They Call Out To Me

by Vani Viswanathan

A young person is confronted with a pile of vessels they may have to clean, and rage builds up. What does the person choose to do? Vani writes free verse.

I nervously watch the clock –
8:30, 8:50, 9:10, 9:25
She isn’t going to come today.
The house needs sweeping,
The clothes need to be folded
And, and most importantly –
The dishes need to be done.

It’s 9:42
Yes, she isn’t going to come today.

I walk to the window,
To distract myself.
A plane roars past,
A Sardarji rides a Chetak
And an e-rickshaw rumbles by slowly.
The vessels call out to me.

I pick up the phone;
Has anyone messaged?
Is there an email that needs
Urgent replying to?
Is there a red notification
On Facebook?
Is someone thinking of me,
Does someone want my time?
Alas, it’s all empty
Bereft of want and attention
The vessels call out to me.

The doorbell rings,
And my heart leaps up in hope.
Is my saviour here?
Will my morning be salvaged,
And my work go on, uninterrupted?

Alas, it’s the newspaper man –
Asking for the month’s pay.
The vessels call out to me.

It’s 10:13,
And yes, she isn’t going to come today.

I steel myself, put on those gloves
Whip up a concoction
Of dishwashing liquid and water.
A steel scrubber and a regular scrubber
And five huge vessels
And innumerable small things –
A million spoons, a dozen plates
All the ladles I ever owned,
And half a score of bowls.

I sigh,
And then I heave in anger
If I could,
I would throw the cooker on the floor
Watch it break into a hundred pieces
And bend a spoon in fury
Alas, I have no superhuman strength
And sense prevails
How would the dal be boiled
If the cooker broke?

I take a deep breath
And go
One by one
One by one
The small things first
Then the bowls and plates
Then the annoying, huge vessels
Scrub, scrub, scrub
Wash, wash, wash
My back aches
My fingers have been
In water too long

But at last, the sink is clear
I throw the trash
Clean the sink
Till it gleams

And just then
I see, in the corner,
A coffee mug
A ring of brown in it
From three hours ago
A mug that had escaped my attention
Hiding, only to test my will.

It’s past 11
And yes, she isn’t going to come
So I pick up the coffee mug
Smash it on the floor
And walk carefully around it

No more vessels
Are calling out to me.

Picture from

Vani Viswanathan is often lost in her world of words and music, churning out lines in her head or humming a song. Her world is one of feminism, frivolity, optimism and quietude, where there is always place for AR Rahman, outbursts of laughter, bouts of silence, 70s English music, chocolate and lots of books and endless iTunes playlists from all over the world. She is a communications consultant and has been blogging at since 2005.
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