Ankit Raj

The Boy Next Door

It is diwali night and this year too
My job has kept me from visiting
Home for the festivities,
Adding another to my ever growing
List of diwalis away from home.

So I put up my indifferent façade and treat myself
To tandoori aloo paratha and dahi at a dhaba
And have just returned to my residential society when
The aunty next door calls on me to join
The celebration on the rooftop followed by dinner.
And I join, despite myself, getting
To know my neighbours for the first time,
Playing with their kids, dusting
Firecracker ash from my sleeves and
The inevitable ache
Of being called “uncle” by the brats.

When dinner arrives I have a heartful,
My neighbours never suspecting how
The boy next door has
Smiled his way through his
Second dinner of the evening.

Ankit Raj is an assistant professor, rock vocalist and former software engineer from Chapra, Bihar, India. He teaches English at Government College Gharaunda, Karnal and is a PhD candidate at IIT Roorkee. He has poetry and short fiction published/forthcoming in The Bitchin’ KitschThe Broadkill ReviewA Thin Slice of AnxietyRoi Fainéant PressStreetcake Magazine and The Dillydoun Review among other venues. Ankit’s articles have appeared or are forthcoming in Routledge and Johns Hopkins University Press journals. He tweets @ankit_raj01