The City has No Face

By Neeti Singh

There is smoke everywhere, dust pollutes the air – discrete columns of gaseous swirl, hang, hang-out with street pigeons and parrots in the square. Like a conspiring asthmatic the virus-ridden breath, slips like Dhaka silk and nestles, in trees of lung mass and airways and air sacs. It coughs up, a cancer – a hairless, hollow-eyed wheeze – cancerous, sunken-cheeked.

The sick yellow face of cancer reminds me of Mr Pinakin who in turn reminds me of that strange plumber – who insisted on returning next Sunday for repairs and sent down my spine, a nasty scare. I cannot forget his gaze, however.

His lingering rancid gaze that reeked of open city gutters. Who knows what hides in a face? Who was it behind Dr Zeba’s rape?

* A faceless hospital attendant, they say. Choked her throat with a dog collar. Zeba struggled and fell and fell and slithered like a bitch leashed and collared. Even blood, the doctors said, was denied passage to the brain. Brainless she lay – brain dead with a noose around the neck. The maniac guzzled as he chewed and plumbed his way through gyres of climbing lust. Her brain – Dr. Zeba’s head, lies upon my plate today. I simply will not eat.

“No no Madam it’s a lamb’s brain. It’s a Mughlai gourmet”. O never mind all that, I’d rather not eat I said. Please take it all back.

Who knows what hides in a face, faceless. I excuse myself. I escape.

* Outside, in the shelter of night air and planets silent as bats, I heave lungfulls of breath. It’s a new-moon night. Moonless-ness is spread on all sides. Bulky and bored the buses dash, farting, sputtering, through the day’s last drag. The speeding city – BMWs, tongas, Mercedes – feels desolate and heart less.

The road chokes upon dust-clouds and smoke-rolls. A slice of fear and the howl of a stray trigger a race… I choke – I choke on Zeba’s brain and a goat that is dead.
I break into a running red sweat.
Fear stalks the street like a rapist. The city has no face. Woman you are upset.
A sea of masks masquerade. Who knows, these days, one just cannot tell.

Neeti Singh

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