before there were poems in this house, there was rummy;
a pack of 52 playing cards in their plastic homes,
stacked on the tallest shelf ever,
my 4 year old hands couldn’t reach there.
All the transgressions my grandma allowed-
a whole bottle of coke,
a CID marathon starting at midnight,
but the cards were out of bounds, reserved,
for the grey haired ladies that floated in every Thursday,
sat themselves at the round table, chirped while the cards shuffled and the tokens laid out,
and when the first hand was dealt-
I think they grey younger,
the arthritis reversed, their bones stopped crackling so much,
I think this is the second time I saw my grandmother pray.
When the shelf grew shorter,
I was allowed to hold these sources of marvel,
learnt to count among aces and kings,
stayed awake matching spades to spades,
invented my own games, borrowed games,
because Nani had invented the cards,
this parallel universe of joy,
the cards existed in the middle of Punjab, in June,
in a house that smelled like mangoes,
and still held people in telephone diaries not cellphones.
when she moved half the country,
hands limp from the stroke,
6 packs of 52 came along,
even when the room is silent with agony,
there’s always room for the riffling, the soft music of the shuffle, the gentle stacking of the plastic coins.
Overtime I’ve learnt how to lose less, maybe just slower,
my Nani still wins.
By the time I fit 21 cards in my fingers, the hand is closed,
Nani has won;
I celebrate getting one joker, she has four,
Nani has won.
I imagine this to be second nature,
like tying shoelaces or slicing open a watermelon,
so I’m scared of loading her,
in a shuffle and not noticing,
I’m scared of my Nani putting the cards down,
one last time, and then no one would have won.
By Anureet Watta
Anureet writes poems and research papers; none of them really well. She aspires to write a book someday, until then, an economics undergraduate, her life is a series of awkward handholds, too many hand poems and of course Adam Smith’s invisible hand.
Her instagram is @wattaaaaaaa.