Rigorous
Volume Four, Issue 1



Nakul Grover


Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

We caught the sunrise between our teeth,
on a pious hill in New Delhi,
walking up the cold marble temple stairs.
Jasmines bounced in the jute basket.
The dot on his forehead, small and red
as a baby mango, throbbed like a thousand suns.
I stared at Ganesh’s idol—glittering, inanimate
half elephant of stone, half mystical superpower—
admiring the artist who built god
From stone and gold. Papa commanded:
look into Ganesh’s eyes and let the holy rays
seep through yours. Wish for a better future!

One chance to ask for anything I wanted
and I had no desire, no heartbeat. The priest
slammed a coconut into two and sang in Sanskrit.
Children waved from school buses, peanut sellers
barged on the roads with their carts. We stepped
down from the hill, staring back at sunrise.
The priest’s baritone voice vibrated in my mind,
as we entered the privacy of crowds, both pleased
and alone, with Ganesh’s trunk embracing us.




Victoria

We real cool

None of us had spoken to one,
let alone touch one for-ner.
We had never felt blonde hair
between our fingers, or seen
cheeks turn pink in the cold we
prized them in pictures
like treasure. Look, friends, I have
held not any girl, but a white girl

from her bony shoulder!
We lied to each other about
how many of them we had kissed
in dark parties and dingy bars.
Some of us weren’t even straight!
We tried everything, watching
How to Learn British Accent on YouTube
because water sounded sexy as wotah.
We did bicep curls three times a week,
We trimmed our beard and merge it with
our dry black hair, wear
skinny sweatpants that tapered
at the bottom, look up Skull Candies
that we couldn’t afford but buy them.

Self-exoticization

My father got me my favorite shirt. It had
glistening mustard silk strands with paisleys.
I could only dry-clean it for special occasions.

So, in my first-year of college, I wore it on my
first date with a gori ma’am, who, for convenience,
we call our self-imposed empress, HM Victoria.

When I spoke, she shook her head like listening to
a gypsy grandma—somewhere between ombre and
shit in complexion—dancing with a tambourine.

She wanted to discover discovered lands
And take selfies lost in the sand, riding
a rented elephant with scoliosis in Rajasthan.

I hope she slept well. After all, it was my job
To please the Madam, Victoria memsahib.
I woke up alone, never to hear from her.

Did she flee out of shame? When walking out,
did she step on my silk shirt from Fabindia,
my father’s gift, always protected by a plastic sheet?



Nakul Grover: "I am a fiction writer pursuing a dual-major in English and Chemical Engineering. I have won over ten awards in creative writing during my time at Penn State, including the Center of Global Studies Thesis Award for my collection of stories titled Tenancy. My story 'Dear Mrs. Nair' has appeared in the Oakland Arts Review and Pennsylvania's Best Emerging Poetry 2019. I plan to pursue an MFA in fiction after graduation."




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