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Damini Kane


When I was in 4th grade, I lost
a kite-making competition. I had
tried very hard, but hadn’t brought
the right paper. I’d used card paper.

You need kite paper.
It’s fragile and gossamer,
like a smile offered in passing
from one stranger to another
on a street paved with colliding ideas.
That day I came back crying,
carrying my card paper kite,
and its broomstick frame,
and the trail of fine sewing thread.

I knew even then:
the weight of the thing
and the meanness of its tether,
would keep it grounded;
it reminded me of the experiment
I’d conducted in first grade,
when my teacher told me,
“wood floats in water, rocks sink.”
I’d picked up a pebble on my way home
and dropped it in my water glass.
And it sank.
It’s simple physics,
a matter of density.

 And if the air was denser,
my kite would fly.

But it lay stuffed under the layers
of the things under my bed.

 I sometimes think I’m not cut
out for the weight of life. I am a kite
made of card paper, dragged through mud
by only sewing thread. I am a pebble
on a sidewalk, thrown into water,
I am
a child.
And I would like
to float.

 But then I remember
you just need kite paper.
And it is fragile and gossamer
like a sliver of moonlight
through curtains who hide themselves away.
And you fasten your kite
with a roll of sturdy string,
and point it at the clouds
and look for wind.

I built a kite.
I saw it embrace the sun.


The thing is, I’d never made curry before.
Childhood: watching it simmer over the stove,
vortexes swirling, chasing the wood of mom’s ladle.
The spices: ground up, reduced. I have never known
sand to taste so fiery; I’ve held life on my tongue.

 To eat well is to live well.
I’ve been swallowing disappointment
for three nights straight. The food
is plainer here. This cold city needs
a bonfire. So I marched up a hill
with the oils of a flame,
set a pan on the stove,
and heard garlic chant my name.

 It cheered me, its excitement sizzling.
You have never seen a gladiator
in the colosseum of her frying pan,
whipping out her wooden sword,
and battling vegetables. I’ve never
made curry before, but it all begins the same.

I peeled an onion and plucked coriander stalks.
The remains made a palate on the kitchen sink.
I remember now: coriander stalks on onion peels
remind me of the garbage bags at home.
And I’d finally started feeling like home.

The fish is foreign. It is dead, but it is foreign.
And it tastes like an ocean away,
different pollutants, different poisons.
“Assimilate!” I demand. Then correct myself.
Coconut milk by the can,
you remind me of Delhi,
and the time we ate our exhaustion away.

My chopping board is plastic,
with a separator that slides, it has
unders and overs, nooks and corners,
like the artifice of self-criticisms
I’ve been cooking in my head.
The heat rises, the curry boils.

 The thing is, I’ve never made curry before.
And I didn’t know I could.
I never expected I’d learn
by simply trying.


Issue 83 (Jan-Feb 2019)

feature Indian English Writing
  • Editorial
    • Charanjeet Kaur: Editorial Comment
  • Poetry
    • Amlanjyoti Goswami
    • Anju Kanwar
    • Damini Kane
    • Harnidh Kaur
    • Ishmeet Kaur Chaudhury
    • Kalyanee Rajan
    • Menka Shivdasani
    • Mohammed Zahid
    • Nabina Das
    • Rochelle Potkar
    • Sanjeev Sethi
    • Shanta Acharya
    • Sonnet Mondal
    • Sunil Sharma
    • T R Joy
    • Taseer Gujral
    • Vidya Premkumar
  • Conversations
    • Anvita Budhraja: Conversation with Gauri Viswanathan
    • Kalyanee Rajan: Discussion with Keki N Daruwalla
  • Fiction
    • Abha Iyengar: The Land of Butterflies
    • Apoorva Saini: A Fractured Reader
    • Bhaswati Ghosh: Finding Mama
    • Bhupinder Singh: Abdul Hayaat and the Shadows of his Age
    • Dadasaheb Salunke: Out of Tune
    • Ishmeet Kaur Choudhary: Lahore to Amritsar
    • Malsawmi Jacob: Twilight House
    • Manmeet Chhabra: Pall Bearer
    • Murli Melwani: The Turning Point
    • Priyanka Mathur: Watch and Learn
    • Rachel Bari: Closure
    • Sakoon Singh: Let me Go - In the bazaars and boudoirs of Bathinda
    • Varanasi Ramabrahmam: Brigita
  • Non-Fiction
    • Anvita Budhraja: Thoughts from the Highest Cafeteria in the World
    • Daman Singh: Asylum
    • Loveleen Mann: The Prince of Bangles
  • Readings
    • Charanjeet Kaur: Saleem Peeradina’s Heart’s Beast
    • Z M Wise: Usha Akella’s 'The Waiting'