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when i say dilli

Anushree Joshi

The following poem first appeared in The Aleph Review, Vol. 6 (2022). Selected from our archives for the website by digital guest editor Taha Kehar.

when i say dilli, i mean the ruins

of civilisations built, broken, besieged

in its qillas, and how the dead hold

your hands in their scrawny ones

on a chilled metro because you never really

let go of the things you love with

a child’s passion, do you.

when i say dilli, i mean the narrow ends

of two homes that kiss and touch

between which zauq still roams on december nights

because his poems may be the mecca

to worship for some majnun

who abandoned ghalib for the underdog –

kaun jaaye par dilli ki galiyaan chhod kar,

he bows down in prayer. it’s all here.

when i say dilli, i mean the fierce anger

of its people and its seasons, only ever

still enough on a may evening to grudgingly

behold the majesty of an obscure park

outside the india gate in cp,

ashing the rage with a lipstick mark

on a shared cigarette.

when i say dilli, i mean the love

of your life after 8 years on a momo stall

as you spill this chutney over the mayonnaise

(which doesn’t belong there anyway) –

their eyes still pool in, your chuckle an instinct

as they gorge it down. you remember

dusty editions of colonial history,

the sighs of almosts for pritam and ludhianvi.

dilli is a measured longing, learned,

pretentious, making you roll your eyes in bed,

tired and tiring, too much to take in,

relentless in a fight. when i say dilli,

i mean the knowing

of never having to say it in words –

can i take a picture of you,

for everything that touches you by

after dilli, i mean to say it’s only goodbye

intimate enough to feel like a distant memory.


Anushree Joshi is a student of English literature at Lady Shri Ram College in New Delhi and is particularly interested in studying and analysing the intersections between culture, cinema and literature, focusing upon the Indian subcontinent. She has two years of journalistic experience, working at India’s largest student-run newspaper, DU Beat, where she is the print editor. She has worked on academic criticism and research pertaining to a feminist reading of Indian Partition texts, popular culture, romantic poetry and cinema studies. Her work has been published in Muse India, South Asian Popular Culture, Kitaab, The Literary Herald, Wire Journal, Terribly Tiny Tales, Film Companion, Jabberwock, LSR and Amazon Audible.

The photo in preview is a free to use image by Aviral Swarnkar via Pexels.


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