Shadows Within


Yumita Rai

Across the seven seas
in a picturesque foreign land,
she raises her perfect family –
three adorable and happy children.

Her coffer is full,
her home brims with love and laughter.
She reaps a rich harvest
blessed by life’s warm sunshine.
The glow of contentment radiates
from her handsome face.


But on those perfectly still nights
when an owl hoots
form a tree nearby,
the familiar terror grips her
and paralyzes her.

And on those bright afternoons
the sudden gusts of the wayward wind
blows away the darling buds
from her perfectly manicured garden
the same old sense of helplessness
stifles her.
During the sleepy hours
in the late evening
she vacantly stares at the chiaroscuro
woven on the opposite wall
by a stream of shimmering moonlight
pouring in through the bevelled glass
of the window of her room
the gradually expanding silhouettes
of the familiar terror
advances to strangle her
and then,
taut as the strings of the Sarangi *
she sits stiffly on her bed.


Blurred images
of muddy olive-green boots,
of thick black handlebar moustaches
flash through her mind..

The revolting reek of sweat
mingled with the smoke of charred houses
in the neighbourhood
assaults her nostrils.
And she is back again
in her home at Maneybhanjyang*
as a nineteen-year-old
pinned down
by four uniformed jawans.

The sound of the doorbell
jolts her back to New Zealand.
Should she tell her husband
what monsters lurk
in the deepest recess of her mind
and threatens to invade her tranquil paradise?


She’d heard the female folks
of her hill town back then talk,
of how some men have abandoned such wives!
So, she nervously pushes
the skeletons back into her cupboard
and hurries to receive her husband
with the broadest smile,
planting a passionate kiss on his lips
she asks him lovingly yet earnestly
“Do you love me?”
(From the collection And the Hills Chose to Speak)


Sarangi – bowed, short-necked string instrument played in traditional and folk music
Maneybhanjyang – is a small transit-town in the Darjeeling district. It is located at the gateway of the Singalila National Park, 28kms away from the Darjeeling Town

[Yumita Rai was born and brought up in Darjeeling and she presently lives in Gangtok, Sikkim. A post-graduate in English, she is a teacher by profession and is a bilingual poet. She squeezes in time between her work and her family to pen down her musings in the form of poems, short stories, and memoirs.  She was also a co-contributor to the Outlook Traveller Guide – “Driving Holidays Across India” which won the National Tourism Award 2008-2009 for Excellence in Publication in  English.  And the Hills Chose to Speak is her first anthology of poems.]