Catch a shooting star


If you proceed cautiously

holding a man-sized kerchief

in your hand

You might chance upon

the shooting star that fell behind

the building that faces our house.


That derelict building with

dim neon-lit rooms and

tired laundry hanging

on limp clotheslines stretching

across dark smelly verandahs lined

with old withered grandparents wearing

blank hopeless expressions, waiting

hoping, waiting for death to claim them

preferably on a weekend when

there will be neighbors and others to

carry the stretcher, assist with

the cremation that

will have to take place in the

leafy avenue by the sea,

off Shivaji Park.


If you proceed cautiously,

treading very softly towards

the shooting star that

fell behind the building that

faces ours-

That derelict building that

screams and snarls with

domestic violence, where

the policeman visits regularly, stands

crushing tobacco between thick

palms on hot long afternoons and

surreptitiously pockets the money to

not register a case against the

boorish husband who

smashed his wife’s ribs in

a drunken fury, flung

the baby on the cold floor

It’s wailing stooped so abruptly, it

could have been a

walkie-talkie- baby,

made of plastic.


If you proceed cautiously, mum said,

placing one ballerina-clad foot before the

other daintily, like they teach you

in your fancy school

holding the kerchief ready before picking

up the pulsating bright thing

(It could be hot, you know,

it just feel out of the sky)

If you could turn your nine year old face,

sweet innocent face,

away from that derelict building

that faces ours

a blot on our gracious residential colony

of uptown Mumbai,

that terrible down market building stinking

of death, decay and old urine.

If you ignore that building, lovely child,

go around it with eyes closed,

pretend it doesn’t exist

you will discover such magical things!

You might even find, precious one, the

shooting star that just now dislodged

and fell out of

the night sky.


-Kankana Basu

(Unpublished poem from the collection I, Alien: Mumbai Poems)