Megha Rao

Ancestral Home
November 23, 2022 Rao Megha

Ancestral Home


Frangipani, its petals warm milk around
an amber mouth. Red ants on coffee plum,
wearing summer on their skin like


bridal henna. Visions that tease me the day before the
contractors tear down our grandfather’s house. I was here—


standing behind the Ashoka tree,
in the soft, comforting company of an
emerald dragonfly that God had been
kind enough to make innocent; that knew
nothing about land disputes & watched only
the moth levitating above the rose bushes,
despite its three-sixty-degree field of vision,
in ultra-multicolour. Here, on the ancient
stone steps, thinking about the stink bugs
that slept under our night lamps. About


the tender moss in the well, the
canal—a rumoured host to water nymphs
& the yakshi’s coven behind the tool shed.
Inside, a bindi on the mirror, the mercury
damaged. A clay pot, once a water
cooler, resting on the kitchen slab.
Paan-stained dhotis, sanguine
conversations in the balcony—


beedis glowing.


The youngest child’s cherished drawing
on the fridge. Winged origami. Inside jokes.
Eye contact. Joint cooking. Cousins, uncles,
sisters-in-law, all in a circle, sesame oil in our
hands, plucking sticky jackfruit for pickling—
in another lifespan, an evanescent
previous birth, before giant family feuds
catapulted us apart. My mother’s traditional
Kerala saree & its boat neck blouse, a
white & gold miracle she’d almost worn
for a niece’s wedding, before news of her
elopement. An aunt’s clandestine
affair camouflaging as walks to the temple,
the agarbatti at twilight, group tooth-pulling.
Yellowed exam sheets. Half-written answers.
Toffee wrappers. The euphoria of our native
tongue. Ajji’s sublime hibiscus chutney.
Elephants. Someone’s ghost. Bunk beds,
dreams, belly laughs. All of which,


now stolen artefacts that belong to time—
the sole heir of memories.

Megha Rao ( is a poet and performance artist from Kerala who has been featured on POETRY Magazine, BBC Radio, Rollingstone, Penguin Random House, The Telegraph, Mint Lounge, Firstpost and The Hindu, among some notable others. Her poetry podcast, Poems to Calm Down to trended at #1 on Spotify and has been on the top podcasts charts for two years now. She recently released her debut poetry book, Teething, with HarperCollins India.