Poetry | Issue 2 (October 2023)

For My Freedom Fighter Nani

Shikha S. Lamba

I remember telling her I would paint her a Krishna

standing in a garden, because all children drew gardens,

with erect trees and singled out leaves, and blades of grass one could count.

Krishna was a story I knew about her. Her daily prayers at 5 am,

hair washed and plastered against her skull, sitting out in the grass,

Rudraksha beads sprinting between her fingers.

She smoked Camels, unfiltered, and enjoyed a whiskey or two.

I knew that story too.

Was I too young to be a confidante? I wonder now.

Each time she opened her Godrej, the sound jarring 

like a blaring ship being dragged offshore, I would run to see 

what she kept locked inside. I learned much later that some widows 

choose not to own too many things, and like living in a pale palette,

as a blanched reflection of who they were.

Your Nana sat with people fighting for our freedom.

We would hide them in our homes, she would tell me 

pointing to a photograph stuck inside her cupboard. 

Rawalpindi, partition, strange words dipping their toes 

into our conversations, but never fully explained. 

“Jai Hind Ji,”, was our “Hello”, “Good morning”, “How are you?”

I barely understood the gravity of these three words or

knew anything about the freedom she spoke of.

Years later, memorising the events of 1947, studying in a 

British boarding school, I still understood nothing of the fight.




Nani — Maternal grandmother 

Krishna — One of the Hindu gods 

Rudraksha — Dried stones of a fruit used as prayer beads 

Godrej — Metal cupboard; Godrej is a popular brand that manufactures such cupboards among other things

Nana — Maternal grandfather 

Rawalpindi — A city currently in Pakistan, earlier a part of undivided India. 

Partition — India’s partition  

Jai Hind Ji — A salutation that means “Long live India”

1947 — The year India attained Independence from British rule and the newly-formed nation-state Pakistan was carved out of undivided India.

Shikha S. Lamba is a jewelry designer and poet living in Hong Kong. She is also the co-editor of an online magazine, Coffee and Conversations. Shikha has contributed poetry for various publications and anthologies in Hong Kong, the US, the UK, Bangladesh, Indonesia and India. Passionate about raising awareness about women’s health and mental health issues through her writing, her poems often touch on themes of feminism and social injustice.