Poetry | ‘Portrait of a bastard’ & ‘On the way back’ | By Ajmal Khan

Ajmal Khan’s title ‘Portrait of a bastard’ made me sit up straight, where layers of racism from being Asian – the accent of a Dravidian governed more than religious divide, and yet the overlaps with ethnicity brought out an unpeeling of facades for the unison of humanity –same pain, displacement, ideas of home – made for an informed read.

Portrait of a bastard

Your collarbone protrudes like a Somalian Child
and the arm muscles anemic
but the Lungi, from the Malabar Coast. 

Texture of your skin is the mixture of Pulaya and Chandala
converted to Islam
sweat with a scent from Dubai, Abudabi or Muscat.

How can you speak English this well?
You guys rebelled against them
and boycotted their language.

How did you get this resilient yet deep eyes
and rage? Somewhat similar to Palestinians or Kashmiris —
You weren’t occupied.  

Your chin remotely resembles
a clever North Indian Bania man
that disappears like a mirage.

They murmur, you are a bastard
in the confluence between the Arabian Coast
and the Malabar before Portuguese and Dutch mastered maritime. 

***


On the way back 

Staring at stars, cosmos and beyond
We went to colleges and universities like curious children
following constellations.
Some of us – the only one of our kind
The rest had something similar – their surnames, parent’s jobs
Or the names of the cities they hailed from
The kind of dress they wore, the way they spoke English
The brands of cigarettes they smoked and the scent of their sweat. 

Some dropped out
Few missing
Others came home as dead bodies like Shambuka
Those survived were picked up and
the remaining-untouchables in the job market
On the way back to the village
The road is long with the heavy burden
of degree certificates. 

***

Ajmal Khan’s poems have appeared in the Muse India, The Bangalore Review, The Sunflower Collective, and Firstpost among others. His poems also appeared in anthologies such as GOSSAMER: An anthology of contemporary world poetry by Kindle Magazine and recently in the ‘100 poems are not enough’ by Walking Bookfairs and Macmillan.

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