At the Lodhi Crematorium

At the Lodhi crematorium,
as the fire took her – outside
it was still raining – our hugs then
were longer,
warmer.

(October, 2013)

It was the first winter rain,
the auto stopped
at every red light.

When I told him
my friend had passed away,
he had asked – “Was she married?”
“No.”

At the Lodhi crematorium,
as the fire took her – outside
it was still raining – our hugs then
were longer,
warmer.

“No one knows the ways of time,”
the auto-guy had said, and
I had thought that there is repose
today even
in this.

Betu, I had read about her
before I met her – ‘Sangini support meetings
are held every Saturday afternoon, from 3 to 6,’
the brown poster had read. In the dusty first-floor
Santa Cruz library, I took notes for my dissertation.
‘These meetings are open only for lesbians, bisexuals,’
the solid font said, ‘and women exploring their
sexual orientation.’ Betu, who I met 3 or 4 times,
who I still knew best as that paragraph in my thesis,
and of whom someone said that evening, “I had no friend
like her” – leaving that page, leaving her –
now Betu is gone.

The priest only told us, “It takes less
than half an hour for the whole body to burn.”

On the way back
on the Ring Road, as the auto-guy
refilled the CNG tank,
I sat on a concrete bench outside,
taking out a book, but
it is still raining.

About the author

Akhil Katyal

Born in Bareilly, U.P. in 1985, Akhil Katyal is a writer and translator based in Delhi where he also teaches literature. His writings have appeared in The UCity Review, North East Review, The Four Quarters Magazine, The Bangalore Review, Ezra - Journal of Translation, Earthen Lamp Journal, Ivory-Tower among several others. He has translated the works of Mangalesh Dabral, Wislawa Szymborska, Agha Shahid Ali, Om Prakash Valmiki, Dorothy Parker, Langston Hughes among others. He finished his PhD from SOAS, University of London in 2011. Write to him at akhilkatyal@gmail.com.