On the highway just outside terminal one
a green bus has come to a standstill.
The conductor leans against its dusty exterior.
his body slack
familiar with the etiquette of waiting in this city.
A woman rolls down a tinted window
to look at him over the top of her sunglasses.
He is using his finger to draw a circle in the dust.
the two ends do not meet.
You will spend thirty minutes behind the bus.
Yesterday, it waited on a crumbling bridge for forty.
Next year, they will build new highways for those who wait.
Overhead, the planes roar into the horizon.


I Learn that This is Not a Lake

but a reservoir
that an old king built
in desperate battle
with the maps he had inherited.

A girl leans out over a wall
and flicks her cigarette into the murky water.
There are no fish to keep it alive
only reeds in earnest, upward motion.
In late afternoon light
it can be pretty.

One summer we walked around it
four times
or until we had seen more of it
than we would remember.
what would it be like if I fell in?
you asked me
holding up a leaf
and letting it fall to ripples.
slow and certain
I answered.


Return Ticket

On the six o’clock to Borivali
The hawkers move quickly
and their wares move slow.
A woman buys a packet of peanuts
and shells them into her lap.
Her hand twists out through the bars
and releases a fistful into the setting sun.
The remains of the day settle over the city.


On Saturdays

the stores close early
and broccoli is half off.

Ahead of me on the footpath
a small child in a puffer jacket
is dancing forward
in a country of safe streets
and weak sunshine.

I am going to buy fruit and yogurt
the good kind
it makes you skinny.
I tell a neighbour I am “off to the shops”
borrow an idiom
that would sound silly at home.

I have taught myself to self check-out.
This way, I can pay in change.
Use small coins that I pry from crevices
and keep in a jar
that used to hold jam.

When I get home
I will cook two portions
of an average meal
and eat both.
Sometimes, I will take pictures.

My mother calls to say goodnight.
I speak to her of fruit.
of safe streets and home cooked meals
and sunshine
in a borrowed idiom.

In dreams I dance with children.


This work was first published as part of the Maple ~ September 2017 Issue, of the Coldnoon journal.



Avani Tandon Vieira

Avani Tandon Vieira

Avani Tandon Vieira is a curator and academic who works in New Delhi. She has a Master’s degree in World Literatures from Oxford University and a Bachelor’s degree from St. Stephen’s College. Her work deals with Indian zine culture and protest writing.