Four Good Words: Shobhana Kumar

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Shobhana Kumar has two books of poetry and six works of non-fiction covering industrial and corporate histories. She works in the spaces of education, communications and social work. She is Associate Editor of Sonic Boom and its imprint, Yavanika Press. She is deeply influenced by haikai writing and her book of haibun, ‘A Sky Full of Bucket Lists’ is forthcoming by Red River. She is part of The Quarantine Train, a poetry workshop founded by Arjun Rajendran. She works in the spaces of corporate communication, branding & advertising, education and social work.

Questions I ask myself

If you could be equal
in an unequal world,
where would you plant
your feet?

On a floor that slips
with alarming regularity,
or a place
where holding your ground
everyday battles?

Whose hand
would you hold?

Would you get ahead
or stay back?

Would you bend
to pick up the remnants
or will you leave
without a trace,
all the lives
that have held place
for you?

How to stop crying
From a leaf in Paati’s diary, 4.12.1953

Learn to stop them mid-way
like pranayama,
hold them until they brim
but not over.

Grow flowers.
You will see how fragility
can yield tenderness,
each petal, valiant,
despite its ephemeral destiny.

Pile them
like unwanted linen,
with knots so tight
that even memory
will fail to untie.

Draw inspiration
from women
in remote desert villages,
who learn to make do
without water
and sand their used vessels.

Rub that sand into wounds
over and over and over again
till wound meets blood
meets hurt
to that one point
when all pain ceases
into one shoreless


Repeat for best rest results
Choose the method most appropriate for different occasions

Day dream

learning to tell
the male from female
rose-ringed parakeets

She emerges from the laser clinic, smooth-skinned and glowing. She looks beautiful. In an ideal world, she might have found love. Even made it last.

She blushes when we compliment her. But she really doesn’t care. “Love is perhaps enough for you. For me, happiness is just finding myself”. Just me, she adds for emphasis.

We look away. Guilty.

We picture her several years from now. She wears dark-rimmed spectacles. Tinges of grey streak the dark-as-ebony hair. Wrinkles just begin to appear. She doesn’t wear makeup. So the signs show, ever so gently. She looks stern, intellectual, and almost like prose.

broken remote control              memories pause
at fast forward


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