This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Solstice Black, is from The End is Not Apocalypse by Another Morning Where Everyone Tells me I'm Dead by Tanya JADE VINE Singh, released by Yavanika Press in 2021.
Content warning for genocide, death, and violence.
Is there anything untouched by death?
“Aaj bhi rongte khade ho jaate hain un kahaniyon se. (The hair-raising stories evoke horror even today),” says Rajbir Singh, now 33, as he recalls the gruesome stories from the days when violence against Sikhs swept through Delhi and other parts of the country after the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1984. “Log bacchon ko raja-rani ki kahani sunate hain, humein yeh sab kahaniyan sunayi jati thi. (People tell stories of kings and queens to their children but we were told these stories),” he adds.
– Niha Masih, 1984 anti-Sikh riots: Tales from the time still haunt this family
We fill empty spaces with our longing, a return from barren days. I text my beloved graceless. Get in, he says. I cannot walk without reciting the nursery rhyme, the corner of my eye searching for red lights. I have stopped being ostentatious; I’m only loud now. I admit I’m cursed in my mother tongue. My shoes hang by the bedside as a reminder: Why did you run away? On the floor, I eat jam right out of the jar. You nod your head in my direction. This is home, you say, and we both pretend I understand. It rains and the paper boats are washed away. I’m loved by someone so much it makes me uncomfortable; I walk away. Come here with your dirt into my arms. Don’t bother coming at all. You were more bored than disappointed. Why else would you tell me that you love me? You found the valley and the bait; you measured the field with the bodies of Sikh men, head to head. You called the field a cemetery and laughed. Your comparisons are honest and it disgusts me. The sky is imagined, as is the grave, says the ghost. The ghost is imagined, says the mind. The mind is material, says the body. The body is a joke, says everybody. Everybody is dead, says loved one. When little boys die, they will be dressed in frocks. We’re drenched in blues, warm tones of winter, the darkest we’ve ever seen.
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