Kanti and Kali

Bright lights and glamor, money and glitz

A beautiful dancer working in Delhi.

Bewitched by her form, a powerful businessman

Fails to see where her heart truly lies.

“I want to make her mine.”

A struggle ensues, and angered by rejection

The powerful businessman destroys her,

Disfigures the dazzling Kali.

Hydrochloric acid eats her skin,

Strips her meat and exposes her bones.

Ugly pink welts cross her face,

Melted hair follicles leave her bald.

A permanently crooked smile is revealed,

Teeth once covered by flawless brown flesh

Stand open and vicious.

Caught in her vanity, the deformed Kali

Flees to a shack in the part of town

Most are too clever to find themselves in.

Shrouded in the darkness,

Shards of glass litter the floor.

Kali abandons herself

In broken mirrors and isolation.

The gorgeous Kali, now a walking corpse.


Hustle and crowds, bargains and kinship

A lower-caste girl navigates the streets of Delhi.

Though they are captivated by her delicacy,

Men do not understand where her heart truly lies,

And Kanti learns to avoid them

Through careful steps and silence.

Balancing a bucket of fresh water on her hip,

Kanti ducks into an alley,

Avoiding the glances of hungry men.

Tripping over her own feet,

Stumbling down the alleyway,

The lovely Kanti topples through

A curtain-covered doorway,

Spilling her water onto the floor

Of a darkened room.

A tentative step forward

And a shard of glass impales her foot.

With a cry, the graceful Kanti

Collapses to the floor,

Unable to escape.


Panicked breathing, rustling fabric in the dark

Kanti feels a presence

Slithering towards her.

Peering into the darkness,

Kanti catches a flash of white,

A glimpse of bone

Which illuminates a monstrous face.

Before Kanti can think,

A scarred hand snatches her foot.

Begins bandaging.

But Kanti still cannot stand,

And makes herself small

In the middle of the littered floor.

Newly lit candles revealed the monster,

Scarred and burned,

Dissolved and shattered,

The gruesome Kali was revealed.

Instead of retreating,

Kanti saw kindness in Kali’s brown eyes.

Kanti was not repulsed.

She was not afraid.

Relieved, the horrible Kali

Began to dance.

Her mother had always taught her

To keep her guests entertained.

Warm candlelight bathed Kali,

Illuminated brown skin and pink scars,

Shone off her exposed bones,

Reflected off her bald head.

Shadows danced across

The curtains behind her.

Mesmerized, the sweet Kanti’s

Eyes remained trained on Kali’s

Smooth, rhythmic movements,

And saw Kali’s beauty

In where her heart truly lies.


Sundarata and the jaanavar

Stayed together for days

As Kanti’s foot healed.

The two ate together,

Laughed, told stories,

And at the end of each night,

Kali would dance for Kanti.

Kanti soon could walk,

And as she said her goodbyes,

Kali was mournful

Of losing the only being

Who did not shudder at her touch.

Hustle and crowds, bargains and kinship

A lower-caste girl navigates the streets of Delhi.

Kanti tried to return to her family,

Her life, her daily chores,

But found herself awake each night,

Thinking of Kali, unable to sleep

Without the warm candlelight,

The melodic movements.


Darkness and shadows,

Pining and loneliness,

Kanti escaped her family

In the dead of night.

Returning to the broken shack,

Returning to the broken Kali,

Determined to remain with the one

Who understood her heart.

With this decision,

Kanti cannot return to her family

For fear of rejection.

With this decision,

Kanti and Kali are criminals

In the eyes of Indian law.

However, Kanti sleeps soundly

At night, by the warmth of

The candlelight, and Kali.

Every evening,

For the rest of their days,

Kali dances for Kanti.

This is where their hearts truly lie.


This poem is about: 
Our world


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