Srinivas Mandavilli


I am driving into the night in the winding roads of North Carolina or Virginia, playing Vishnu Sahasrananam and get pulled over somewhere on a freeway. A cop walks over to our shiny blue Camry, and as I lower the window he inspects my wife, my young daughter in her car seat, then back to me. Nice car, he says, inspecting the Texas plates, and then my driver’s license. He points to a small wooden Ganesha hanging from the rearview mirror and says such decorations are illegal in this state. I was not taught to argue. I think about my colleague in Texas who had asked where I was from, then expressing genuine shock that I flew on a jetliner to come to the United States. I imagine a child running through neighborhoods, empty classrooms, hiding from his friends and keeping it a secret. My mother had said I would be alright, even Krishna was dark. I think of a black snake wrapped around the gate latch that night watched by a moon, flickering in the streetlamp light, and that dark memory has taken up residence, coiling around everything else. They are such mysterious creatures. Their eyes are like cameras, my childhood friend told me, the nagina will always come for you. I cannot contain such myths any longer, the road begins to unspool, and I put on Adisesha’s face, hiss at the open car window.

In our dream band, on veena

Srinivas Mandavilli is a pathologist with an interest and expertise in diagnosis of gynecologic and brain tumors. He is the author of Gods in the Foyer (Antrim House) and his poems have been published in The Raven’s Perch, Verse Virtual, The Night Heron Barks, JAMA and elsewhere. Srinivas went to medical school in India, and then trained in oncologic pathology in the US.

(वीणा) Veena late 18th century, Indian

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