A Rose and a Flame

Again they’re out on stickered bikes:
A rose on fearless Bullet, he;
A flame on gearless Scooty, she.
And they will park and disembark
At every corner, every street.
To sweep it, he. To wash it, she.
No money charged, no bonus asked,
The morning after Diwali.

As he is sweeping, she is washing,
We get to see a glimpse of why
In marks of burning on his hands,
In scars of burning on her face.
Reminders both of mornings past,
Of mornings twenty years ago,
When he had sweeped into his hands
Some cracker powder leftover,
Unburned and strewn across the street
To make a pot of Kumbh-Anaar
To gift his sister crying loud
Accusing him of breaking hers,
The one that held her painted rose.

Of course, he was no crackersmith.
Of course, it burst up in her face.
Of course, he cried as she had cried.
Of course, he knew not what to do
Except to take his guilty hands
And burn them on a charcoal flame.

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