First published in Live Wire
Like air and freedom, light, too, is suspicious
of prison cells. Here, muscularity, minacious,
well-oiled, prowls around the clock, a wild cat
in command of its turf. Women petrify into
grinding stones too heavy for new sorrow.
Combining, braiding intricately and colouring hair
is quite a communal activity in a women’s jail.
Juicy allegations buzzing with mendacity
test the nerve of testosterone. Old friends
discover each other anew as if they had been
separated for years. Porous prison walls are
the only true ally, at times smothering, closing in,
like an obsessive lover.
It feels as if the jail cell is
shrinking as suffocation and claustrophobia creep
in and take over one’s mind and body.
Here, children lick more darkness than milk and
try to believe the sky to be a true story. The rainbow
is a fairy tale. Long conversations conserve grey cells
and crumble invisible walls more solid than concrete.
I was sitting near the jail bars staring out at the
rain, when one of the guards came and gave
me a paper boat that he had made for me.
Light shuns prison cells like fish dodging a cast
net. On certain rain-whorled evenings, a rainbow
and a full-blooded moon still get caught through
the perfidious windows of this spotted palace.
Note: The italicised text are quotes by Devangana Kalita, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya respectively.
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