My Honour, Your Shame: Three Poems

Photo © Ajit Ghai

You tell me you are not like me. Nor am I like you,
but obliterating my thoughts, my feelings, my senses
was not yours to do.

It was my place as well as yours
and if I chose not to like what was on those walls
if I chose not to agree with your saints
or pictures pasted on walls by you,
it was for me to see or not to see them
there every day
reminding me of lives lost
that should not have been lost
believing in an ideology,
waiting for self-appointed vigilantes
to allow it to evolve.

You stole my self.
I was one no longer to those who loved me once
left to join those who had once betrayed.
You turned me an outcast
because of the walls you created
between you and me and others like us.

You sing verses
dear to me as well
but the words you speak are harsh.
The pictures you paint,
unforgiving reminders
of painful retribution.
It is not yours to do.

The walls I like bare.
They need no adornment.
No faces hung up on nails,
faces like yours and mine.

No idols to worship or not
No battlegrounds to clear
no beliefs segregated
into those who follow and who don’t.

You bring your armies
in fear of an afterlife.
Yours is not to destroy mine.

I choose to sing the same verses.
I sing them all,
but without walls

Honour Revisited (I)

They killed our leaders
our women, our children.
They hacked limbs
and tallied head counts,
converted under duress.

You cannot be one of them.
If you are, then you are not ours.
You broke the unbroken,
crossed a line,
you are no more to us.

For you were not afraid
intoxicated by an ambrosia
of everlasting love
you chose the other
that was not ours
or yours.

It took not much to tear
the skin we once loved so much.
It took but little
to let you go,
for you’d already left us
for those who burned us once
on hot trays of oil.

Honour Revisited (II)

She was a waif
that gave me life.
I smoothed her soft hair
while she read to me
sweet tales of once upon….

There was something about her
I could not stop my eyes
from drowning into hers.
Something in me told me
I was hers.

We stood by secluded corridors
in-between recesses,
smiled across classrooms
filled with what seemed
strange faces.
We did not know,
it was not known,
how we could have loved.

And yet we tried
when the night air was still
and everyone asleep
in the dormitory,
Guardian Angels’ dormitory,
we held hands beneath the folds
of warm sheets
and in hushed tones
spoke of how much we loved.

The spell broke,
the blow struck
hard on her tiny self
until there were left
no more tears for us.

Photo © Ajit Ghai

Nilambri Ghai is an editor and founding member of Serai.