western sydney fugue

By | 1 February 2022

2. harris park

you can find delhi in sydney
on wigram street at night
in the blinking red, green & yellow lights
repurposed from christmas sales into
a perpetual semblance of diwali, minus
the fragrant ghee diyas & the smoky,
tar-bitter stench of fireworks
that would violate fire restrictions here.
perfumed sweat wafts from
the open food stalls.
chunnis & churis flutter & tinkle
& plump-armed toddlers clad
in kurtas tug demandingly at older siblings
on iphones with australian accents. hot pink
lipstick & sequined
faux silk. everything from
conservative, shin-length kameezzes
to risqué backless blouses, aunties
& uncles tutting chastisingly at the youngsters.
phone ko neeche rakho. khao, khao.

in the wine-red light
of a fading neon sign are
pitted walls hued purple & sweating like flesh,
the smell of burnt grease & sugar
thick as molasses in the air. jalebis deep-frying
in cast-iron cauldrons & seekh kebabs sizzling
in preparation for eid. there is laughter
in the breaking of fasts, in muslim
greetings on hindu tongues
& vice-versa. a heavyset man
with sharp eyes & damp patches
under his armpits turns & turns
the spit, the fat popping & leaping
from halal meat. beside him his son,
pimple-cheeked & awkward,
nonetheless manages a machine-like speed
in his automatic, ten-golgappas-a-minute
dishing out of soggy paper plates of pani puri
to a line of customers stretching
around the block. in the smoke-scented night,
the masjid of harris park
is a silhouette half-hidden
by electric rooftops.

yellowing posters of
bollywood romances
chaste near-kisses
line the windows of a video shop
that also, inexplicably, stocks
miniature god figurines, clocks,
& sweets in dented, oily
cardboard boxes. sugar syrup congeals
& sticks the barfis
to the bottom. we pick at them
as we walk to our cars, parked haphazardly
in dim side streets, plastic bags
full of leftovers & pirated hindi dvds
swinging against our legs. we indian
australians have not forgotten where we came from;
we have woven
ourselves like flowers into the garland
of sydney’s sights & sounds:
bright, perfumed, bruised, stubborn.

diya: an uncovered oil or ghee lamp in a tiny clay container
chunni: a long scarf worn by many Indian women
churi: a glass bangle
kurta: a long tunic
kameez: a type of kurta generally worn by girls & women
phone ko neeche rakho: put the phone down
khao, khao: eat, eat
jalebi: a deep-fried sweet snack shaped like an orange spiral
seekh kebab: a cylindrical meat kebab prepared on a spit
golgappas: round, hollow dough balls deep-fried & often filled with mashed potato
pani puri: a spicy snack combining golgappas with a water-thin, sour, hot sauce
masjid: mosque
barfi: a rectangular or triangular sweet made of various ingredients, such as pistachio or milk solids

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