You are Dead by Harman Mavi

I am at your funeral. Your body lies still in the coffin as others come and go. Their tears fall with a rhythm too precise to be sincere. You stay silent as I lean in for a penultimate kiss.


You were always fluent in silence. You spoke the silence of mischief, when you teased me before a kiss. You spoke the silence of frustration, when you were stuck in traffic. You also knew the silence of grief but usually tried to hide it beneath a smile. But you never shared your final despair with me, whether through silence or words. You died in utter loneliness.

I see you knocking on the doors of the monastery. No one answers. The monks are on vacation. You feel out of breath in the thin air. Leh, which you once called home, now feels harsh and foreign. The trek from the Old Palace to the monastery, which had once felt like a trot, seemed exhausting to you. You look into the valley and it is unrecognisable. Yaks have made way for cars. Corrugated iron has replaced most of the old mud thatched roofs. The once barren land is now dotted with willows. But the valley still looks beautiful. You feel at peace as the sun sets behind the snow-capped peaks of the Zanskar. You leap off the edge of the cliff, spreading your arms to embrace the expectant ground....


The cashier at the tourist counter of the Old Palace swears that he saw you smile when you fell. He hoped that you would flap your arms and fly, but you never tried. When the paramedics arrived, they could find neither a pulse in your veins nor a breath in your lungs. No procedure, prescription, or prayer could save you. You were dead.


I am at your funeral. Your feet lie still in the coffin. I can no longer coax them to dance. You stay still as I tie your shoelaces.


You were never a good dancer. Ten years ago, you were tiptoeing forwards and backwards anxiously at a salsa class, trying to learn the basic step of the dance, when your glance met mine. What a tangled grip you had when you tried to spin me.

I see you on the flight from Delhi to Leh. You feel that Delhi, our home for ten years, has betrayed you. You seek the sanctuary of your first home, Leh: the colourful hue of its solitary mountains, the coolness of the waters of the Indus, the calm of its gompas.... The air -hostess appears and asks whether you want some butter-tea. You gladly say yes. But, your tongue has forgotten its taste. It is more bitter than you anticipate.


I am at your funeral. Your waist lies still in the coffin. No stroke of mine can revive it. You stay still as I clasp your belt. Your uncles and aunts recite eulogies. Their words seem fictional; you had not met them in years.


We built our island together in Delhi. We spent our days at work and our evenings exploring the ruins scattered across the city. We often made love beside the grave of the slave king in Mehrauli. As I moved in you, now deeper now shallower, the graffiti of other lovers murmured encouragement. On the ancient walls around us, men proclaimed their love for each other. When we first went to the Old Fort together, you pointed out the building from which an emperor once fell and died while answering the muezzin’s call to prayer. As a kit of pigeons flew by, we speculated on the details of the love letters that we assumed they carried.

I see you crying at home after your talk with the principal. You go to the balcony, hoping for some consolation from the soft blue sky but find only smog. Your sweat drips on the concrete floor. You wipe your brow with your sleeve and find it lined with soot. A murder of crows gleefully cries Caw Caw Caw from the roof of the building, as if it has just feasted on the carrion of our hopes.


I am at your funeral. Your face lies expressionless in the coffin. It reacts to none of my fears and sorrows. You utter no words to console me.


You used to talk wonderfully. Your words could make the faithful doubt the existence of God or make sceptics believe in it. If you described it, even a dolphin with dragon breath would seem real.

I see you preparing for your class. You are reciting Hamlet’s ominous soliloquy, ‘to be, or not to be...’ when the principal intrudes and inquires ‘May I have a word?’ You can’t resist. You pull out your dictionary and ask, ‘Yes, of course! Which one do you want?’ The principal is not amused and delivers a notice of termination. It specifies no cause. As he leaves the room, the principal adds, ‘I just heard the verdict of the Supreme Court…. You can no longer teach here.’ You have lost the words to respond.


You are dead. I am at your funeral. I sob like an infant. Tears drown my face. I lean in for a final kiss. Your brother interrupts me and pleads, ‘No, please don’t! Your love is not legal.’



Harman Mavi grew up in Patiala, Punjab. He currently works and writes in Winnipeg, Canada.