“Salman, Bombay” by Karan Kapoor

Karan Kapoor


I do think of Bombay as my hometown. Those are the streets I walked when I was learning to walk. And it’s the place that my imagination has returned to more than anywhere else.
—Salman Rushdie

I have spent almost a month in Bombay with
Midnight’s Children on my bookstack, taunting
me. Each time I think let me open the first page,
I remember another place I have to be. You called
it your love letter to India. Being from Delhi, I don’t
understand why anyone would write a love letter
to India. Sky, a tarpit of cancer. Yamuna, more
akin to a block of frozen sewage than waving black
water. Each small street bloated with buildings
and people like a starving child’s belly
sick with kwashiorkor. Bombay is more
polluted than Delhi but it boasts an ocean.
Is Bombay rain different from Delhi rain?
It is a question of lily or acid. The sun appears
here like answered prayers—unpredictable,
infrequent, and always more beautiful falling
on your face through a veil than stitched into skin.
Outside my window, above your book, the clouds are
compliant, smoothening through the grayblue sky
like children off to school. Wind bulldozes through
a banyan’s dreadlocks. Isn’t it funny how telling
the truth often feels the most like lying, like doing
something wrong? Here, it is midnight and I am
awake because in New York you have been stabbed
they-aren’t-sure-how-many times. I glance again
outside the window and think of water think
of thirst think of opening my mouth think
of moths think how could anything
as birdlight as music make one a criminal.
A child, blue beneath half-aglow streetlight
is trying to stretch a blanket over his body
in the hopes that it might become fire, engulf
his cold. His father snores nearby. No mother
in sight. I refresh my screen. Ghost a hand
into the sticky air, feel pinpricks of light salt rain.
Wonder, are you allowed back in India?
Please, come back with your eyes open.

from Poets Respond
August 14, 2022


Karan Kapoor: “As of now, 2:31 a.m. in Bombay and 5:01 p.m. in New York, Salman Rushdie’s condition is unclear. Last month, I brought his book with me to a Bombay visit, thinking his hometown would be an excellent place to enter into his most prized fictional world. While here, I have amassed even more of his books. My partner and I recently studied his Masterclass, eagerly discussing his wisdom and wit. The many articles and statements coming out at present about this deplorable attack speak volumes. I am sitting here and have only my sadness and this poem to offer. Without Salman Rushdie, the literary canon would have been a monochromatic field of bright stars. His works, and the works they inspired, and the diverse works that he endorsed, have shone the sun on the South Asian literary world. We cannot lose him.” (web)

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