Plain China

On The Train Home

by Varun Nayar · Grinnell College
Nirvana, Joanna Mizak · Susquehanna University

1944: Badi Nani packs her children
into four decrepit navy-blue duffle
bags strapped to a train running
down from Karachi to Dilli.


The bed-sheet sky holds dry, white
stains on its body, like the clouds
that lived there grew up. Families
of bare feet make loud, stinging
claps onto the platform. The
train screams and begins to
move, both forward and away.


The disappearing train is swallowed
by a now even larger sky. Badi Nani
holds her heart in her throat, cries
into her dupatta, never stops.


70 years later, grandmother floats
soundlessly in her sari and kisses
my forehead. I kiss her too. A warm
bead of sweat washes over a thin
mark on her cheek—right where they
threw her off the train in Dilli.


No one here is done returning.

About the Author

Varun Nayar · Grinnell College

Born and raised in New Delhi, Varun Nayar studies literature. He has published stories, essays, and poems in The Siren, The Rumpus, Dying Goose, and elsewhere. He is fascinated by the construction and memorialization of identity through language, and is working on an extended bilingual and hybrid poetry project that goes back to his country’s independence and partition. These poems first appeared in The Grinnell Review. Follow him on twitter @nayarvar.

About the Artist

Joanna Mizak · Susquehanna University

Joanna Mizak, a communications major and photography minor, hopes to use her communication and photography studies to pursue a career in photojournalism or advertising. Her dream job would be to take photos for National Geographic. Her photograph first appeared in Susquehanna's RiverCraft. See more of her work here.