The Room in a New Light
by Priyanka Srivastava
The small room with no door in our home
The courtyard which for them would be the window
The home which was never mine
A lone bulb flickering, a dry tap sometimes.
The early morning song of azaan; on the stove chai
Frothy milk for kids; aroma of potatoes fried.
Lunch box neatly stacked on the table
The daily wait for the vegetable vendors,
The chime of bells, the fragrance of jasmine
And the flowers with dewdrops, in my grandmother’s hand.
The women as pale as early morning sun;
Pitter patter on the tin roof and the flowers unfurl again.
My aunt in orange paisley cutting brinjals to be fried for lunch
My other aunt with dusky skin in crinkled yellow like wilted daffodils
Her hands once adorned with heena and dreams
Now smeared with turmeric and chilli
Stirring curry, frying poori.
While I rub my eyes as my granny braids my hair,
I see them cooking selflessly without their morning tea.
Dinner time, a different noise: what’s for dinner?
The aroma gives a cue sometimes.
I see them in the kitchen rolling dough, cutting vegetables.
The kitchen like a cage; the walls stained with hushed conversations
Three decades later, the same room I see in a different light
My aunts for me are women I can never be.
I carry the same fire within but I love myself too.
I could have been caged but I unlocked the door.
Now when I put on the alarm before I sleep,
First thing in the morning – two biscuits and a cup of chai.