Knotted inside me

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.