Today on the train, I saw a girl showing pictures of her house to her friends.
One in the snow and one in the rain. And I’ve been thinking if homes change with season. Do they look different as they grow old with time? Do they get cold in the winter when ice settles in their pipework? Does the rain make them drowsy too? And when spring arrives, do gulmohar trees spiral out of the kitchen window, orange leaves bursting through the cracks in the chimney?
When I am gone,
Remember to put the cover
on the TV set at night
buy only plastic flowers
for the yellowing ceramic vase
on top of the refrigerator
lay a newspaper
on your shelves
before piling them with shirts
bring out the Kashmiri rug
when you have guests
and glass cups
from the side-cupboard
and please don’t
paint the walls white
they’ll only gather dust with time.
I have grown to love the electric wires crisscrossing over urban cities in India, cutting the sky into squares, rectangles, diamonds of all shapes. This is how electricity first came to the city, its buildings, its neighbourhoods — slowly. Lighting one bulb, one television screen, one electric kettle at a time.
And then soon, geysers, computers, factories.
But the city had always been there, its old rust-orange buildings, houses with windows, and families looking through them at an uncut, never-ending sky, waiting. For light, zigzag lines on a TV screen, warmth.
I stand looming in front of the Japanese Knife Shop as my friends continue to walk down the market lane. Hidden behind a narrow door and two lush plant pots, is a small store that sells chopsticks and cutlery. Outside the shop, bowls and cups are on display on a foldable rack. They are of blue, grey and galactic colours, made of porcelain, smooth and waiting to be touched.
I lift them one at a time and run my fingers on their imperfect surfaces.
I have always been fascinated by porcelain. I dream of collecting tiny jewellery boxes, hand-painted teapots and eggcups in a small cabinet one day. I would line porcelain pots abstractly around my house — like a theme.
I find it beautiful, the idea of a porcelain dinner set — plates, bowls, soup spoons — patterned with blue flowers, thin indigo vines, dots and seashells, picked naturally from a kitchen shelf and heaped with spoonfuls of rice and dal when guests come home for lunch.
Porcelain looks like a melted piece of the moon. I imagine the moon drips somewhere in the secret villages of Kashmir, found behind the fog early in the morning by shepherds walking their sheep for grazing — a pool of pure white collected behind the rocks. Then carved into something more ordinary to make it belong in an everyday way in homes. It brings an unstressed beauty into our mouldy, undecorated living rooms.
I love that you can buy porcelain cups one at a time. A single cup to drink tea in solitude, and a second for when your mother visits.
My friends call out to me and I run to catch up. I place the cement coloured plate in my hand back on the shelf and think, another time.
The shadow of a roof on a wall with chipping paint
one house has a chimney and the other has a tree behind it
washing hangs on a clothesline
seen in a mirror of a home where no one lives
a creeper grows flowers
smooching from one balcony to a terrace in the shade
Sometimes, buying marmalade can be a big step. It could mark the settling down in a space, the waking up to a familiarity, claiming a spot in a refrigerator that wasn’t yours yesterday. I think there is something romantic in walking around the kitchen, eating toast without a plate, and spreading your arms on the sofa, like you belong here.
It might be how you start making a new life.