in closet
masquerading as bedroom –
too cold to fall asleep, too tired not to.
The thrill of experience perseveres.
Shuffling around in mismatched socks,
nostrils ablaze with the scent of candles that mimic
the spices in my father’s cooking, I ache
for mustard-hilsa and piping hot jalebis.
Weekdays are for gentle paranoia
manifested in stockpiling – with copious tins
of chicken stew, hot cocoa, and herbal tea,
the common cold beats a survivor out of me.
These skills are rendered worthless now,
like farming in a landfill
or hitting the jackpot in Monopoly.
Weekends turn to drinking games
with chilled mimosas and ice lollies.
My body sinks
in a pool of sweat, all thawing limbs
and glistening chest, slapping away mosquito wings.
Everything reeks of the tropical sun –
my tangled hair, the tie-dyed sheets,
this water bed, and browning skin.
When dawn splits open the old skyline,
the crows begin to raise new hell.
I stumble barefoot across the room
and make love to the air-conditioning.