Delhi’s Bandaged Heart – Tikuli’s Poem on Coronavirus Lockdown, Hauz Khas
Poetry in the city.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Tikuli has always been trying to find a home. Even during this lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. In her 50s, her means are artistic that involves painting and writing, and by keenly observing the flow of seasons. (Among other things, she makes sketches of birds she watches from her window.)
Spending the lockdown while stranded in her son’s second-floor barsati in south Delhi’s Hauz Khas, very close to the Chor Minar monument, Tikuli seems excited as she talks of being able to see “mulberrry tree and the gulmohur through the living-room window, jamun tree through the kitchen window and mango trees, loaded with mangoes, from the terrace.”
She is chatting on WhatsApp video, the photos are taken through the phone screen that connects her to The Delhi Walla.
The search for home is not only a metaphor, however. “I want to have a place of my own.” Until recently she was at her brother’s place in Ghaziabad. Following the end of lockdown and after her full recovery with health complications, she plans to earnestly start looking for a house in Delhi.
But she has already found at least one home–in the poem she purposely wrote for me on request. “Although I composed it in 30 minutes, I’d been thinking about the poem for many days… I had to be careful. I’m facing many problems and struggles in life that have to be resolved but I didn’t want to sound negative… we’re anyway passing through difficult times.”
Here’s the poem.
Grief, like an invisible illness,
stays in the hollow of the bones
As do loss and pain.
In a perpetual lockdown
They feed off each other.
No one can leave their home
But loneliness has found a way.
It sneaks up and settles like a mist,
Slowly, silently making its way
Through the topgraphy of my skin
My mind takes notice,
Shifts and tries to distract,
But there isn’t much I can do,
It’s not a new feeling,
I’ve lived with it most of my life.
Only people weren’t dying before,
There were no tired, blistered feet
Walking desolate highways,
Faceless, parched, hungry people,
Unloved, betrayed by their own
In their long trudge
To a home they seldom reach
A smouldering Gulmohar tree
Rustles outside my window
I count my privileges
Ironically, lockdown has liberated me
While the whole world struggles
To cope with this house arrest
I roam the pathways revealed
By each open window, each open door
The sky is no longer a polluted dome
Framed by mesh, blackened by soot
But an oasis of blue, with trees
Their leafy canopies filled with birds
Their songs breaking afternoon’s quiet
With the cat at my heels
I gather the gifts the breeze brings —
Neem blossoms and raw mangoes —
Kacchi ambi sliced and dusted
With red chilli and salt —
This is summer in my city.
At the nearby corner
Amaltas drape the meeting of streets,
They come together just as always,
There are no prohibitions for them.
Farther along a Siris —
Drugging parakeets with its fragrance
I step down to forage for mulberries,
The starlings make their usual racket,
A Rufous Treepie watches,
A koel’s melody fills the near stillness.
I remove my scarf of anxiety,
Throw it casually into the breeze.
A crow approves.
Soon the shadows of evening
Will strech long and thin,
Pointing to my horizon.
Then I’ll drink in the moon
Stirred with tamarind and jaggery
Someone raises an eyebrow,
“Is it ethical to write about pleasure,
About your privilege in this crisis?”
“Ask a woman who has long dreamed,
Dreamed of a home and has found it,”
Poetry in the times of corona