Poems by Harsh Snehanshu


Drawing Room : Homely poems


Everyday father would return from office,
sit down on the sofa, untie his laces
and take off his socks. He’d casually drop
them in his shoes, and let the feet slide
into his massage slippers that I’d smuggle
beneath his bare feet, just in time.
If his feet touched the cold winter floor,
I’d fail as an ideal son: to myself, so I told.

Next, I’d pick up his shoes, tuck in the socks,
and rush them to the shoe-rack,
close to the door, below a painting by him
of an old man with deep eyes, titled Hope.
I’d be so envious: of his socks that never stank,
of the ever faultless creases of his pants,
of his white and pink feet like a newborn’s,
of his hands capable of magic like Cezanne’s.

Ma would appear then, a tiny tray in hand:
three cups wafting warm vapours on her face,
his customary glass of water before tea, and biscuits –
two Good Days for father, and one pack Parle G.
Over the warmth of the mom-made elaichi chai,
he’d quietly share every little nugget of the day:
who said what, what was old and what was new,
who he met, whom he avoided before they knew.

I’d wait for my tea to cool, even though I liked it warm.
The ideal son, that I was, I’d not squeak a word,
lest it might remind the two halves of this other one.
Silent as if off, I’d swallow my cough, nibble my sneeze,
and suffocate the occasional hiccup.
On the pretext of wetting the Parle Gs
in the tea that had gone winter-cold with time,
I’d overhear (unlike the ideal son) their hushed grapevine.




Sister confessed, after reading part one,

that she too would eavesdrop,

once father returned home.

Without Parle Gs, or fondness for tea,

she’d listen in from her room.

There, she pretended to study,

with her Walkman paused and

earphones plugged, as if it were on.


How could one not tap, she argues,

when they spoke crisp and clear.

Their voices mostly loud,

as if we were some place else –

adrift, unborn, not even there.

In particular, she tells me,

there’s one conversation

that she’d like to share.


Sister had once overheard father

complain to Ma about his boss,

Mr. Shankar, who saw a pretty woman,

half his age, and muttered into

our dear father’s ear –

discreetly, fervently, in a voice

that meant every word –

the phrase, “I want to fuck her.”


Sister was fourteen,

when she overheard the tale.

For weeks, simmered her rage.

Until one Sunday, when Shankar Uncle,

to avoid the dry heat of May,

turned up impromptu at our place.

Sister didn’t wish him a Namaste­–

the usual greeting that we’d insincerely say.


Both father and mother

received Shankar Uncle with great warmth,

as if they cared the least

for his week-old obnoxious remark.

While Ma laid out an elaborate lunch,

father went to sister’s room to plea:

‘Wish my boss, please,I hope

you won’t embarrass me.’ She didn’t.


None of us knew why

my otherwise well-mannered sister

chose to be a real ass.

At the dining table, ma called her

badtameez*, father called her rude,

all in front of the bald uncle, who

was married, had two kids, and relished

young women, besides good food.




When I was in grade 8,

mother joined my school

as an ad-hoc teacher.

The class teacher of 3A,

I was glad she didn’t take

any senior lectures.

It is awkward,

having your mother

teach you, grade you

and look at you

looking at your crush

in class.


A new principal,

some Kashyapfrom Delhi,

had joined our school.

Like us,

he was a Brahmin.

I didn’t know that,

but the drawing room

knew. It didn’t take long

for me to discover.

I lived at a place,

where caste didn’t abandon

any dialogue, whatsoever.


One eve, Shuklaji,

a distant relative

who taught me Sanskrit,

came home for tea and gossip.

Kashyaps, they are just like

Sharmas, he said.

And Sharmas were Brahmins,

I knew, since my dearest buddy

Radheshyam Sharma

twirled the sacred thread

around his ear

every time he’d pee.


One week

after the new principal arrived,

mothertook us to his house,

with mithai and badhai.

It was his birthday,


Mother wanted

us to be in his notice.


swajatiya** bond ­–

it’d reap benefits,

such washer belief.


Kashyap sir was cold,

uninterested, all through.

A month later,

mother’s fascination for

Brahmanical brotherhood

vanished, too,

asshe, along with others,

was asked to quit real fast.

The new principal

hadkicked all ad-hoc teachers,

irrespective of their castes.


A total of

four Brahmins

had lost their jobs

courtesya Brahmin

a New Delhi snob.

Our drawing room

turned into a sink

to their pent-up stress.

A month later,

I heard: Kashyap sir

was having an affair with

our Bengali headmistress.


The four Brahmins,

like four monkeys –


some what scandalized,

slightly envious –

jumped on our sofas,

munched on samosas

holding a tiny chai kapyala***.

After discussing for hours,

the council surmised –

Kashyap wasn’t a Brahmin,

but a bloody Dilliwala.



* Ill-mannered

**Swa-jatiya – same caste


Harsh Snehanshu is an author, a pan-India traveller and a Young India Fellow. His articles have appeared in The Caravan, The Hindu, Forbes, Tehelka among others. His fifth book, Mango Chutney, an anthology of short-stories that he's edited, is going to be out on stands on 14th August, 2014.

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