Shriya Girish Bhunje: Figures of Thought: Collegiate Voices across Spaces

Middle Partitions

When I was little, Mother would pull 
my hair into a middle partition.
A straight and strict and slick middle partition.
My-hair-is-red-sea middle partition.
Straight-lines-align-with-my-spine partition.
School-thinks-it-can-tame-me-if-it-tames-my-hair partition
(My mother was a schoolteacher).
“Your hair is too pretty for the wind.”
“I’ve subdued the oceans into two obedient braids.
I won’t let it spill. Promise me you won’t let it spill.”

I grew up. 
I did my hair the way they wanted to be done.
It slowly inched to a one-side partition. 
A sweeping-from-the-front-and-slanting-to-the-left partition.
A so-what-if-the-breach-was-lopsided partition.
A French-braids-go-with French-heads partition.

Ravines don’t need a partition,
but oceans? Oceans ought never to be parted.
They can seep away and quench and quell—
sweep away what tries to temper them.
My hair can curve into fountains on my head 
and choke the breath out of air. 

This is how I wear my hair now.
Part them in the middle—
And let them fly.

An Observation of the Stillness in Grief Six Hours After the Funeral

Ajoba used to wake with the sun
and burn his tongue on the sugar in his chai.
We always marvelled at how this man flung himself at Death headfirst
and she refused him every time.

Ajoba was a mountain of a man, baba tells us.
He would jump off bridges and
starve his children to save the dying; he’d
looked like an eggshell in his red wheelbarrow.
It’d taken six grown men to set him on fire.

A swallow once tried to make home outside his window.
A sneeze rumbled out of him,
this mountain-man,
and she fluttered away.
Now his nest is empty.
He sits in a copper urn waiting to be claimed.

I look at baba in this time.
He looks at the ground.
Buries his beak in the violence of grief, lest
he is floored with relief.
So he rocks in an unmoving chair,
and roars and roars

Baba has spent 48 years and 6 full days
flitting and buzzing.
I've never seen a man fight so hard
for someone else's life.
Baba cries with his hands on his head, like
there is no roof.

I think baba needs to be gently tucked in and told,
'The war is over. You can rest now.'
I think he’s afraid that when he sleeps,
he will have to wake up with the sun again.

Baba tells me there's a hole in his stomach,
roughly the size of a nest,
It is overcast where the roof should have been.
Outside, it is sunlight.
A swallow twitters around with her mate.

Author's Bio:  Shriya Girish Bhunje is a 20-year-old literature student from Pune, India. She writes because writing is a need. When she is not analysing queer subtext in YA fantasy, she writes. When she is not walking the tightrope between political wings, she writes. When she is not exploring cities on foot imaging herself to be Lizzie Bennet, she writes. She writes to oppose, to defend, to free. Most importantly, she writes to belong. Somewhere, in someone’s heart, a tiny diya against the darkness that threatens to swallow them. If she can be that for a single human being, she feels it’s a win.


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