Poems by Kavita A. Jindal
may buy a tool-kit and know how to use it
may change the washer, adjust the stopcock
swap the ball bearings
fix the leaky spigot with a spanner.
A woman may suggest to Nature
that for the next millennia
men become pregnant
a facetious fractious suggestion;
the woman knows her pleas
are just venting, as ineffectual
as hammering water.
A woman may not drive in Saudi Arabia
may not bike unless in a ladies’ only park
may not be seen in public without a male protector.
A woman must also be fertile
dribbling out male heirs;
she may spout songs in private
and dance in full Dior, smeared with make up
for her mirror and other ladies to see.
A village panchayat in Punjab declares
that mobile phones given to girls
leads them to pre-marital sex;
boys can have cell phones and call for help
when they’re in trouble, but females,
young things, must take it on the chin,
remaining on the drip-drip of advancement.
A woman there thinks: what if instead of aborting
the female foetuses, the nozzle was turned off
as if by a spell, a sorcery; no babies were born
to the women of this village, then the new elders
all men, would die out without replacement
and further afield too the taps would be fixed just so
by the women who knew how.
(After ‘Woman’ by Arun Kolatkar)
First published on the ‘Feminist Times’ website, 2013
Outings with Daarji
Once a fortnight I would visit
And he would ask:
What have you been meaning to do?
What do you want to see? What do you want to eat?
More enquiries would follow:
Are you studying enough?
Are you sure you want to work for that newspaper?
Who would want to be a journalist?
I had a rule of ignoring the latter questions.
I would say:
I’ve been meaning to see the circus from Russia.
I want to eat gol guppas
and kulfi falooda from Roshan on Ajmal Khan Road.
I want to eat Chole Bhature in Chandni Chowk.
I want to visit the Jama Masjid
and that most serene gurudwara by Humayun’s Tomb.
Take me to the Ram Lila grounds for the final night
of the ten-day enactment.
Let’s go to the mela right now to watch the kathputli.
These were how I announced my desires of roaming the city.
He’d hail a three-wheeler and we were off
to see the Russian acrobats, the lion tamers, the dancing horses,
the clown on the unicycle
and the trapeze artists who flew high
with no safety nets.
We were off to the kathputli at the mela,
which I loved less for the dramatics of the puppeteers,
more for the hordes they entertained:
the pickpockets, the bag snatchers, the little girls in stretchy red headbands
clutching dainty Disney purses.
We were off to the benches in the maidan for the overnight Ram Lila
where, that year, in the penultimate scene
Ram shot an arrow that missed the actor playing Ravan,
who then bent to retrieve the arrow from the stage,
stabbing it into his own throat with a deathly cry.
The crowd applauded. Serious celebrations could begin.
Towering effigies needed to be burnt and fireworks let off.
We were off to the minarets and cusped arches of the Jama Masjid,
only to be rebuked for buying a burqa
by the shopkeepers in its surrounding alleys,
who stiffened but tried to be polite
as they detected the turbaned Sikh sightseer: my grandfather.
They could tell he was a wounded soul
hanging back from them;
they sensed he was one of those who’d lost his lands,
escaping with just his life to cross the line of partition.
They wondered what he was doing at the mosque.
They might even have wondered aloud while I bargained with them.
They never guessed that this was his indulgence to me.
These unpredictable outings were a treat for him too,
I realise that now.
Because whatever the response to his questions:
What have you been meaning to do?
What do you want to see?
What do you want to eat?
Whatever the answer (and I was careful not to be too outré)
Daarji beamed with delight, checked his wallet
and hailed an auto rickshaw for the two of us.
About the poet
Kavita A. Jindal is the author of the poetry collection Raincheck Renewed, published to critical acclaim by Chameleon Press. Her short story A Flash of Pepper won the ‘Vintage Books/Foyles Haruki Murakami’ prize in January 2012. Her work has appeared in literary journals, anthologies and newspapers around the world and has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Her poems have been translated into Arabic, German, Punjabi, Spanish and Romanian. She is currently the Poetry Editor of Asia Literary Review.