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Atithi Devo Bhava

by Shloka Shankar


What does it feel like
to look at everything
without familiarity?

My cousins from America
are a case in point:
how easily amused they are
by the lizards
our house hosts
along with them,
or the fact that we
have two servants, or simply
being taken aback by the amount
of ghee and mithai we consume;

all those things I take for granted.

How unnerved they are
by our friendly, yet obnoxious neighbours
who look at them like exotic creatures,
only faintly resembling us Indians.

My room contains a wardrobe
that looks heavily pregnant
with a disarray of kurtas and pyjamas;
a writing desk – the mirror of my mind –
lies shrouded in unfiled papers;
irked by this, they dare to ask me,
“Don’t you ever get grounded?”
I only manage a satiric smile in response.

It’s the same thing
every alternate year:
a household driven to chaos
fetching Bisleri bottles
and clean plates
and clean towels
and clean sheets.

For the next three weeks,
we take every syllable
of atithi devo bhava seriously.
And then, just as quickly,
a cobweb sways above our front door
soon after their departure.

Shloka-Shankar-author-photoShloka Shankar is a freelance writer residing in India. Her work appears in over two dozen international anthologies including The Dance of the Peacock, Emanations IV, Family Matters, Celebrating India, and publications by Paragram, Silver Birch Press, Minor Arcana Press, Harbinger Asylum, and Kind of a Hurricane Press, among others. Her poems have also appeared in numerous print and online journals. She is the founder and editor of the literary and arts journal, Sonic Boom.

One Comment
  1. What a beautiful and apt poem .loved it!!

    January 24, 2016