Nargis, Sultana, Chanda, Ismat, and my mother by Harshita Mishra


Artwork by Neethu Sabu


Nargis, Sultana, Chanda, Ismat, and my mother


My mother’s attic

Comes alive at night. 


She hides Nargis behind the spice tray in her kitchen

Her nazms locked in the deep recesses of the cupboard.

In her dresser the fiesty Sultana

Whose jet black kajal cleaves hemispheres. 


In a dusty drawer lives Chanda

Reading a book about civil wars

And Ismat occupies the hole in the wall

Naming galaxies after her.


They tiptoe out and climb up to the attic 

Argue over poetry, wars, the Big Bang and stardom

While my mother, Adab, sits in the corner of her bed

Her mogra ittar ruing the refuge of each of them.


And who am I to know, in our house, or in my mother

In hideouts the million other women.




About the poet:

Harshita is a journalist based in Chennai. The poem is dedicated to her mother and a million other women who quietly tucked their dreams away in obscure corners of their heart. You can find her work on Instagram.


About the artist:

Women are multifaceted and there are innumerable possibilities in illustrating them. My Paintings are about celebrating the feminine. Mostly my paintings become dream machines and my women savour the new found freedom within the confines of the canvas. There are times when my women become vulnerable, but that's the world's reality. In spite of which my women learn to resist, reclaim freedom and my art becomes a refuge for them. Follow Neetu's work on Instagram.