Poetry / September 2014 (Issue 25)

Coming Home

by Varsha Saraiya-Shah

All flights to Ahmedabad cancelled.
An Agent, apologetic, hands me a taxi voucher
cautioning about communal riots, entire
walled city under curfew, ruffians looting
outrunning police on guard.
Sleep-deprived, my mind half a day behind.

A cabbie waves my number on a placard.
Doors wide open for inspection.
He nods when I greet with Kem Chho!
*NRI? He asks.
I nod, he steps aside.
Brown skin doesn’t make me a kin now.
I take a peek—

Paisley fabric, seats faded from tropical sun—
           my aunt's balcony sofas.
A dashboard sanctuary, good omen.
Tiny statue of Sai Baba, in framed filigree, a wood rosary.
Faint fragrance of sandalwood, Jasood flowers—
           my papa's little pooja room.
Ganesh the god, obstacle remover, welcomes me
           with squinting eyes and ample head—
Good to go ahead.

He peels away from the curb, unbelted riding high
on Gutkha, savoring his fix non-stop.
Will he avoid Jamalpur Darwaza,
the gate notorious for violence that terrified me most
in my teen years when riots went rampant?

I avoid any talk of coming home
that divides us further,
I ruminate on summer-
vacations long ago riding the local train
from Ahmedabad to Baroda, numerous stops
for local yummies and season’s berries.
Now dreading the piles of wreckage at
train station not far from papa’s.

Cab's windows rattle, hot cross-wind
activating fans on each side on and off, loud
filmy songs with a static on the radio lulling
my midnight body in a home countless miles away.

Author's note: NRI means Non Resident Indian  
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