The bougainvillea
Pink and fresh and everywhere.
Peeking out at you
Saying hello from
Verandahs and fences and parks.

The rickshaw driver’s face
Just before he says
“One and half, madam”
Like it was one word.

The softness in those
Very same eyes
Upon hearing a few words
In Kannada from you.

Your fellow passenger
On the air conditioned Volvo bus
Refusing to meet your eye
Quite shy
No hi no bye.

The chants of every faith.
Political cries
Drunk cries in the middle of the night.

Tongues of every kind
Multi-faceted, multilingual
Switching four languages in the same sentence
Not even a second’s delay.
(What, did Google translate learn from them?)
Learning to think and feel
In so many languages
What a privilege!

The bass sounds
From the earphone music
Of your uber-pool co-passenger.
Blending, clashing with
The blaring radio music of the driver.

The little-too-close-for-comfort
Questions of smiling aunties
Genuinely full of best intentions.
Kindly random strangers who
Ask you if you’re married
And offer to hook you up with their nephew.
True story.

The umpteen armpits
Of a crowded 10am metro
From Majestic to Indiranagar.

The stewing open garbage
Steaming in summer
Streaming forth
Bursting out of their humble bins
Skirted by people holding their noses high.

The sambar cooking
At your neighbor’s kitchen
On Sunday afternoons.
Because why suction fans?
Let the whole complex
Taste from their noses
This pungent South Indian marvel.

The tart pani with the crispy puri
The cloying all-embracing
Sweetness of Mysore Pak
The first salty juicy bite
Into a boiled peanut
Culinary pleasures mortal and eternal.

The rain, the very first one in August.
Welcome if safe at home
Abhorred if on bikes on top of a flyover.
And if you’re (un) lucky, hailstones.

The puliyogare and prasada
You stand in line for
At the temples
Devotion and piety
Second priority.

The fear
The question of how to get home
As the city falls
To senseless violence
Over the death of a star.
Up in the sky
Real stars die all the time.
No one cares.

The X-ray eyes
Of that uncle your father’s age
Standing next to you at the bus stop
Staring intently at your chest
(and it doesn’t really matter
if your a boy or a girl
Behenji or Babe.)

The jerky start-stop
Of a bus a car a bike
Of any vehicle you’re in
This is how we travel here-
Like hesitant lovers making the first move.

The welcoming steady cool
After spending time in other cities.
Proclaiming undying love for the weather
Even when everything else seems meh.

I soak it in
The pulse of the city
Which beats just like my beating heart.
Which formed and shaped me
Each and every part.

©Shweta Bhat

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