Language is a bowl of eel noodle soup
Eyes squint at the menu, sprawled with inky strokes of fish hooks; I try to negotiate the stencilled shapes the way I sculpted my name in hieroglyphs as a child or tried to clinch water in a sieve, and I wish my tongue held two words for wind. I drag a clumsy finger across the chalk page and let fate decide what I eat. Bare feet, rough against tatami, feel the rumble of the shinkansen overhead, that rattles tin roofs and jolts flames in oil lanterns, casting shadows on the bamboo-walled exhibition of taxidermy beetles; emerald and seeping with musk of damp forest and smooth jasmine—cut with smoke from fish-mouthed men dragging on cigarettes that stick to lips, damp with sake. Drunk men slurping soba men, exchange sharpened sighs of warm breath, their soy-stained cuffs fall below bony wrists as they carve gestures with supple hands at the chef. In a bolt, he plunges his fist into a fish tank, leathered knuckles snap the shrapnel body and slam against the frigid marble, its tail slaps and flicks saline water beads. Eyes wide, the surge of electricity is cut with one neat slice and the carcass drops in a heavy thud, the slit yawns gummy flesh, oozing plum-juice stains sterling scales, glinting with a petrol glare. A subtle blade skims those steel flakes, the oily sheen sticks them to the marble. Scooped and tossed into a wok, the snake-like creature bursts into flames and crackles in amber oil. Eyes hidden beneath a sinking brow bone, the chef leans over the counter, resting a ceramic bowl of swimming noodles in front of me. I am confronted with gawping eyes peaking through vacant veins, grinning at my incompetence. Stiff fingers coyly clamp around chopsticks, brittle like clumsy fawn legs rickety on the ground. Teeth clenched, eyes wide, I meet my fate: eel noodle soup.
The Women of Shaheen Bagh
In Delhi, As we speak, There are women On the streets Of Shaheen Bagh. There are songs Of Azadi, Freedom, liberty, That they chant Into the dark. From dawn Until dusk, Day After day, A hundred Over hundreds are Saying this revolution, 12 It’s ours. Burn Our blankets If you must The fire Will keep us Warm Take Everything Our voices Are still our own Your threats Your weapons They do not Cannot scare us. The fact Of being oppressed Is that oppression Cannot wear us The coldest Of a hundred years Delhi winter here In Shaheen Bagh. There is food Being cooked On the streets As we speak The women Will offer you Sweets Ask If you need anything. A revolution led By women looks Something Like this. There isn’t much To do, you sit And discover That power Doesn’t lie In gunshots. Instead their children Will sing, young girls Will dance, poets Will speak, travellers Will paint. The rest of the world, we’ll watch These women. Have you heard Of the women Who will not sleep? They do not tire, They will not leave, They’re there, On the streets. Have you heard of Shaheen Bagh? Perverts tremble, Killers cower, Dictators sweat profusely, As the women smile, Sit peacefully. Don’t worry We have time We’ll wait until You change your mind They’re being hailed As heroes, Lions and tigers, Revolutionaries, saints. I disagree. I look at them, What they’ve done, And I think They are nothing more, Nothing less Than this.