Culture & Society

Four Rhapsodic Poems By Simrita Dhir

Poet Simrita Dhir dives into childhood and teenage, compiling sights, smells, tastes, sounds and fantasies into four confine-breaking poems, free of structure and highly perceptive.

‘Guardians in a Dystopic Garden’ Duratrans print, mounted on light film 34.5

Your Art

I was 4; I loved scribbling and making stick figures in 
notebooks. I could draw the sun and stars, daisies and apples 
too. My tools were pencils and paper, but thanks to you, I knew 
of the astonishing world of easels, oil paints, brushes and 
palettes. Never did I miss a chance to watch you as you worked 
for hours on a stretch, etching new realities on canvas, making 
bizarre shapes in outrageous colors, sometimes giant flowers 
too. I would stare at your brushwork to derive meaning out of 
it, my mind soaring in a million directions. Time has sped since, 
but all it takes is visits to museums to conjure memories of 
your art, colors rioting in my mind, the smell of turpentine 
flying in to drench my senses, a zillion unanswered questions 
cascading me towards exorbitant possibilities. In introducing 
me to art, you introduced me to myself.

Mango tree and children I Photograph: Nirala Tripathi

Her Mango Stew

The kitchen window opened to a young mango tree; it would 
burst into yellow flowers in the spring. Come summer, the 
blooms would make way for glittering green mangoes.  Every 
so often, I would pluck a couple and she would cook them into 
stew, the aroma of jaggery and roasted cumin infusing the 
enclaves of my childhood. Barely would she have pulled the 
sauce pan off the fire that the two of us would pour ourselves 
heaping bowlfuls of the stew, gulping it down ecstatically with 
toast, glazed mango slivers melting in our mouths, euphoria 
seeping our senses. Many years have flown since then, the 
house is lost, she is dead, her mango stew a perennial 
reminder of all things fleeting - summer, childhood, human bonds.

Sewing machine I Artwork by Sudarshan Shetty

When Grandma called the Old Tailor In

When Grandma called the old tailor in, he took everyone’s 
measurements and got working in the verandah. Day after day 
after day for two weeks, he stitched clothes for the 
family, the clunking of the sewing machine slipping from the verandah to 
resonate through the house.

He was focused and diligent, seldom did he talk. When he did,
his words were clever. Succinctly, he’d offer insights on careers 
and marriages, family feuds and bonds, success and failure, life 
and death. I was in my teens, precarious and perceptive; I 
drank it all in - his wisecracks and anecdotes, old sayings and 
grim jokes.To this day, they sit lodged in my mind, springing 
from the blue to counsel, console, encourage and inspire. 
Grandma, did you ever know that when you called the old 
tailor in, a messiah walked in to aid me through life.

Members of the band Beatles Getty Images

Oh for those Boy Bands

If I could revert to seventeen, I know exactly what I’d 
do - I’d take a gap year from school, travel back and forth in time, 
following boy bands around. From Beatles to One Direction, 
Rolling Stones to Eagles to Coldplay, I’d jump right into their 
space, mind and millennia, tap into their rhythm and energy, 
drink in those high notes, dance my way into the cosmos. And 
yes, I'd tell Niall Horan that he really is fantastical - singer, 
songwriter, hunk and that I’d wait forever for him to tweet me 
back because a tweet is a sliver of reality in the metaphysics of 
music where sounds shimmer like moonbeams 
and symphonies swirl in stardust, illusions rising, colliding, 
dispersing, melodies swaying past Jupiter and Neptune, boy 
bands sustaining through cycles of moon and dust, more real 
than quantum mechanics. Oh for those boy bands!

(Simrita Dhir is a California based academic and novelist. She is the author of the critically acclaimed novel “The Rainbow Acres”.)