A Summer Night in Delhi

My skin smells of
alcohol, smoke and sadness.
Everybody else here does, too.
(It’s kind of why we’re here, you know.)

Serenity comes,
in small doses.
Cherries dropped like wishes in champagne flutes,
golden bubbles covering red velvet skins.
Stars peeking through a polluted sky,
embers tapped off a cigarette at 3 am–
I watch, entranced
as the flecks flicker down and die in seconds
molten, vibrant orange to dull grey
(I wish worries went away that fast.)

Street lamps outlined against the fog
under an ever-lightening sky.
We cross the borders of nighttime
and keep vigil for the sun
as the moon lulls us slowly into
forgetting why we have come.

Everything is quiet here
and you will wonder why I too, am silent,
a part of the stillness, almost.
I can still feel yesterday’s bass beats
reverberating in my bones;
sufi qawwalis rending the night.

If I tell you a secret, do you promise not to tell?
In my head, I’m screaming (at the sheer beauty of it.)

I throw down my pen
suddenly frustrated
that I cannot successfully
capture the beauty of last summer night.

As June 30 rolls over into the July 1,
we mark the hours.
Rather, the hours mark themselves.
They are strange, I tell you,
they slip by in teaspoons dripping with seconds
and soup ladles brimming over with hours
and as the phone screen goes from 10:20 pm to 3:15 am
the very next time I look at it,
I wonder where those moments hid themselves away.
They’re gone.

Actually, I know where. How silly of me.
I know exactly where time hid herself.
And there she will stay, collecting dust,
on the mantelpiece in the home of my heart
and it’s not till the next night
or the next week
or maybe even until the next year that
she will let herself be found.

It’s different for all of us.

It’s when we’re feeling lost
and more than a little sad
searching for even a hint of warmth in the cold dark
hunting in the corners of our minds
for something that is meant to make us feel
the tiniest bit less alone.
Will she, in all her wonder and all her impossibility,
step forward into the light
and we will take her hands into ours, and gasp
as the years bleed backwards
and hands lose wrinkles
skin will smoothen and
eyesight sharpen
and we will remember what it feels like
to be
listening to sufi music
on a humid summer’s night at 4 am
slightly drunk
slightly happy
with nothing between us and space
but a blue sky
sprinkled with stars.

Aadya Gupta is a passionate feminist and a third year law student studying at Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat. Her interests include literature, environmental sustainability, and intersectional activism.

Featured image credit: Kritika Bhansali/Pixabay