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खून के परिंदे (Birds of Blood)
BY Manushri Gaikwad

1. Maa


सम्मान करना (The art of respect) 

​​आपसे सिखा (I inherited it from you) 


You don't see me anymore. But every now and then, on a शनिवार (Saturday) evening I bleed into the fabric of your dreams. 


The faint smell of cinnamon tickles at my nose. I sip tentatively at my cup of chai, resembling my सांवली (dark) skin ever so. A hint of a smile plays across your lips and I look up to gaze into your warm eyes. The sun is playing tricks on me again; strands of your hair are ablaze in deep golden. 


A scream. A crash. 


You frantically pick up the shards on the floor. Father will be home soon. Big red tears gushing from your eyes mix with the tea. The murky potion reflects me. You pierce your finger on a shard of glass and cry out in pain. Blood flows from the wound, infusing the mixture with your precious DNA. Intertwining with my bloodline, we are inseparable. Try as you might but you fail to escape my melancholy. 


2. Paa 


सम्मान निभाना (Upholding Honor) 

​​आपसे सिखा (I learned it from you) 


You don't see me anymore. But every now and then, on a शुक्रवार (Friday) evening I splatter red across the landscape of your mind. 


My milk teeth sink into the sticky surface of Gulab Jamun and the sweetness engulfs me. My eyes hover over you gently: a ghost of the man I once knew. Your face is hollow and your eyes have sunken in; harboring secrets and a deep grief that you cannot relate. You've been that way since Didi left. She's a warning I can tell, from the way you scrub your skin every night until it's raw, blood red like a newborn baby's. I tug at your finger gently, the one that paved my destiny, it's time to go home and you cradle me in your arms, the way you did 3 years ago.


A scream. A thud. 


I'm spilling all across the concrete pavement in big red splashes, akin to those we made in my watercolor paintings. You stand there motionless, frozen in time, for what is time but a construct of everything real and unreal. My lifeless eyes stare into yours, and you gaze down, defeated; a soldier returning half his weight. But your mouth twitches into a smile for the first time in decades, my loss was your win, I suppose. 


3. Hum (Us) 


सम्मान बिकरन (Shattering Honor) 

​​आपसे सिखा (I learned it from you) 


The moon has run off with the stars and I am left with nothing but a void in my heart on this fateful रविवार (Sunday) evening. My numb fingers lift the सिंदूर (Vermillion) from the box, engraved with the Mehndi designs of my childhood. I tenderly apply it to my forehead, tainting the blood of my family line forever. My precious feet never had the chance to bless his house with my sublime presence, for who is he but an untouchable man exiled by God himself. I adorn his house with my blood, क्यों के हमारे घर की इज्जत जान से प्यारी थी (Because our family's honor is more precious than life).

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