Ashish Isaac

Sown by Lightly Touching Hands

I think of writing of sambaar and chutney,
          the redder-than-blood meen curry, 
          of amma’s calm-coloured churidars, appa’s psychedelic lungis

                    to authenticate an existence
                    whose very colour, taste, texture
                    had been written over with a flatness of proper words
                              ever translating and ingratiating themselves to a frigid functionality                                      that calls its flight an ascension
                                        through an Empire that lives forever within.

I think of writing of the gripped grief of my silver-haired appacha
          always in white and hands losing hold
          of the bars of windows, of his soul that I hope 
          found comprehension in the loud hush of the endless monsoon
          as he stood unmoving, back turned to us all, watching through rain-curtains the trees that are grown, which four lightly touching hands had sown in the morning mist of their youth, in their sun-pinked hope
          and how at every meal he would sputter through silent sobs when she would push over her plate of food for him to eat, forgetting again that he had asked her not to—
          a love that still lived in some space beyond words
                              long after her own name, her own face
                              became unrecognizable to her slowly un-remembering
                              self that remained 
                              with its habit of love
                              persisting past reason, past faith. 

          But armed with a bloodless education 
          I saw only the ‘patriarchy’
                    (how easily a word presumes to swallow whole lives)
          and perceived in the act cold remnants of habit, of duty
          as if love is less love if necessitated through something stronger than fancy
                    a child’s horror had gripped me at witnessing this violent rupture
                                                                                                              into a lonely two
                    of them who had been numberless before 
                    as arms and memories flailed about, reaching out—not held
          and in this implication was felt the fear that every Master’s strut exposed
                                        that ‘I’ may rest
                                                            only ever with ‘you.’ 

The Empire within takes as many forms 
          as the yearly yield of jackfruit and their seeds are turned into in our home—
I think of writing of how I’ve moved to lungis from shorts
          not from a reasoned love of the land
          but from what the sun and the sweat of this land demands
          once the white shame marked onto brown skin with canes and—worse—‘compassion’
                    could be washed clean
                                        by rain, 
                                                  by poetry,
                                                            by so many lightly touching hands. 

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Ashish Isaac is a twenty-six-year-old who has lived so far through multiple states of India, an experience which was made possible by the ubiquity of the English language in the country. Living in his home state of Kerala for the first time in his adult life now, he has been rediscovering his roots and the ways in which he has been alienated from an entire way of living. Having completed his M.A. in English Literature, he currently focuses on his writing and in his free time can be found spending time with his cats or going on long walks in the countryside.