Reshma's poems and short stories have appeared in various British and international anthologies and magazines, and have been commissioned for BBC Radio 4. Her debut poetry collection, A Dinner Party in the Home Counties, won Word Masala's First Collection Publication Award 2019. Co-founder of The Whole Kahani-a – a British South-Asian writers collective – Reshma was born in India and raised in Italy. As a result of such a heritage, her writing portrays the preoccupations of those who possess a multiple sense of belonging.
Being a woman can be fun at times.
To be called a shape – a pear or a plum.
A fruit salad deconstructed daily.
Your breasts are ripe mangoes.
Your hips have a melon’s flair.
Your mouth – a strawberry ripe for the picking.
A lifelong lesson in pomology it is.
To be classified by the shape of your limbs.
Being a woman is fun up to a point.
One day it’s over.
The harvest is ripe, ready to rot.
In your sleep, while you’re not watching,
the seed goes sour, the juice runs dry.
No glances. No whistles. All funeral quiet.
You tiptoe down the street.
You still have your fruit.
But it’s no longer the season.
The year India gained independence from Britain, and the country became divided into India and Pakistan, with the largest migration of people in modern history.
1947. Say it quickly – it’s a number.
Say it slowly – it becomes a code.
Opening doors no one can see.
My father, small as a hummingbird,
sits in his chair,
frail of body and brain.
He’s made up of medicines and memory.
There’s a train running somewhere behind his eyelids.
He is gambolling through a field of wheat where
a pink turbaned scarecrow stands, arms stretched rigidly.
His father’s callused hand lets go of his own.
Is that his mother’s voice calling?
Quick! Run! We have to catch the train.
She gifts him a single boiled egg for the journey.
Books, slingshot, the red striped ball by the Tulsi plant in the courtyard –
he remembers them all.
His grandchildren crowd round him.
The girl is doing a PhD on borders and dividing lines.
'Tell me about 1947, Nana', she says, tapping his shoulder,
her laptop buzzing like a bee.
He stirs. He smiles. Scratches his chin.
‘My ball. My red striped ball –
I must have left it behind.'
They are soft peaches left in the sun too long.
They bruise easily.
Their milk teeth grow old within their cheeks,
fall by the roadside. Become dentures.
Their heart is an umbrella stand
on which they hang rosaries of
petty disappointments and dreads.
Medical prescriptions and utility bills.
Death is a salesman who rings every night,
keeping them awake.