love letter to “kabhi khushi kabhie gham” by Anushka Bidani

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thunder rumbles outside my window as rohan walks into rahul’s home in london
& first sees him, after a long, long time. their parents watch their reunion from a portrait on the wall
& i / cry as they lock eyes. watch me watch myself in my grandparents’ room watching 
the same film for the thousandth time & still—noticing a speck of dirt under anjali’s eye i
had missed during the first nine-hundred ninety-nine. is it love if i still find your sunlight
soaked reunion song to be absolutely annoying? kabhi khushi kabhie gham is a spit-fire nicotine
crushed ochre stained cashmere sweater i should have thrown out years ago. when i
was fourteen, it curled around my back & whispered in my ear: your home is the darkest room
you’ll ever sleep in. & that’s alright. i have found my brightest corners in my parents’ home 
& i never want to go back. rahul goes back. he forgives, [because forgiveness whittles away 
at your bones until you are the perfect mimic-man. your parents hate you.] & i have grown up
in india which means i / always arrive home. my home is the effect of my history of 
obedience. i adore this film. chandni chowk tastes like a history unabridged 
& unbroken. this is a capitalist state & everyone’s happy. shayaris twist tongues 
into figures-of-eight. & everyone’s dancing. how could rahul not fall in love? 
anjali’s bangles bite at his throat & he curls his dupatta around his neck twice to hide the bruises 
she has left behind. every fourteen minutes, he presses down with his fingers & they turn up violet. 
how could rahul ever hide his love? / they fall in love & they don’t die. spin songs about their future 
& twirl a classic tale of forbidden romance: rich man falls in love with a poor woman & his family 
despises her. she’s the greedy temptation rich man spied from the shop window & now wants. 
& bratty indulged rich-boy, rebel without a cause longs to save someone. her father dies & he
whisks her away. they revel in domestic bliss only / marred by their phone which never rings. 
bole chudiyan arrives like a letter from a friend who had forgotten about me. it takes my hand 
& its melody tastes like rainy evenings in hauz khas when my date stands me up & i’m smoking 
in the fort writing poems to my favourite city. shava shava is everything that’s wrong with my city: nandini & yash’s presence splatters the scene through a smoke-screen. my nostalgia comforts me.
rahul & rohan talk cricket in london & india wins. here’s a secret that will ruin my reputation:
in my favourite films, india always wins. but we are in the middle of a pandemic 
& i don’t give two fucks about my reputation anymore. lightning cracks the sky open: 
look! here comes the helicopter & here comes rahul & there he goes running towards his home. 
nandini will be waiting with an aarti ki thali. he will run his hands down the bannister & lilies
will grow in the webs of his fingers. anjali will tuck one behind her ear & smile for the camera.
the raichands will forgive, & we will know that forgiveness marks the return of peace.

Anushka Bidani is a poet & essayist from India.

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