Morning Chai
for Asha Malhotra, instead of an aubade


Darjeeling if you like, and April, early
in its first green flush, draping odd rags
of mist over plump rows that fatten
beyond the tea-sheds. A dozen shitehawks
tilt on tall thermals above a snarl
of pie-dogs disputing something torn
at the breached perimeter fence, impatient
to pick and choose.
                                  Next thing, a man evolves
dimly from the lean-to, bog-paper stars
badging his close shave. Two beedis later
and last night's vodka comes back to him
in a humid surge, darkening his oxters:
Stolichnaya, say, or Smirnoff Blue Label.

(He'd almost met his match. A lightweight girl
oiled by her quick fear -- so difficult to grasp.
But her coiled hair was her undoing.
Slim scents of blood and sandalwood
linger beneath his fractured finger nails.)

Now, should you wish it, have his wife treble
(off-key) from the high verandah:
'Shall you pour, dear? Will I be mother?'
And imagine the quail in her ribcage --
systole, diastole -- yearning for take-off.

Yet there, in sight of the Himalayas,
she spoonfeds lapdogs pink conserves,
crumbs of sugarloaf, and -- spilling some --
creaks in her cane-chair, smiling at random.




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