My mother’s favourite colour was Red.
Not the banal shade of withering roses,
that has witnessed several empty promises
or the monochromatic Saffron that wails
for an adulterated history that sings of its virulent glory.
But instead, the dark and brooding Crimson
with shades of Cherry and hints of Mahogany.
When I was still a child, she would always tell me
that my spirit was painted in her favourite shade
and when I’d express my juvenile curiosity
she’d tell me of how we were all made of a similar fire
but, my flame was not painted yellow and orange
instead, tinted with anger and a greater purpose
burns in bright Crimson with the whimsical Cherry
and her buddy Mahogany, lurking in the distance.
Just like her, she would say.
When I joined the army, she walked up to me
with a longing in her eyes and a smile on her face
and warned me to never let my flame out-of-sight
for it might belong to the country for a while,
it shall always come back to her loving arms
with its disgruntled sighs at the unhappy endings
of the bedtime stories she’d weave out of the
grey of the gypsy clouds and the white of her hair
on the evenings that were gravid
with the smell of Bombay monsoons.
I died with wistfulness sneaking up onto me
because the flickering flame of her favourite shade
never found its way back to my aging mother
with a cataract in her waiting eyes.
Instead they took it in their grimy hands,
scratched it out of my scathed skin
with their dagger-like fingernails
and splattered it over every piece of art
and road and wall of my dear subcontinent.
They let some loose into the hands of vicious,
hypocritical journalists who moulded it into
wads of lies and articles of blatant demagoguery
and then forced it down the throats of innocent
and gullible pairs of hearts and sinews.
They painted every flower in my tone of Crimson
and wrote didactic messages in the ink of my being
to favour their own ambitions
and mislead acquiescing audiences.
They christened my singular mix of Crimson
and Cherry and innocent Mahogany, a
shade of patriotic and monochromic, ‘Saffron’,
while my mother still sought any remnant of
my flickering flame with her blinding eyes
to express its discontent and dislike for
unhappy endings to her bedtime stories.
Dhruv Trehan writes for Indian Review. Indian Literature that you can read and enjoy. Poems and poetry from India and around the world.