Delhi’s Bandaged Heart – Kandala Singh’s Poem Birdwatching, Munirka Enclave
Poetry in the city.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi]
Kandala. Such an uncommon name. “It means ‘golden’ and suggest someone who has the properties of gold, such as beautiful, precious, rare,” says Kandala Singh. The word is from Punjabi, her mother tongue.
A poet, Ms Singh lives in south Delhi’s Munrika Enclave, a neighbourhood that “gives me plenty of fodder for poetry—interactions on the terrace with neighbors during lockdown, messages on the colony WhatsApp group, the Ashoka trees, the cacophonous chorus of birds twice a day.”
In her 30s, she finished composing Birdwatching this month last year. She wrote the first draft in a single day but “went back and forth on this poem over the next four months, revising and editing, and re-revising with the inputs of a poetry partner.” She feels especially attached to this poem, for it touches upon the “emotional truths and contradictions” of domestic violence. Ms Singh is not only a survivor of gendered violence but also works on gender issues as a researcher and activist. “We don’t always manage to make room for these nuances. Perpetrators of violence are often painted with an unidimensional lens. The lived experience of violence is far more complicated.” Poetry can hold room for these contradictions, she believes.
Ms Singh agrees to share the poem with The Delhi Walla, which first appeared in the US-based poetry journal Rust + Moth.
My mother says it was the peacock
that did it, the reason I said papa
before mama. In the memory she made
for me, you took me to the chhat
and taught me how to say ‘mor.’
I don’t remember the peacocks. I remember wanting parrots.
She insists they were why I forgave
you her bruises: red turning blue,
then green, color of rose-ringed
parakeets. I remember
pointing a fruit
knife at you, blade sticky
with orange pulp. I remember
the forests we crossed
every Himalayan summer;
how you taught
me to listen for a river;
joining tops of blue
pine to bulbuls who flew
across, drawing threads
with our eyes to trace
their flight. I remember
the shrill in Mama’s voice
the first time she called my name
for help. I remember
I remember learning
to pronounce or-ni-tho-lo-gist,
you explaining you weren’t
one. I remember breathing
sessions in therapy, sifting
summer from winter, you
from Mama’s husband,
my therapist saying I should
hold on to the good things you did.
The verse writer at home