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The Portrait of a Man

                                                                                                  

                                                                                                                                             

                                                                                                       The Portrait of a Man

My father’s silhouette is incomplete
without the shadow of his turban,
one I’ve seen him tie every day, often
twice, with careful, measured grace
filtering through his movements.

He ties one end of six meters to a
solid anchor as he wraps the cloth
into folds, upon folds, upon folds,
each careful tuck and tug tying him
closer to the identity he holds.

One corner of each of them is faded
by the smallest shade, holding teeth
marks from where he clenched at
the cloth, draping it around his neck,
across his forehead, and down again.

He does this slowly, calmly, standing
still, brows furrowed in concentration
till each fold mirrors the next, and he
pins them down, crisp overlappings
underlining a history he chooses to tell.

My earliest memories are of him as a
magician, tying impossibly long stretches
of colourful cloth into intricate knots,
looming over me as I saw him condensing
practice, faith, and culture into his impression.

But sometimes when I see him perform
his artful meditation honed to precision with
years of repetition, all I can think of is the
people who sobbed as they held scissors
to the most prominent expression of themselves.

I think of how they must’ve felt, as the throngs
fuelled by anger and bloodlust pressed against
the gates of their homes, voting lists in hand,
chasing down men who had, till then, carried
their turbans so proudly on their own heads.

I imagine the turmoil they faced, with the
choices they presented to themselves,
caught between faith and massacre,
the helplessness in the face of reckless,
unwarranted, unjustified executions.

I wonder if they look at their reflections
and see the faintest silhouettes of what
they were forced to give up, and give in,
and I imagine that the history that it signifies
isn’t a wound that heals, or forgives.

By - Harnidh Kaur


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