my fingers are stained with tannin- “leave the windows open, will you?”- i can weigh the listlessness humming in the air, that scent of paraplegia- “what’s your name again?” the fork slides down the sponge, a burst of cherry bleeds through the chocolate; the saucer stares heedless through the teak, the brick. your hand on my trembling knees.

a spoon clatters. the scarcity of rain pounds against the sole of your mojris. the tea is ripe. if the floor upends, we will be two pendant lights- you brighter, ofcourse- and the bookshelves will open their tongueless mouths and gobble us whole. “what do they call this place now?” from the window, a foreign summer wafts in.

in a parallel world, i am writing you a drawing of the city that died. the cotton interweaves, my fingertips pucker; your eyes are shards of amethyst. “little blue bird has a magic bead,” i see your lips form words. you empty your pockets of stories as i sit, milky-eyed, licking a cantankerous sun.

©Mohana Das



red, her honey heart
flitters fast past his window
trepidation drenched

©Mohana Das


when rain clouds swallow our city and fireflies fold their glow in the shiver of their tiny wings, you sit by the window and wait. from the room across, i look at you and pin away for the slice of your heart that will never be mine. there is the dry shriek of thunder. thorns of bougainvillea pierce the charcoal underbelly of the sky.

a gecko had perched itself on the ledge and watched with beady eyes as we lay spent, perspiring from every pore, the gold of daybreak pooled on our thighs. you had smiled as my fingers ran through your hair. my smile bloomed into a kiss. from over the rooftops, flocks of pigeon carried notes of riyaaz on their wings.

On the Road lies abandoned on your lap; pages turning wayward in the gusty fennel-breathing wind. in my tiny hands i hold unpredictability. sometimes i wonder how love slips from between fingers; how galaxies collide and birth fire balls; how the past resurrects itself and enchants us. the corner of your mouth curves into a tiny smile.

i watch till the rain dissolves the clarity of space and you become a watercolor without form, receding till your window becomes an outline only, a bulb-lit rectangle.

darling, must i ask her story? must i ask if the rain brings her dark eyes back to your mind?

©Mohana Das

Save Calcutta’s Architectural Inheritance

On a random morning as we rode a rickety bus towards Esplanade, the dilapidated warehouses (that I’ve seen a million times) lining Strand road elicited an abrupt “you can’t just let them die!” My best friend was caught unaware but he took it upon himself to show me the Calcutta of his childhood and a new love story began. Since then many an afternoon we have found ourselves gazing at houses with intricate railings and slatted windows and spiral stairwells, debating if there was just some way we could get inside and admire the red cement or black and white checkered marble floors and the long verandahs (we are yet to find the courage to ask the owners!) It is sad to see them crumbling, giving way to faceless structures that have no stories to tell, no whiff of nostalgia around them. Without her rich architectural heritage, Calcutta ceases to be Calcutta. Calcutta ceases to be the city many like us identify with. It becomes a city without a soul. It becomes just another urban maze stripped of poetry and memories and music. It becomes uninspiring. It becomes powerless.

We don’t want to lose the Calcutta we love.

Amit Chaudhuri is spearheading a campaign to preserve Calcutta’s unique architecture. No, we are not talking about the mansions and memorials of the Raj or the rajbaris of the Bengali landowners. We are talking about the hundreds of unnamed houses that are being demolished to make way for swanky apartment blocks in the old neighbourhoods of the city. In no other city, in India or abroad, will you find structures built in what is called the Bengali-European style. For more about the cause, read this article on the Guardian.

Help us save Calcutta’s architectural inheritance by signing the petition here.

A house on Hindustan Park (Photo Courtesy: The Guardian)

A house on Hindustan Park (Photo Courtesy: The Guardian)

Paper Boats

we never discussed the rain.
this monsoon when the water threatened
to swallow us whole, you curled
like a snail inside my rib-cage; Kolkata slept.

you are 6 and i your child-bride, quarter
mother held you to her sallow frame-

i dream i have let your fingers go in the onrush.

later i trawl out seaweed, sit
braiding strands of pastel disappointment into rugs as you
launch your umpteenth paper boat into our soggy lane.
i smile through my teeth; the
tea-laced morning has caught a flu.

©Mohana Das

Date Notes, 28 Apr ’15

evening- the sky threatens to inundate-
we pack a plate of momos- chicken,
schezuan- hop into an auto:
darkness swirls over the aged buildings of Hatibagan.
trams, their toothless mouths stuffed with romanticism,
hobble unmindful. all morning, we tried
etching secrets onto each other’s skin, ears
cocked for the softest sound of feet down the
corridor: as we kissed; as we exhaled the
anguish of seven long days out on the cold red
floor. the rush is thinning spasmodically.
a cubic angstrom of my brain feels exhilarated as the traffic count
goes 5-4-3-2-1- yellow taxis zoom, i bump sideways in his chest-
everything smells of sweet,
wet earth.

at Ahiritola, we find the river weeping:
blue-black bruises blotch her swollen face,
the wind lashes, tears froth-lipped waves into
tattered skeins- i clutch his arm,
the jetty trembles and the sky is electric.
when it starts raining, we have just
unwrapped the momos- hurriedly, my mauve umbrella
goes up. our backs are slabs of ice.

evening- it pours- monsoon is an enraged
raga. the strings of her tanpura are ablaze.
leaflets engorge with ecstasy, the bloom of petrichor percolates
through flesh, bones- i feed him momos,
hungry for touch and warmth and proximity.
the bridge is a limp line of halogens
hovering ghost-like between earth and sky.
a launch bobs bearing-less in the distance.
our lips ache for a confluence.
Kolkata holds us back despite herself.

©Mohana Das

in a heartbeat

the last word i tried teaching him was deconstructed on my tongue. my larynx fumbles as i watch his primrose mouth spill language i lesson-ed:

“let me. please.”

the first time he kissed me i thought i would volatilise. daylight suddenly velvet, pin pricks of nacre assailed my sight. the concrete, magma underneath my feet, i wanted to ask him to help me breathe. hours bent in between us, the space folding itself into particle. then dust. my breasts were proud magnolias.

his heartbeats thunder across the boron-breasted sky. i laugh and the bombs in my alveoli do not explode. today, it is him teaching me to spell h-o-m-e.

i watch myself blooming in the aftermath as Anatolia chisels the way to her on my palms.

“get more piercings,” i reminisce. his scent sheathes me like a favorite song. i have tasted his smile, his butterfly frivolity. i have tasted the ache turning gangrenous in his heart, i have tasted his fidelity. the amber of his silence pools in the hollow of my neck.

breathless, i tattoo his ode on my flesh, gravitate towards light. the sinking something at the bottom of my chest has dehisced. on most days i hate love him.

our tiny star shuts her eyes as i moan. everything is on fire.

©Mohana Das

This is the third of a series of poems. Read the other two here:

Part I: from the corner of my eye
Part II: on this side of the phone