A Yellow Death – Reshma Austin

Illustration – Sukanya Roy

Her illness was yellow all over.

Lights turned fluorescent,
Walls a murky chrome,
Men and women had mellowed pumpkins
For heads.
He envied her.
He had a flu-
It was common, colour blind.

Bills, pills, inexpert medical advice…

The queue was slow, weary.
He cracked a joke, she smiled
Just a little.
But she made up, laughing extra hard
The next time.
Quick, shifty glances;

Raccoon eyes
Accentuated by kajal smudge, yellow whites.
Ascending baldness, trousers pulled taut
Against a rotund midriff.
A wedding ring with names engraved,
Chipped nail polish.
Calm foreheads,
Twitchy lower lips…
They knew it was a chance encounter,
A shot at yellowing love.


‘Listen to me, yellow sweetheart,
I am thirty- fuckin’- five,
Ten years too old
For scheming elaborate games
Of seduction,
Overpriced morals.
Take me to your place…’

‘Why do they call you Sita?
The name is doomed!
Untouched by temptation,
Withered, a walking shadow, she was practically
A hermit.
Her virginity grew back…
Poor woman! Her thing must have shrunk,
Dried up like a prune’.
‘But mine hasn’t shrunk,
Not yet…
See for yourself…’


The obituary does not do him justice.
It is so cliché…
It does not say
Who he really was:
A man of instincts,
Of passions of the earth, earthy,
A cheerful giver
Who made love to her words,
To the broom sweep patterns on her skin
That three children had left behind
To her delicate, yellowing self.
After him,
Her world was not so yellow
The paper says is he died of jaundice–
A yellow death.

Reshma A. is a writer from Trivandrum, Kerala (South India).She did her MA and M Phil in English from the English department of Kerala University.
A collection of her short stories in my mother tongue (Malayalam) was published by DC books Kerala some years back. Lately she has turned to poetry, mostly in English. A collection of her recent poems has been published by the Writers’ Workshop, Kolkata (titled Iam).