Poems | Asheen Chowdhury

Credits: Amrit Ghosal

Home (Brown)

My home is bound by passwords (one time), food delivery agents and little pieces of technology falling from the satellite gods like leaves in the fall. All the places you can visit have four walls, for four eyed freaks coming at me to scream about psychedelics they’ve done and emancipation they never had. Freedom absolutely, but a cage involuntarily still. Freedom like how we become the patriarch that strangled you like Homer Simpson. Emancipation like having the freedom to waltz in at dawn, drunk off of your mind without a retrospective thought to cling on to as you collapse. Freedom as in a wide choice of delicious commodities created in a perfect world where labour bends like an arthritic knee to the will of the currency provider. Where everyone is equal but some are more equal than others. Where brown skin vilifies brown skin because the white knife cut through them like butter and their ideals began to melt in the hot Indian summer.

Then there’s brown sugar, the refuge of the landless. Cheap cousin of the needles’ favourite. As shown on TV! That’s what they didn’t see, that’s what Sanjay didn’t see. He told me while we smoked a hash pipe under the concrete he was bringing to life for a measly hourly rate. The brown sugar that took his father with blood oozing from every pore, blood as black as the night, he said.

But I don’t belong to the brown men because I’m from the fabled hills of paradise? Paradise being bought, sold, whored, raped, excavated, gagged, choked, bound in a bourgeoisie home BDSM kit with flashing red lights, police protection and extortionists posing as leaders posing as clan members posing as tribal posing as benevolent.

What do you think of home when you don’t want to anymore? It’s just a vivid, lucid, seductive dream that lost itself in a migrant’s scream.

Home is that rap mother fucker I left behind wallowing in his ethyl alcohol swimming pool of vomit. Home is that fat cat alt-prog rat that wants to reclaim public space but is scared of public toilets.
Home is that white, wooden house on stilts that morphed into a great wall of concrete.
Home was that woke girl I woke up next to under a tin roof only to discover I was not me and she was not she and it was just me and three others jam packed in the back seat of a car while the old man outside crossed himself and stared as we disappeared in a haze of green.


I am a peddler of dreams.
Sordid little short lived affairs you keep locked away in the recesses of your mind.
Small bursts of love in an emotionless hallucinogenic cloud of paved roads stretching for miles, shiny red cars move like ants along them, and above them the shining neon sky.
If you ask me to hand you the keys, all I can possibly do is mimic a songbird and direct you to a wall lined with a thousand windows.
Take your hand and walk you to it.
If you let me.
Only if you do.
Otherwise all I can possibly do is step sideways and slip through the cracks between the neon lights.
Little slivers of darkness you can see if you stare long enough.
The rumble of thunderous factories of manufactured needs will cover the sound of my feet on the concrete.
The smell of an artificial odour created by a dozen men in white lab coats will hide my fragrance. or maybe a stench.
If you are thus inclined.
But walk with me to the windows and I can show you.
Brown like the mother you embraced with your bare feet when the world was a younger entity. Blue like the dizziness you felt when you stared up at the greatest unknown you have ever known.
Green like the soothing peace that covered you after running in circles became tiresome and you fell on something soft and tender.
You can open one.
Maybe it's unfamiliar terrain that excites you and sets your nerve endings on fire.
Or maybe it's a dream you remember.
From a time ages ago.

Hippie Girl

“People from all nations gathered together as one. Lights shining- fluorescent, bright, almost blinding if you stared at them too long.”
I stretched out for the tall goblet to throw my ashes in.
“The music just kept growing, expanding, starting from the back of your head, till your entire being was on song.”
I brought my hands back to me, quivering, grasping on to a fat roll.
“And then the one in front stopped and hit the gong.”
One drag and I felt I could visualize.
“He walked in with his face masked.”
Wisps of smoke before my eyes.
“And on his head, were the horns.”

Pearl told me stories of Goan summers spent in ecstasy and all I could do was listen. She spoke with a fierce freedom laced with a tender, motherly drug, that made you feel like it was the only truth you need. A soothing tale to guide your haze into her billowing and madly shimmering universe.
She lived in incarnations. Sometimes phasing between them, each avatar within the same physical form. For her, reincarnation was not the cycle of life and death, but life and life and life and life until death.
In one, she was a beauty queen from a movie scene.
Another, a world traveller spurred by the sound of jets flying in.
A third, she was a hill girl taken far from the tribe feeling her roots fading.
In the final avatar, she fucked off and disappeared from my dimension.
I couldn’t say where she is now. Maybe this place didn’t let her be free, the state of affairs probably made her stomach turn. Because so many of the stories were of sad, senile separation from love. Maybe she’s out there screaming into the sea with her dreadlocks flying away into the sunset. It’s not for her. This endless bigot satisfying, idealism ossifying, hate mongering bull. No. It’s not for her. This Sisyphus emulating, millennial angst driven, emotion sidelining parade wasn’t the kind of freak show she needed. She’s a different kind of free and maybe her incarnations helped her escape the more wretched dimensions. Maybe others could escape too, with her brains and resourcefulness. But a pearl is a pearl- nurtured, coveted, allowed to dream. And most of the rest are clay- melting away in the torrential downpour of hate that sends them down the drains they’ve always swam in.

Manic Calcutta

Wild, frizzled gray hair
She stood before me
Gaunt face defying time
She raised her bowl
A century lived in a dying city
The horror on her face
The desolation in her deathly plea
A hundred lines and wrinkles
As many as the city’s winding lanes
Eyes that did not project love, hope, faith, joy, life
Eyes that spoke volumes on despondency
Eyes piercing me like knives
Can I drag them away from the heaving behemoth of broken dreams you've become?
This forsaken woman
In the narrow paths of the old city
Unfed amidst the unkempt chaos of decadence
Your lanes wind around her like serpents constricting
Squalor personified
Decay slapping me repeatedly till I want to cry out
and run back to mythical past prosperity
So close to your fabled whore houses
In your lanes from forgotten eons
This woman made me stumble
Fall on my knees
Just as this city has
My Eastern blood raised on your promise
My capital of culture and art
My land of socialist utopia
All pissed away in your open gutters
All snatched away by that gaze
Was she an apparition in the fog that envelopes you
Or was she you staring back at me?

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