a letter to delhi

delhi, you are a ghost. I hear your voice — conversations I can’t tune out, the auto rickshaws’ whirring motor, songs on night time radio. and I feel your stare on my face, brazen, burning.

you see me, but I can’t see you.

your every turn is the same. you are strangers’ fingers on my shoulders, the push and pull of a tide of bodies driving me to the edge of myself. you are streets I can never know in the dark, where home is a hotel and an address I can’t remember.

your grey sky is oppressive, an ever-present hold against my throat. your heat is a slap in the face when I can only turn the other cheek, your constant scream of traffic a sound that never fades to the background.

the only you I grasp for is a you that no longer exists, stored away in the memory of a me that no longer exists. and as you go, you take parts of me with you.

the sleepy afternoons on the school bus home, the weekends spent riding my bicycle with training wheels on. the exhilaration of making the turn on the twisty slide at the playground, and the cool breeze in my face at the back of the auto rickshaw.

the only comfort remaining is the bitter trace you leave behind. while I can’t love you again, at least hatred is only a step away from the love I used to feel, back when you were my whole world.

with you, hate is as close as I’ll ever come to love.


Header image Aquib Akhter on Unsplash.

Writing Prompt: Free Association

Write down the first words that comes to mind when we say . . . home. . . soil. . . rain. Use those words in the title of your post. 

I love the smell of damp earth when it rains. It reminds me of a rainy afternoon I spent in an apartment we used to stay in in India. I vaguely remember a stone balcony leading off from my parents’ bedroom. It was a long balcony with potted plants, overlooking a park. It was a rainy afternoon so the ground was slippery with raindrops. It might have been monsoon, because the rain was pouring down in sheets. The sound of pattering raindrops filled my ears as I stood on the balcony, leaning against the edge, one arm reaching out to catch the raindrops. Some of the icy drops fell on my hand, drenching it within a few moments. My lungs filled with the sweet fragrance of damp soil and I remember thinking how much I liked it.

That smell takes me back home. Even when I’m walking along streets miles away from my home country, even though we have a different apartment there now, even though that rainy afternoon was years ago and I barely remember it, the scent reminds me of that day once in a while, reminds me that I can still find a little piece of my home country from time to time, even if I am physically far away from it.

P.S. I know I’m a day late with this! But this has been my situation for the last few days…

Drafts