Jalandhar, Punjab - I

Jalandhar. There are days, in this bitchy, awful, lonely, lovely city where I now live, called Delhi when I do miss you. I think, ‘how does it feel to have grown up your entire life in one town?’ To have known all your neighbours. To have grown up with your neighbours. To not have to shift schools. To see the town change and call those changes your own. I do miss how growing up in Jalandhar we never had to worry about space. There were streets which didn’t have running cars, there were parks which didn’t have gates, there were familiar faces who smiled back when I smiled at them. I don’t know when did the many patriarchs who inhabit you became everything that I could ever take from you. I don’t know when did those many patriarchs who live in you, love you, hate you, fuck you, get fucked by you, became…….you. 

Jalandhar, 2002

MY patriarch….is a lot like you. 

YOU are a lot like my patriarch. 

You both are cheaters. You both thrive on pride. You both beat your women. You both tell me to not look you in your eye. You both keep telling me I am a failure at being a man. I hear you are not a town anymore. Empty streets have become showrooms, old houses have become malls, your stoop has become more prominent, your pagdi (turban) has gotten thinner. 

I want to love you. Not just because I was born in you, not just because I was brought up by you, but because……I just do! Even when you repeatedly call me a chakka, even when you accuse Delhi of ruining me, even when you tell my parents that I must have gotten fucked by many men from all over Delhi.….I do want to give you a chance. Ok, before you say anything Jalandhar, I know it’s been a while since I met you. Every now and then, you keep saying ‘I love you’ to me. You keep asking me, when will I come back. But I don’t want to come back not just because it will remind me of what I was but it will force me to imagine what I would have become had I not left you. I have been building myself against your masculinity so fiercely that I tried to claim some of my family’s women’s femininity. After being denied that femininity too, I just hovered…in between. My femininity shifted whenever I crossed the streets with my elder sister trying to avert your patriarchs’ eyes. My masculinity roared trying to hide my love for tamarind. My ‘in between’ applauded whenever I slyly looked at my school seniors play basketball, shirtless, in the mornings. My ‘in between’ stood by when you didn’t. 

The last time, I was looking at you through a video call, at your changing localities, changing skies, at Lakhbir aunty’s new railings at her house, at Shayar uncle’s famous garden tree, I unexpectedly came face to face with your patriarch. My patriarch. Both, you and me, knew fully well, that this might just be the last time we both look into each other eyes, and after customary small talk, you said, “Akhil puttar….i love you”. I looked at the pixelated you for 2 seconds, smiled faintly, thinking of all the lost opportunities, lost friendships, lost lovers, lost family, and with the urge to cry, scream and laugh at the same time, I just said, “acha papa ko zara waapis phone pakdana”*.

*could you pass the phone back to dad please? 


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