• 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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