Exam Boards

“Ma’am, please.
Five more minutes, please.”
My tears blot the ink.

She pulls my answer sheet so
forcefully that her body
falls through the window.

She lands on her paws –
a ferocious black cat,
eyes red, racing towards me.

Her claws aim for my face.
6 am. My alarm rings.
I feel the crescent moon and

small star scratched
on my forehead.
I look in my mirror. C+.

I rush for my next exam.
A heavy iron watch cuffs
my wrist. “Drop your pen

when asked. Would be a shame
to snap this delicate thing.”
She laughs. The bell rings. I write.


The trumpeting horns
mixed with shrill curses
might help me vent my frustration.

The prolonged work hours meshed
with mandatory corporate events might help me
forget the real laughs I shared with friends.

The accidental shoulder rubs
on a crammed commute
might make me feel less lonely.

My “social” drinking and smoking
might just provide the intoxicating
carelessness I crave.

My orchestrated photos
of airport hops and rooftop restaurants
might convince me I made it in life.

The smallness of my 1 BHK
apartment – the place I call home –
might help me unsee its emptiness.


A few red sole pumps.
Pretty. Delicate. Studded.
Parties. Drinks. Stories on Instagram.
The weekend whirls by.
Afterwards, my wallet refuses to replenish
and blisters take weeks to heal.
Hazy names. Hazier faces.

A few tennis shoes.
Frowned on at a party.
Unwelcome at work.
Available only thrice a week.
for a quick game.
Sweat trickles down my back.
I am exhausted.

One slip-on shoe.
Cushions my fall.
Stretches to wrap me.
We are inseparable.
Dance. Library. Work. Workout. Theatre.
Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter.
No limping. No tripping. No slipping.
I take lighter steps.

The Bestseller

We meet at a bookstore.

An enticing cover,
a promising preface,
could be a thrilling story.

We walk back to my apartment.
I enter my room.
I lie down, the book beside me.

Covers removed.
The first chapter is a drag.
The second strained.

I pretend to enjoy
the remaining tricks,
hoping for a plot twist.

My smile fades.
My interest walks out.
Frivolous finish.

A short read.
Shall I rate
on Goodreads?

Never again will I
judge a book
by its cover.

Meal Plan

Pour skimmed milk in a bowl.
Add Chocos of self-doubt.
Stir till murky brown.
Consume every day.

Lunch: (A two-minute recipe)
Heat the kernels.
Hear them pop.
Scoop others’ hateful opinions.
Crunch them whole.

Still hungry?
Grate your pessimism.
Sprinkle it like sour cheese
on the cold pizza before consuming.

Excerpted with permission from Failure To Make Round Rotis: Poems on Rebellion, Resilience and Relationship, Mehak Goyal, Juggernaut Books.