By Prashanti Chunduri
THIS CITY I know of a tiny city by the sea whose tread is a little slower than Father Time's. Its womb is the one I grew up in and it's old-school heart beats in tandem with mine. In this city, we write letters by hand and read the words out loud, rounded by the warmth of our tongues. We let our nibs explode ink onto the paper and with it, our love, our laughter, our tears. I don't know how it works in the cities which have left us behind, but here, we hold hands when we fight. We let our rage sink into our skin, in real-time, so that when it scabs over, it does so with grace. We paint portraits that preserve the caress of paint instead of selfies that evaporate by the minute. We develop photographs in the dark room and slip them into albums, labelled and dated, but most, we carefully preserve them behind our eyelids. We eat with our fingers in this city of mine, let the juices drip down our wrists, nary a care about etiquette. The moans and groans of pleasure that accompany chilli powder and turmeric stained-fingers are worth more than Michelin stars, says mother. Sometimes, we forget our GPS at home, and let our senses guide us, as in the days of old. We pick up less-than-perfect bouquets of wildflowers, a little brown at the edges but signed carefully with love, so that no fancy florist knows to set up shop here. I hear you worry about my untrimmed edges, a little wilder -- but a lot less weary -- than the world as it flashes by. But worry not, I am more than fine, with this old-school heart of mine. ODE TO MY NOSE I come across a strange meaning to words I thought I knew because when I ask my brain about life, she leads me by the nose. I The first scent that drapes itself over me as I toddle around on wobbly feet is the yellow scent of summer mangoes caressed by the burning fingers of Indian summers and here, I find the fragrance of my conscience. II The black miasma of new asphalt as my city grows taller than me. My nose is forced to cradle cement dust but I long for the pollen, allergies and all. III But thankfully, home is smaller than my city, infact, it is the five-by-five of my mother's kitchen, for it houses the aromas of roasted chillies and garlic, caramelised onions and curry leaves in hot oil. IV But once again, I renew my definition of home as the twin caves of my sign board lead me to another. I lose myself in the musty aisles of libraries, the minty walls of bookstores, the scent of paper and ink -- a forever home I can carry with me. V I find home easily enough now in the cherry blossoms that still fight to rise above the asphalt. My leaking pens sing me lullabies on paper, the old family recipe book that is more whiff than words. VI And I trust that I will never lose my way back to my homes, for they gift my nose a piece of themselves so that I can always Hansel and Gretel it back
Prashanti Chunduri is a self-proclaimed aesthete and armchair globetrotter. Her poetry, prose and micro-fiction have been published in Terribly Tiny Tales, Poems India, Mad Swirl Poetry Forum, Women’s Web and Verse of Silence.
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One reply on “Scents of the City”
The City describes me my birthplace Dares Salaam. Loved your poetry Prashanti.
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