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Birds at the Border

by Meera Ganapathi
20 April 2022

When the sari comes back from the istriwala,

it’s still warm to touch, and

a slice of old, dry newspaper

crackles within its folds.

Annapakshis stomp across its jarigai in circles

––gatekeepers at the border.

The sari is from Paati, from Amma,

from a family of weavers in Kanjeevaram,

from a time when colours were named like poems in Tamil,

after stories from temples, gardens and kitchen shelves.

‘Rama’s blue-green skin, the deep yellow of slightly damp turmeric,

the brighter yellow of mung daal, the metallic glint of a peacock’s neck,

yellow-green of tender mango leaves…’


The weavers no longer look for poems;

their saris are named after biscuits, soap and toothpaste now,

and they can’t afford their own Marie-biscuit saris, their Hamam-green silks,

their white and gold Colgates,

and their sons would rather be engineers now.


I open a quarter of the sari,

and Shah Rukh Khan slips from within its folds,

claiming, ‘I don’t know anything about love.’

His hands are outstretched as if to gather

all the birds within these pleats.


I crumple Shah Rukh and drape the sari onto a hanger,

tucking it deep within my closet;

I have nowhere to wear it and go these days.

Later, I hear feathers rustle inside

as annapakshis stomp along the border,

protesting in endless circles.

Speak OUT! Issue 1

Illustration by Kama Ropate

About the Author

Meera Ganapathi

Meera Ganapathi is the founder and editor of the independent publication, The Soup. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in various publications including, FirstPost, Juggernaut, Whetstone, Out of Print and The Dirty Magazine. Her writing focuses on personal histories, often drawing from photography and personal narratives. She is currently working on a book […]