Your Order will Arrive in Ten Minutes
What should we call the time between
‘place your order’
and ‘order will arrive in ten minutes’?
Is it the twilight hour
when a wife waits for the husband?
Is it oddity of a child to open
an unusually heavy lunch-box?
This dash, trash, tribble, quibble
tantrum of the stomach,
after office-hours, is a regular offender.
It is a quick tap on ether
to place the burden of hunger
on young boys. Boys who don’t reach home.
Perhaps, a school drop-out
who has postponed his own belly
to ride on contracts and maps.
Perhaps, an engineer who jumped
the signal to deliver fragrant, Moroccan chicken — warm and tender.
The sun never slumbered on their swift foreheads.
When I was young, I had a friend called Patience —
I waited for letters from the postman.
I waited for sequined moons to stick to thin paper.
I waited after each storm, for mangoes,
to drop and sweeten the earth.
But now, nobody waits.
We are fast and free with wicked feedbacks.
Six hundred seconds — I scroll Instagram.
I read about a delivery-boy crushed under a bus,
add an angry comment on capitalism.
The doorbell rings.
A tepid face, etched with ten commandments
arrives and whizzes away, almost immediately.
My body becomes a bowl, fingers turn into forks
and the tongue — a spoon awaiting excavation.
Nothing but war-cries of intestines
involve the moment.
An hour later, reviews are scripted
by a miscalculated hand,
it has no memory.
I order ‘dairy-free’ Ice cream.
Another boy. Another ten minutes.
The companion of bruised knees, did not matter.
I held a firm sight of tables occupied by familiar faces.
The profession of little fingers
waiting to gather their menu cards —
a pocket size map of the wedding banquet.
Gold, pink, flaming-red, floral dreams,
hummingbirds swiftly alighting
on the bride and the groom who probably never met before.
A Bengali bhoj bari* patterned in nimble fonts;
radha bollobi*, alu daum*, mangsho*, macher chop*—
swollen bellies, loud belches
never troubled to hold such souvenirs,
but I, like a scavenger of memories
swooped under the tables to grasp folds of paper
before hungry women, swept the floor.
These days, rough palms don’t shiver,
they hold the elegance of curated buffets,
and global cuisines — a bee line radiance for low-fat hunger.
Paperless worlds — every delight frozen into pixels.
*Bhoj Bari (Bengali): A feast, typically a wedding feast organised at someone’s home.
*Radha Bollobi: A type of fried bread made with lentil filling inside
*Alu daum: A rich potato gravy
*Mangsho: Mutton curry
*Macher chop: Fish Croquet
Order Received, A Blitz Poem
Boy falls from building
boy reaches hospital
hospital holds a broken head
hospital declares him dead
dead was his mother
dead before he quit college
college was an empty bag
college without pockets
pockets of paper
pockets of earpods
earpods ride midnights
earpods hear a soul
soul alone not alone
soul with a furry friend
friend without a leash
friend with command
command of a German Shepherd
command of confused hunger
hunger against slowness
hunger for control
control lost on a delivery-boy
control panel out of order
order is a box of blood
blood betrays body
blood breaks God
God is blood God is power
power of the rich
power of puppets
hide the real joke
hide the hills
hills never sink
hills ignore shanties
shanties of the small
shanties without sunlight
sunlight steals insurance
sunlight ceases joy
joy of a balloon
joy of five-stars
stars cradle a boy
stars map a melody
melody of friendship
melody of a dog’s master
master with medicines
master wrapped in worry
worry fails a blurry ending
worry waits for a clear beginning
*The poem is based on the tragic death of a 23-year-old food delivery executive in the city of Hyderabad, India. He reached a posh locality on the hills to deliver an order at 2 am in the morning. The owner’s dog attacked him. Afraid and panic-stricken, he jumped, slipped, and fell from the third floor. The owner admitted him to the hospital. A few days later, he succumbed to injuries. This is one among the several tragedies that end the lives of young delivery agents. We are joyfully giddy in the fast-paced, hustle of the city but someone pays the price of our convenience culture. The poem adopts the form ‘The Blitz Poem’, introduced by poet Robert Keim.
A skirt, a blouse, a hairband
Those days we shopped only once in a year.
Autumn’s fading heat riding on the benediction of Durga —
Pujo was a rebirth — my body’s liberation
from brother’s hand-me-downs.
There were no malls, no commerce
on ether, no approval in emoticons;
only, Ma’s madness and Baba’s salary.
Year after year, we walked
through the local market, bargaining for bearable,
yet, beautiful sarees, frocks,
hairbands and handkerchiefs;
frugality was respectable.
Aah! to feel like a child,
to know the crispness of clothes
soaking the incense, the musk of shiuli,
the mantras birthing anjalis, and the final light of the third eye.
Now, in a universe of instant possibilities,
closets spill and suffocate —
the cloak of the earth withers away,
and for the millionth time,
the phone beeps — “your order will arrive today.”
(Jhilam Chattaraj is an academic and poet based in Hyderabad, India. Noise Cancellation is her latest collection of poems. Her works have appeared at Calyx, Room, Colorado Review, Ariel and World Literature Today among others.)