March 24, 2020



This morning she bought green 'methi'

in the market, choosing the freshest bunch;

picked up a white radish,

imagined the crunch it would make

between her teeth, the sweet sharp taste,

then put it aside, thinking it

an extravagance, counted her coins

out carefully, tied them, a small bundle

into her sari at the waist;

came home, faced her mother-in-law's

dark looks, took

the leaves and chopped them,

her hands stained yellow from the juice;

cut an onion, fine and cooked

the whole thing in the pot

over the stove,

shielding her face from the heat.

The usual words came and beat

their wings against her: the money spent,

curses heaped upon her parents,

who had sent her out

to darken other people's doors.

She crouched, as usual, on the floor

beside the stove,

When the man came home

she did not look into his face

nor raise her head; but bent

her back a little more.

Nothing gave her the right

to speak.

She watched the flame hiss up

and beat against the cheap old pot,

a wing of brightness

against its blackened cheek.

This was the house she had been sent to,

the man she had been bound to,

the future she had been born into.

So when the kerosene was thrown

(just a moment of surprise, A brilliant spark)

It was the only choice

that she had ever known.

Another torch, blazing in the dark.

Another woman.

We shield our faces from the heat.


Ms.Imtiaz Dharker was born in Lahore in Pakistan in 1954 and brought up in Glasgow, Scotland. She is ranked on par with some of the famous women poets of India such as, Kamala Das, Sujatha Bhatt and Tara Patel. She is not only a poet but also a painter and an accomplished documentary film maker. Her collections of poetry include Purdah, Postcards from God, and I Speak for the Devil, The Terrorist at My Table and Leaving Fingerprints.