When I arrive at my hill home, the padam tree is bare, its branches like zigzagging sticks jutting into the sky. The neighbouring peach tree is bare too, a few brown leaves dangling by their stems randomly. The next morning there is a prickle of pink petals on the padam. Within a week, these have covered all the branches in tiny pink flowers with deep pink centres. While the peach remains bare, the padam is a centre of activity, visited mostly by tiny birds - minivets, sunbirds, flycatchers and the occasional larger bulbul. I send the tree's picture to a friend who suggests I photograph it against the sky. The picture is a cloudburst of pink against a clear blue sky - the plump white clouds stationery, as if posing. The swiftly flitting birds in the tree are not visible.
granddaughter's photo folder -
from a toddler's gurgle
to an adolescent's wink
The last time I had met my village friend Usha, she had sat huddled in a corner of her veranda, her face stricken by pain and bewilderment. One of the hardest working hill women of the neighborhood, I was pained to hear of her dilemma. While trying to drive away two monkeys from her harvested pile of peaches, she had injured one when she threw a stick at it. With suddenness, she had been mauled by a pack of monkeys that tore off flesh from her thigh and foot, and bit deep into her scalp. Immobilised, her treatment was long and painful, involving 21 injections, arduous journeys to the civil hospital, scans, tests and medicines. I see her now after 4 months since I last visited the hills. She waves to me from her veranda, skips down steep steps and pulls me in to her house for 'karak chai'. Soon after, she is back in her fields with her sickle, head bent as she cuts wild grass from the furrows.
drooping cornstalks straighten
after a long drought
Neera Kashyap has authored a book for young adults, 'Daring to Dream', and contributed to several prize-winning anthologies for children. Her poetry has been featured in Indian anthologies such as 'Hibiscus & Shimmer Spring', 'Freedom Raga & New Normal', 'The Shape of a Poem' and 'The Brown Critique Anthology'. International poetry anthologies that have featured her work are 'The Poet’s Seasons', 'Poetica' (1& 2), 'The Kali Project', 'Voices from Within' and 'Hunger Anthology'. Her work has also been featured in various journals such as 'Verse Virtual', 'Life & Legends', 'Failed Haiku & Setu Magazine' , 'RIC Journal' (Indo-French); 'Bloo Outlier', 'Kitaab', 'The Punch Magazine', 'Kritya', 'The Literary Yard' and Narrow Road etc.