Delhi’s Bandaged Heart – Shahana Khatoon’s Poem ‘Almonds’, Shaheen Bagh
Poetry in the city.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi]
The evening sun is setting behind the Metro station. The adjacent drain, clogged with plastic bags, has turned ethereal in the twilight gold.
In her early 20s, Shahana Khatoon is unhurriedly walking along the station’s foot overbridge, towards her home in Shaheen Bagh. The pathway is crowded with men. There’s a stray dog, too. But Ms Khatoon is too occupied in her thoughts to care for the immediate world around her. She isn’t even turning to look at the orange sun as it dips in slow motion at the rear of the Jasola Vihar-Shaheen Bagh station. May be because there’s so much for her to look forward to. Having completed her Master’s in English from Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University some months ago, she plans to do a PhD. A resident of the south Delhi locality where she lives with her parents, Ms Khatoon is also a daytime Gurgaon dweller — she started her first full-time job in a start-up in the Millennium City (Udyog Vihar, Phase 4) in June, as a content writer. Additionally, she has arrived at perhaps the most significant milestone in her life. ‘Chaotic, in bits and pieces’, her slim collection of poems, her first book, was published last month.
“There are things inherent to my identity that I can’t change, such as my name, my gender, my religion, my nationality, my caste. I never asked for any of these.” As men continue to pass on both sides of her, she talks of how she let poetry complicate who she is. “When I write poems, I try to create a self that incorporates both my given identity and my chosen identity.”
Ms Khatoon agrees to share a poem with us.
What do you do when your lover is in your city –
Do you close your windows?
Do you close your doors?
Do you sit under the same sky and try to measure
the distance that isn’t in miles any more?
Isn’t it thrilling to witness the distance shrinking,
as if almonds turning into raisins,
as if apples becoming pines,
as if peaches becoming wine.
And what do you do when your lover is in your city-
but you aren’t lovers any more –
Can almonds ever turn into raisins?
The verse writer at home