Knotted Inside Me - Poem by Rochelle Potkar
At the time of my birth, my small town Kalyan, did not have a library.
It had no road rage, few beggars, one defunct traffic signal at Murbad Road,
and fewer cars.
Horizontal buildings silhouetting the sun in shanties, chawls and cottages
Its outline gianted and dwarfed
with self-sustaining jobs of: kiranawalas, primary school teachers, factory workers, dentists, general practitioners, cycle repair shops,
and a small bank (let's not forget) on Rambaugh lane.
It was tone deaf to career ladders, six sigma, hierarchies,
MNCs, pecking orders.
Filled with pavwallas, mohmeddans, hindus, bavas,
north Indians, south Indians, non-catholics,
non-hindus, non-muslims, non-dalits, and non-brahmins.
The ice-factory owner, the mayor, a smuggler, a customs officer
were The Rich -
their bungalow gardens, terraces, compound walls
sprinted over by well-fed dogs
pressing against our imagination (mostly) during new year resolutions.
The Sindhis lived in a neighbour town
with plenty of gold and goods.
In the year of my sister's birth
some of their buildings collapsed
like crumbling cake in blood and crust.
There was one gang-war in Kalyan
one Anglo-Indian killed,
by a Goan goon, on a night road
a gunshot running through his race, history, legacy.
And a schoolboy murdered
in cold gang-boy rage.
I, with the other girls were bottom-felt,
walking through the college corridors.
That was all we had,
before I left for the City.
But the town I had left behind -
like shoes outside a temple -
multiplied around me a thousand times.
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