“Amma and the Azaleas” by Tushar Jain

it was a fussy little girl, with 
pimpled cheeks and a daisy in
wavy black hair, who, clawing
back her bangs, scrawled a
corn seed in the middle of
Kachauri Amma’s wall

with time, the seed flaked,
turned pale and sickly, and
some day in June, when island
rains peppered Amma’s walls
and seepage ravaged the
masonry, it burst open

come July, a red azalea
clambered up the seed – sprung
with petals, tendrils, lime green
ivy, a whorl of leaves, and a sturdy
stalk, a cinnamon brown

soon, on a September day,
Amma, feeding panting, mangy
strays – groundnut and wedges of
overripe mango, pinched back a
wafer of grey hair, and frowning,
noticed the mural – beaming
azaleas on gruff limestone

Amma blinked, and squinting
her blurry eyes, gingerly, she
knelt; blended in with the fug of
the moldering wall, vermin, and
graffiti etched in orange chalk,
she, surprised, smelt perfume

since then, the flowers bloom
there, and Kachauri Amma patrols
the wall, spying the passer-bys,
roaring at the urchins, pelting
busted marbles at drunks unzipping
to pee, but at midnight, in the
pale wash of moonlight, with
crickets warbling in the drains,
and the crow of soap-water in
the runnels, Amma eases into
sleep, her head tired, aslant,
breathing in the azaleas


Tushar Jain is an Indian poet, playwright, and author. He was the winner of the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize, 2012 and a winner of the Poetry with Prakriti Prize, 2013. Subsequently, he won the RL Poetry Award (2014). He was a winner of the DWL Short Story Contest 2014 for his short story “A Humiliating Day For Dr. Balachander.” He won the Toto Funds the Arts Award for Creative Writing, 2016.



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