Dust and dirt are imperiously tossed,
shrouding the sullen grid of concrete and plaster
on the frying pan of Durga Ashram Gali,
wench that has known the rough wooing of disaster;
flies patrol overhead to relieve
the unmanned balcony turrets
when, from the dust cloud’s heart,
back bowed, lips torn apart,
emerges the stumbling old hand-pulled cart.

Grime turned slime upon ancient brow,
breath ragged, steel hair tumbling habitually,
his glittering time-scarred eyes
astonish all of Durga Ashram Gali;
a medley of colours bedecks
his Holi-kissed vegetable vessel,
and he has an iron grip,
his bare feet do not trip
as he sails his grumbling old hand-pulled ship.

Nani, on behalf of the petit bourgeois,
sails out before he yells from the street,
Malkini!’ – Kya hai? – ‘Sabzi lijiyega?’
she examines the cargo of his vegetable fleet.
I often wonder, as I watch her
buy a radish she doesn’t need
and bemoan his prices,
if in a past life they were allies,
if they shared a place in the sky. Indeed,
she will flay him, and only then will she pay him
before he spurs on with his crumbling old hand-pulled steed.

Armaan Verma is an undergraduate student of English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. When he is not running late for lectures, he may be found wandering aimlessly around the library or at the University’s climbing wall. He has been writing since he was 11, when he published his first book, Glorious Greeks: Meet the Gods. His poetry is forthcoming in the Indian Literature Journal and he aspires to write frantically for the rest of his life.

Featured image credit: Reuters