Rickshaws blue and other colours

With shalwar kameez-clad drivers

My eyes talk, rickshaw stops
My right thigh sits on my left
Having fixed the fare with chacha
Huddled safe with curtains around,
I check myself out in the smoky-cracky mirror…

Chitchat with the rickshaw-walla
A flash of warm, familiar
talking about India
his eyes aglimmer
voice aroused

before the stop comes, friendship begins
“Thanks much, so much”, niceties like raisins in cake
will be in my memory, all these,
just like my nail-torn kurta, when getting down

Season changes

for Spring flowers, of this colour, that and that

Fireworks-like
Only for me, I’d say. For you, you’d…
This Holi between us and Spring

Rosebud girls

Or shiny wrinkled smiles

High-worn shalwars are in style
Slim waists peeping from high-cut kurtas
Fair, fair everywhere
Matching, matching everything

Landa Bazaar is too far now,

my pom-pom sandals will tire, retire

No need for “Chacha! Chacha!” in bargain
Baaji! Baaji!” calls also heard no more
Narrow lanes, a breather from the Sun…

“Are you from India?”

Nobody to ask, no one to answer

My bindi has lost some fans

My sari shows off my waist in vain

Nothing special, all normal, just
Even our feet don’t kick up the same dust
My eyes just look, they don’t make eyes
No more “MashaAllah!”, no more highs

We don’t have so many greens here

Rain-water doesn’t shine just so on our streets

Water flowing in from India, won’t be worth a view
“It is never the last goodbye!”
No one to tell me this crucial lie

“Look! That’s her! The guest from India.”

Won’t see myself in your glittering eyes

No more silly questions, no more playful answers
No need for puffed up praise for India
How will my old land seem all-new?

The smell of Lahore sewage

Won’t be Bombay, once-removed

The latest fashion in lace will reach me late
The high-worn shalwars, only in my mirror
suddenly seems too high

No more free cold-drinks for an Indian guest
No more welcome-tea either at the shops
Just a ‘hello’ echoed by a ‘hello’ through the phone
Saalam Valekum ringing only in my memory

I will now settle for chicken-special dinners

Coke will not be ‘thandi’ but ‘thanda

To be chugged with Aamir, not Shoaib
Biryani gets back its ‘special dish’ status

Rows after rows of hand-made shoes don’t greet my eyes
No more Pathani men to soothe them either
Panjabi, Pashto far from my ears
Broken Urdu jangles someplace else

Won’t see streets buzzing with Corolla-s and Beetle-s
Such wide roads only in my dreams
Eyefuls of greens appear here not any more
Cars speeding like planes won’t ferry me no more

After ogling at you all night, Lahore,
you won’t take me out for a one o’clock orange-pistachio ice-cream at ‘Chaman’
No more ‘Pine’, ‘Gold Leaf’

‘Wills Light’ has to do
Or some other brand will come in to fit my 20 rupee budget
And public lighters here don’t bother with Rani Mukherjee pictures

Ruddy noses not much seen this side
Long nails too not so much in
Lovely feet don’t peep out of lovelier embroidered shoes
Who will hike the rate up knowing you are not from here,
then slide it down knowing you are from ‘there’?

No more chats where we finish each other’s lines
No more mid-day Sun turning your dust to gold
Then that dust gets into my feet
Doesn’t wash off…
Wish it didn’t wash off….

The buzz at Anarkali will be much missed

And the din of Mall Road
Even the lonesome long Jail Road
Familiar abuses at Cavalry will grow strange
‘Best Buy’ no more a second home
‘Pace’ not just around the corner any more

Sunday breakfast at ‘Capri’, routine almost

Oily bhatura-s, else oilier puris
That nihari smell
Ah! That taste of poori-halwa (won’t be forgotten)
And Lahore lassi (won’t forget, no)

Colourful shops of Liberty

The hubbub of ‘Dupatta Gali’
Peshawar boy making tea
Colour-makers’ ‘dirty’ fingers
drying out clothes craftily
or measuring out colours to add
to make heaps of tie-dyed beauties

The uncanny 3 am paan
Turning happy under my teeth
With the paan-walla’s hummed tune
Judging eyes looking at me
Seeking eyes looking at me
Buying ‘Camel’, so out of my budget

You stop and ask something
I freeze, so do the rest
I mean to help you, I mean well
But do you? I don’t know.
Bad dressed in good, or the other way?

Hourly power cuts, darkness, sweat
Excuse to shop for cheap candles
“Where did the matchbox go?”
Excuse for a gaudy lighter collection.

My, the tea cups do look different here

The teakettle is…green

The tea-maker’s eyes are light
But the tea is dark and strong

156-G and its wide open vibes

Remembering the way in, took time

Way out was also sought soon

Hashmi Ma’am’s tight hug

Rashid Bashir’s clockwork ways (setting bus timing)
Autorickshaw-walla dropping his rate

Amber golgappa-s
Punctured ones brighter, lighter
Miserly counted chickpeas
25 rupees per plate
12 punctured shells

Ice-shavings at Anarkali gate
Turned into rainbow lick-lollies
The red same as that of the paan-chewing moustache man

tweaking his tache

The midnight autorickshaw
rundown, sad

creaking, croaking

rough, sharp, pointy around the edges

seat gashed, open

the jolt of 80 km/h

bumping, jumping inside
head bumped
hair caught

Orange, Guava Orchard

Dimple of strawberries
Falsa with resin stains
Stainless, shiny jamoon-s
Peaches and their down
Dear bananas (very pricey)
Black cherries sitting in their paper boxes

Cold, sour falsa juice spreading in my mouth
And anaar juice bringing with it an Ismat Chughtai story.

 

Translated from the original unpublished Hindi “Lahore, tu bada yaad aayegaa mujhe,” by Sourav Roy.

 

 

This work was published in the Coldnoon Cities (Mapping the Metropolis) Vol I., as part of the Coldnoon journal.

 

Vidha Saumya

Vidha Saumya

Vidha Saumya is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Visual Culture and Contemporary Art at Aalto University, Helsinki. She holds a B.A. in Painting from the Sir J.J. School of Art in Mumbai and a Diploma in Visual Communication Design from the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore. During 2007-08 she undertook an Independent Study Programme at the Beaconhouse National University, Lahore. Her exhibitions include ‘No one at the ceremony remembers to mention the artist,’ Third Space, Helsinki (2016); ‘BODY as SITE,’ Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai (2015), ‘Love Charades,’ Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai (2011); and ‘Song of the Sirens,’ Grey Noise Gallery, Lahore (2010).

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