By Ankita Anand

The women of my house 
Breathe with their hands.

Tongues bitten by their own teeth beat a hasty retreat,
Eyelids securely tie stormy words within the eyes.

All’s silent but you know that they live 
By the beating of their hands:

Folding clothes, moving furniture 
Stoking the fire, breaking coconuts.

They had been trained to fall in line 
With the lines on their palms,

Conduct literature they couldn’t unlearn,
But they did what they could

And got calluses of their own making,
Lines they had earned, lines they now fiercely own.

For whom no bell tolls
By Ankita Anand

“What would you do if you don’t study?
Do you wish to become a rickshaw puller?
You would fail your exams and be thrown out of the school
Then you can join the school for shepherds and herd goats.”

We got scared, we studied some.

Now someone else pulls the rickshaw;
Someone else goes to the school for shepherds.


By Ankita Anand

The little girl jumps up with her frills 
To lunge at the umbrella 
The mother was about to forget in the bus.

The woman pulls her back with one hand,
With the other, pushing forward the boy
Who’s still in a daze made up of his mumbled dream.

In the time it takes Mother to unfurl the umbrella,
The sky over their heads 
Has already changed colour.

By Ankita Anand

Teaches you the worst habits,
Like talking to someone
Without checking if they’re listening.

It gets lonely in echo chambers
By Ankita Anand

So many of us are not present
In your mind
When you claim to represent us

We do not know 
How to address you,
How to write you letters
That begin with a “dear”,
An “Hon’ble.”

You who rule by fear,
Don’t you feel like knowing what it is like to be ruled by love?
You speak for us
But not to us.

If you do not learn how to converse
Our listening too-
The listening of those who did not receive a hearing –

Would be one that is not listening
But only waiting for you to stop talking.
And we would not wait forever,
It gets late even as we speak.

Ankita Anand is a writer-poet-performer based in Delhi, India. Her poems have been chosen to be part of an anthology featuring forty Indian poets below the age of forty, and her poetry and prose have won in competitions organised by Singapore Poetry, and Sampad Arts, UK. She is also a journalist and a recipient of the European Commission’s Lorenzo Natali Media Prize.