Video Call to Karachi

On insomniac nights ammi in her soft nostalgic voice

reads out a letter in Urdu –

my mother tongue about stories of her youth,

while I float in another country,

in another moment.

When she knew the taste of the tongue – warming phrases

behrehal sham-e guftagu ab bhi yaad atein hain

wo manzar sukun ke ab bhi yaad atein hain

those longings lingering in its pages

from a daughter to her father.

I recalled the wrinkled hands and the white kafaan

draped like a child over my nani’s body.

“How fragile life is?” I had thought

how faint are the memory of faces?

Drifting and diluting in time.

I had to break the news

in the wailing walls of this room –

this city that had lost its warmth that day.

I made a video call to Karachi –

the land of another bloodline,

so lost in the war of the borders.

And beyond the flat screen of the computer,

in another room –

in another barricaded gene pool

popped out the family I never shared a life with.

Khala jaan ,khalu, bhaijaan and appas

lined in a straight file of a paper

like soldiers beside the wired metal divisions,

waiting for the orders of freewill to pass,

between two lands –

India and Pakistan.

I didn’t belong to anyone

she didn’t belong to anyone.

They waited for a visa to hold the sign –


but it never came,

the trumpet of wails and the bashing of bosoms

boomed from the flat screen –

in a circle and echoed around my ears,

dissecting the worlds I knew.

The senseless anger and fear settled

on the white kaafan folds

bidding farewell, to the last face

I knew was the face of love.

                                                                       ~ Sufia Khatoon

                                                                         Kolkata, India


Glossary: ammi- mother, kaafan- shroud, Khala jaan- maternal aunt ,khalu- uncle, bhaijaa- brother and appa- elder sister, nani- grandmother,

behrehal sham-e guftagu ab bhi yaad atein hain

wo manzar sukun ke ab bhi yaad atein hain

none the less, I still remember the evening discourses,

the peaceful sightings I still do remember

*This poem is inspired from an incident of death reaching across borders

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