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2 poems by Sejal Ghia

Art by Prekshaa Pahuja

Watching a Ghazal on YouTube

The drone of the tanpura

sets expectations.

Claps follow. Mehdi Hassan,

sitting cross-legged

in white kurta and brown bandi,

greets us with an aadaab

and a few grateful words — louder claps —

and then the clappers — decorous

faces from the 80’s.

He tunes our ears

with an alaap

in his multi-throated voice,

blends into Ranjish Hi Sahi

and the crowd erupts into

wah-wahs! Fingers sprint on a tabla.

I close my eyes,

singing along

with a contorted face.

For the next twenty minutes,

Mehdi Hassan throws

thorny roses at me

across the screen.

His left hand on the bellows

pumps air in and out of

my chest. He renders

a line nine different ways,

each time raising me

higher and higher

to the chandeliered roof — an exorcist —

and then dropping me like a gun.

tirakita dha!

I collect myself in a daze

and go about my afternoon.

The drone of the tanpura

stays with me.

Art by Prekshaa Pahuja


At nine, my grandfather was a newspaper boy.

He woke before dawn and walked

along his daily route by soundless homes,

resting cows and dimly lit

tea shops, spreading news.

He brought home four annas

and a copy of Bombay Samaachar

for breakfast. His neighbor Salim, the class topper,

sang the headlines aloud

for the chawl to hear: Gandhi

e karo ya maro jaaher karyu

They raced to school and shared

a bench and, unless it was

non-veg, lunch too.

At twelve, they shared a crush.

First beedi, stolen, at fourteen. Each time

my grandfather fought with his parents and

ran away, Salim brought him home.

They hugged and wept

as Nehru declared on the radio:

an age had ended — they were independent!

And then again, as the nation bled

into two. Salim’s family chose to

stay — our ancestors roost here, they said,

this is home.

Today I wonder if

they should have left.

Sejal Ghia holds a degree in mass media from KC College, Mumbai. She currently lives in Oakland, California with her husband, two cats, and an imaginary friend. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The American Journal of Poetry, Tint Journal, Right Hand Pointing, Failed Haiku, and Terribly Tiny Tales Vol. 1 (Penguin India). She writes limericks at

You can read her other work here, here and here.

Prekshaa is a perpetually excited French teacher by profession, artist by education and Lindy Hop dance instructor by passion. She has studied art in Europe, including a short stint with classical painting in Romania, and lives in Bombay where she runs Slingshot Swing - Lindy hop dance classes with her partner. She often daydreams about eating a bonne baguette with some camembert!

Check out Sejal and Prekshaa's collaborative limericks page on Instagram @thereoncewasalimerick


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