Emperor’s New Clothes


Cows for Serai 02



He drove me in a TATA cab
through the streets of Old and New
Delhi. The air un-breathable. I heard
his bone voice


breaking down
telling why he didn’t vote
for “the man who wears a 9,000,000 rupee
pinstripe jacket” – why no vote for “the party with saffron testicles.”


A week ago they kicked
his young wife
out of the government
hospital, where every micro-


peon to head-doctor has a cut
in the business, he said.
Needles programmed to take
600 gram blood


but the clerk acknowledges
“only two
Not paying


19,000 rupees underhand
has consequences
a caesarian.


“Whole system
bad for nothing.” So perplexed
he was, even the slip
of tongue failed to change mood. And


outside on the streets
the Saffron Man in election poster
continued to look
down at dust-bright denizens


of the city and said nothing.
Completely silent he was
about vandalized churches, Ghar-wapsi*, and Ram-haram
Death was once again trying to become


a Dada in India. It was early February, and
the man in the poster was silent about hate
within his cadres. Silent about expunged
Ramanujans and Ramayanas


So silent, he
seemed to have forgotten he was silent
So forgetful,
he had forgotten his own name.


The cabbie
applied a sudden brake.
We approached
glaring mirror towers of a 5-star.


I ascended into the hotel’s
aromas. My hand made contact with hands
that had written poems and novels,
and my wine glass clinked with lit-fest


sponsors and arbiters of artistic taste-
n-talent. As I mutter-paneered and
rogan-joshed with panelists (hush:
debating Charlie Hebdo), I wish I had asked


I wish I had asked the one in the TATA cab –
What colour the testicles of mega-merged publishers
who pulp their own author’s
books? (Exhibit number one:  Doniger’s Hinduism)


Now several months have passed by, and I am half
a continent away. And as I scribble this so-called poem
almost a shoem, the Saffron Man has gone silent again.
This time – Savage lynching in Dadri.


So silent, he
seems to have forgotten he is silent
So forgetful,
he has forgotten his own chest, his own clothes


And most eyes
are shut
or find themselves doubting
what they have seen.




* Ghar-wapsi refers to recent attempts made by Hindu nationalist parties in India to forcibly convert Muslims, Christians and other religions to “Hinduism” in a process they call Ghar-wapsi, or homecoming.



Jaspreet Singh is the author of Chef and Helium, both novels published by Bloomsbury. He lives in Canada.