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By: Ragini Mohanty (School of Earth and Environmental Sciences)
Competition Year: 2017
Votes (2) | Comments (0)
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“And to fellow Indians, welcome home”
I won’t deny my heart twisted at these words
spoken in the nonchalant, formal way air staff speak,
There was no beauty to it,
No way to describe it delicately,
It was an ugly cramp,
The blood slammed against the walls
and held hostage for a second -
Its beat, my thoughts,
in sync with the turbulent landing.

Out of the corner of my eye
I see her,
Bony limbed and glasses free,
With long hair and a black passport,
She breathes the hot air more easily
than me,
Proudly calls herself Indian and
laughs in a language I stumble on -
She stays as I pass through immigration,
She was never part of my maroon life.

“I was born here, so this is my home”
But this home is suspended dust in the air,
Roads I forget until I return,
I think as I hear the same car horns,
Same vendors, same temple bells,
Nothing has changed -
A city that freezes in place
until I step onto the ground
and command the clock to run;
I have no such power,
Home grows as restlessly as I do.

The city lies, like any creature,
Stinging my eyes with air
polluted with falsehoods,
Carving new paths behind my back
as it sweetly tells to my face
it is the home of my memory;
I am not naive;
Time doesn't stay still here,
The lines on my grandmother's face get deeper,
The trench between us gets wider,
Conversations with relatives reduced to
"Can she understand us?"
"Why doesn't she grow her hair?"
This place has grown into something
I no longer recognise,
Vines I cannot cut and bridges
I cannot fix.

“Welcome to Manchester”
My ribs constrict with guilt as I let out a sigh,
As if I'm relieved to be here,
Away from my roots I've become a stranger to,
Warm night haze traded for a crisp cold sunrise,
The plane stewards no longer speak different tongues,
Wheels touch the ground expressionlessly,
And my heart numbs when the frosty air
grips my skin,
Coaxing me to love this English soil.

Square within my gaze
I see her,
A shapeshifter, a body never older than
eighteen,
With the same resting frown,
Tired eyes beyond the jet lag
As she counts the raindrops
she knows more than the sun,
Her passport holds power here,
swinging gates open with one picture;
She strides beside me through the airport,
Laying her weight forever on my shoulders.

“I grew up here, so this is my home”
But this home has nine names,
Nine moving dates on eight calendars,
A wall becomes bare of photos in minutes,
My life has been folded into labelled boxes
repeatedly, effortlessly,
Packing has become second nature to me;
I put a shroud over these places,
They become dark and unknown
As I step outside their borders,
Skylines turn sharper under the cover,
Forever left in my peripheral vision
only lit in passing by motorway lights.

The paint on the walls brightened and darkened,
I saw plastic doors transform to wood,
Bodies drift as ghosts leaving dents in the carpet -
Living as three is the same as living alone -
I only know silence and creaking wooden floors,
Staring at 3am skies which mean nothing;
Time remains a wild beast,
A whirlwind snatching away seasons from me,
I’m left as an autumn leaf stranded in spring;
“Study well, earn money”,
“Find where you belong”,
This place changes before I can recognise it,
I change before I can recognise myself.

“Home is where the heart is”
But my heart decided without me
to hold no address,
All letters return to sender
as it discards every four walls it sees,
My blazing victorious birthplace,
My green and pleasant Land of growth,
Home is where the heart is;
My home is only myself.
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