Lahore, Summer 1993

Back then
the flurry of exchanging phone numbers on the last day of school
in the cool, airy verandas of the Convent,
the promises to call, get together, share homework notes,
the frantic goodbyes and goodlucks for three whole months

the indefatigable demands for the street seller’s corn,
roasted, plump and golden yellow still in its husk,
buried deep inside hot brackish sand of a wooden wheelbarrow,
and the pliancy of those pearly kernels in the hands of schoolchildren

those long days that started with a damp smell and parched air,
the cooler - a fan with a water tank - dry after spinning all night,
beckoning the garden hose to its cavernous metal belly, and
the abrasive call of the sabzi-wallah, onions! tomatoes! potatoes!

the thrill of insularity, the ritual of creating a cave
in a corner where the floor remained cool, away from the sun,
with quilts and blankets arranged on toppled cane furniture, and
inside, books arranged in neat rows alongside a plate of sliced mangoes

the arrival of cousins and grandmother,
the children clutching small bags of salted jamun,
their fingertips, tongues, lips stained purple with the juice,
and Nani unearthing a small bundle of money from a hidden pocket

the pleasure of new textbooks, fountain pens, glass inkpots
mastering the meticulous art of creating dust jackets out of khaki paper,
displaying superior penmanship in the creation of each label -
name: noorulain noor, class: 4B, subject: social studies

that never-ending summer, the barefoot dances in monsoon rain,
the yearning to be austere once more, uniform, sash, school bag,
to while away the last period under the drone of ceiling fans,
heavy-limbed, droopy-eyed, the pen slipping from a slack grip

Back then

blithe laughter, which twenty years hence, has metamorphosed,
become guarded, restrained; the season, too, liberally forgotten,
and in the crevasses of memory transformed somehow -
ephemeral, magical, miraculous

About the Author: Noorulain Noor is a clinical researcher at Stanford University and the Associate Editor of Papercuts. Papercuts is a publication of Desi Writers' Lounge, an online writing community for emerging South Asian writers, run entirely on a voluntary basis. Her work has appeared in ARDOR literary magazine, The Bangalore Review, Apeiron Review, Clapboard House, and other journals. Raised in Lahore, Pakistan, Noorulain now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she leads poetry workshops, blogs, and writes on the broad themes of identity, multiculturalism, and the immigrant experience.
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