On my 20th birthday
I started coveting
Those store-bought dreams
Sold in monthly packs.
The trial month was free.
So, I pulled away
From the dining-table chat
To indulge my romantic, Indian fancy-
The 'Hollywood-Boulevard fantasy'.
"Are you still watching?"
I never shut my eyes
To dream my own dreams.
On my 30th birthday, I stuff
A glorious, Prada knockoff
(A cheapskate's shopping spree.)
Inside Mom's prickly, knit bag.
In her last courier it came
Carrying a letter and a will-
Bequeathed a few bricks
And a dozen words of love
She had to die to give.
That night, I lie awake, listening.
The sound of the artificial waves-
Ocean mode on the sleep machine,
Can only lull me to a broken sleep.
Maybe, it's too soothing for ears
Used to the shrill whistle of the train
Passing through my ancestral village.
In welcome, hungry dogs barked, chased.
The owls hooted, 2 am silences disrupted.
Or perhaps, I lie uneasy and restless
‘Cause out of 560 dollars I was cheated.
The fucking Spa. The fucking massage.
Their promises of peaceful sleep burnt out
Like their cloying mix of potpourri and sage.
Fidgety and restless, anaestheticized dreams-
Of strong fingers kneading my scalp,
A sticky, coconutty fragrance in my hair.
Wishing for chutki's famous oil-champi.
The next day, at my themed party,
Multiple stalls of continental cuisine.
I line the hard shell of the taco with
The last smidge of home-made 'chilli'.
Grandma's mouth-watering speciality-
The spicy mango-acchaar.
High on pharmaceutical strains,
I realise that sour liquorice
Is just a candied version
Of mausi's sun-dried Imli.
Drunk, I side-step the green Amrood
That fell in grandpa's elysian backyard.
Childhood feet haltingly pick their way
Through the ripened, juicy memories
Strewn among the hollow beer cans-
Empty, discarded on the leather backseat.
Nostalgia rots in my brand new Ford.
On my wedding day,
Isolated, I walk down the aisle
Clad in the ghosts of virginal white.
I trimmed it with a Banarasi lace
2 meters re-used from the kurta
I never wore to mom's funeral.
Distracted, 3-inch stilettos wobble-
I slip on the tears father had wept
While cremating mom's corpse, alone.
Scarlet splashes, a gash on my head.
My bride cleans it with her veil.
Fingers erase the bloody sindoor.
An apt tribute to my cultural roots?