Diabetes at a Birthday Party

On a channel, a day late in celebrating
Lata Mangeshkar’s birthday,
plays a song where Sadhana promises to haunt her lover
and Ma pierces a needle in her large stomach
pushing insulin into her body
diabetes, she reminds me, will eat your bones.

if you ever look at pictures
of those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis
you will find the bones parting ways from each other.
Ma’s bones haven’t begun that journey yet
but if diabetes wins this war of diseases
they may not have to.

This is not a good Lata song, Baba complains
so many songs to choose from and they play this
he complains the way Ma complains about the needle
that has broken inside her skin

Baba whose knees hurt when he bends them
is a perfect candidate for a Moov commercial
Aah se Aahatak
he says with a conviction
that has been practiced over years.

He claims to have reached the place
only Yudhistir could, but came back
because he isn’t fond of dogs
because I was eating Maggi and waiting for him

His stomach is hard, dried-up in the sun
frozen in time
from selling daris to people.
He narrated an O’ Henry story on his retirement
and everyone looked puzzled, but impressed
which Henry was this, they asked,
turning him into a historian when he
just wanted to be a storyteller

I was always cautious of not using Ma’s comb
dandruff was contagious, I always thought
but it turned out to be hereditary.
Sometimes out of boredom
I scratch my head and watch dandruff snowflakes
fall on my keyboard.
my scalp bleeds silently as I pick the white chunks
spreading on my head like the map of Scandinavia

A different Lata song is being played now
Ma likes indulging in trivia
Priya Rajvansh was Naveen Nischal’s best friend,
she informs her audience
Betaab dil ki tammana yahi hai
she sings complaining
about her broken voice that can’t hold a note
diabetes, she reminds me, will eat your vocal chords.

And I wonder silently,
who talks about diabetes at someone’s birthday party?
Ma’s life is a cautionary tale.


My Mother Sings Disco Diwane

When I am seven, Aai undergoes a surgery
to remove cysts blocking her breasts.
I fall asleep in the math class and dream of her.
She wears a hipster headband in my dream, like Rekha
in Ek toh kam zindagani, but sings a different song.
Rekha, my mother’s namesake, tries to wake me up,
But Judy Jones, my class teacher, pushes her away
and I don’t get a gold star for my homework that day.

When she comes back from the hospital
I ask her about the song she was singing in my dream.
She teaches me Raat aur din diya jaale that night,
and I win our colony’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa,
with popular consensus.
So I get to sit on the lap of Aazoba’s friend
for as long as I like.

Aai’s stomach bears three biblical crosses
from a recent gallbladder removal surgery.
With the stretch marks from two pregnancies
and several small scars from the insulin needle
crowding her stomach, Aai’s body
is the bloodiest site of worship.

She complaints of being addicted to laxatives,
every night, she drinks 10ml of EMTY,
and jokes about it not emptying her stomach well enough.
She wakes up from her afternoon nap saying,
It would be great if I could pass some gas,
and starts singing Disco Diwane, as if
it’s the cure for constipation.

Aai, the pop sensation of the 80s is back again today.


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