POEM: Dear Mrs. Bhullar

Dear Mrs. Bhullar we have to meet.

I see your courage take refuge in clay pots,

carried on the heads of straight-backed-village-girls;

a regiment of walking duputtas;

leaving footprints in the wet earth,

and the tinkling of tiny anklet-bells marks their existence.

You slip into my thoughts and I wonder:

if the elaborate floral patterns of your bridal-henna,

were still raw on your palms and the softness of your skin;

the day they stole your beloved Professor?

Did you feel the henna crack and bleed into the rivers and fields?

Do you recount the minutes and hours you shared with your Professor?

Was their enough of them,

to allow you to swallow your shyness and meet his gaze?

How many of your bridal saris did he share your delight in?

the ones that you spent agonizing hours deciding over;

as you [were] drunk with thirst from the thumbs-up coca-cola bottles,

handed by praising shop-keepers,

as they too celebrated the beginning-of-your-forever.

Did he brush your black hair,

or secretly watch as you carefully slipped your golden jumkeys into your ears?

Were there squabbles over the names of your imaginary first-born?

Was there time to pack picnics and pose awkwardly in front of famous monuments?

Did you hush his roving tickling arms,

saying ‘stop Mama Ji is near!’’

Did you whisper late into the night?

Or suddenly burst into uncontrollable giggles,

as you caught the sound of Bapu and Mama Ji,

as they dulled with each other in their sleep;

wild snores clashing

like sharp-glinting-swords

as they tore down your paper-thin-walls?

And when they took him,

Was the wheat in the field ready to cut?

Had the milk overflown from the cow’s udders?

Did the black bird have time to announce visitors?

Had your Professor brought his weekly ration of sweets,

for the village kids?

Did he manage to share with you the last chapter of the novel he had earmarked?

had you gasped,

yet again,

at the twists and turns of the plot?

And if I look and listen closely,

will I find,

under the depths of your bed,

the smashed pieces of red glass bangles from your wedding chura?

Do they weep


silently smoulder,

like the hollows of your eyes,

which reflect wild bush-fires

of all the hacking and looting and hurting?

And now 23 years years on,

as you sit on barren wooden benches and

silently wait for the prison guards to let you in,

when you raise your gaze to meet his,

and his pupils


adjusting to the light

blankly look-through-you,

and his hands flutter like lost butterflies;

do you not want to scream and hysterically shake the shoulders of fate?

Do you not smother those dreams,

that gnaw like a cancer at ‘all that could have been’?

As you turn your head once more,

to salute

A Ghost that no longer recalls the Past.



Prof. Bhullar
Prof. Bhullar

Mrs. Bhullar (Navneet Kaur) was married to Devinderpal Singh Bhullar “the Professor” for just 12 weeks before he had to flee his home.

A university lecturer he had been concerned about the disappearances and extra-judicial killings of students in the State of Punjab, India and together with the parents of the disappeared had called for investigations to be carried out by the authorities.

In 1993 the Indian authorities alleged that the Professor was behind a bomb attack, which had killed nine people. He left India seeking political asylum in Germany in 1994. The German government refused and extradited him to India, despite it being illegal to do so, under international law because he was at risk of torture.

In January 1995 Professor Bhullar was arrested and sentenced to death by a special court for the alleged bomb attack.

Amnesty International has stated that Mr. Bhullar he is a political prisoner of conscience and that his trial fell far short of international standards for a fair trial. He had no access to a lawyer during his initial detention and trial. He was found guilty on the basis of an unsubstantiated confession made to the police, which he later retracted, claiming it was a false confession made under police pressure.

He was placed in long term solitary confinement and now suffers from severe mental health issues. He no longer recognizes his wife or other members of his family/friends.

In January 2014, the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi recommended that Devender Pal Singh Bhullar’s death sentence be commuted, saying, “On principles of human morals and natural justice I cannot bring myself to recommend the rejection of the mercy petition.”

In March 2014 India’s Supreme Court commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment, on the grounds of mental illness and delay in the disposal of his mercy petition.

Mrs. Bhullar continues to await her husband’s release.


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