Rigorous
Volume Four, Issue 3



Saranya Subramanian


after the riots

the streets                        long sticks of chocolate
drizzled               with blood      sticky and sweet
skullcaps now                in pieces            covering

drains and pebbles                      rid them of their sins
placards             bruised and aged        some
with sharper                  sticks                stuck in bodies

bursting through bodies           bodies               half-open
half-closed                    intestines scribbled and
splattered        on the streets            weakly echoing

JAI HIND       BHARAT MATA KI JAI        JANA GANA
uteruses           bloody            bitten and       pulled out
of their homes             splayed out for

all to see                        burnt breasts             hungry
toddlers crawl over                   charred teats
worry not                      we will milk them      with

cow’s milk        time to clean up the streets   anyway
bring the cows              bring the matas          bring
ganga jal and bring                    your prayers

bring                  your badge your           baton   bring
your flag                         your language your                      song
we will clean up                          the mess           worry not

we       will rewrite         the story of the streets
bring them all out                       bring the saffron            bring
the soldiers       let us take back             what is ours

it’s time                           to clean up                     the streets




Goddess’s Ghazal

A war-cry, fated sigh, clenched
fists, hair in raucous is her story.

Moth-eaten toes, fiery eyes alone
burning bodies to carcass is her story.

Mouth flared apart—an earthquake’s
smile—dangerous is her story.

Tongue hanging out to soak in evil;
told in all languages is her story.

Bare breasts adorning jewellery of the dead,
a necklace of skulls, thus goes her story:

birthed with purpose and destined to
destroy Mahishasura rakshas is her story.

But centuries crawled on, and teeth became
blunt. The death of the Goddess is her story.

Now, trembling fingers that once belonged
to ten arms, all thunderous, is her story.

Battlefields now smooth marble tiles,
desires considered seditious is her story.

Sanitised words hiding behind ‘peace’;
reality is treasonous to her story.

They ask me where ‘Saranya’ came from.
“Divine courage taking exodus” is my story.




Chai and Politics

Patti, you ask questions so simple
that we have forgotten how to ask them,
or answer them, ourselves.
You ask them while you teach me
how to make chai.

“First add the water
Place the paatram over the smaller burner
Wait for water to boil
You will see it splutter

What is this Modi saying these days?
Do you support him?

Wait one minute more
Now add the chai pati
Half a spoon should be enough.

What is this Modi saying about CAA, this NRC?
Actually what is it? What are they?

Get inji and grate some in
Enough! This was too much
Here, take elaichi
Add it. Your appa likes it
Me? Not so much
Milk? No, not yet

But that is not right.
Why are they only taking Hindus and Christians?
Why are they against Muslims?
They also should be allowed, no?

Now slowly, add some milk
Slowly. Not too much
Too much milk will reduce the tea flavour

Why are the Police beating up students?
Students are also rowdies, but the Police
should not hurt them, no?

It is done. Bring two cups
I will have only half a tumbler
For your appa put vellam
I will have sugar. Two spoons

And what about Kashmir?
Actually what is the problem there?
If they want to be by themselves, why don’t we let them?
Why can’t they remain independent?
What is the issue? Actually?

Ah, okay. Just mix the sugar now
I don’t understand all this politics and all.”

I look at the chai:
a caramel-brown cup of dark,
glazed honey floating before me
in three cups and half a tumbler.
It’s the perfect concoction
of caffeine, sugar, and the sharp
marriage of adrak+elaichi.

I take a sip
The fog in my mind clears

The questions are so obvious now
I feel stupid to not have seen them myself.



Saranya Subramanian: "I am a writer and theatre practitioner based in Bombay. Currently a writer at Radio Mirchi, my poems have been published in The Bombay Review, Indolent Books, and The WIRE, to name a few. I graduated from Ashoka University in 2019, and am a prospective MFA in Creative Writing student at the University of San Francisco."




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