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Blouses, headscarves, but sarees there?

Accoutrements, and waisted wear,

but barely worn, save yellow spun?

for saree strip wraps whole in one -

here’s bare midriff - would be well wrapped?

Yet standard fare for Englishmen,

whose Sanskrit, Hindi, Persian terms,

knows only khaki, bungalows?

In empire days, Benares base;

now Varanasi names this place,

that ghats, fire pyres, where Shiva dares;

but also stacked, as tourist wares,

swathed sarees, shelved by mirrorwork,

Their bundles splayed across the floor,

a glitter ball spread everywhere

as custom - customers beware.

So cross legged, sandals at the door,

this is no village women store,

but city backstreet third floor bait,

looming firetrap, factory gate,

tall storeys, talk of piece rate paid.

Look back to sunny fun, those girls,

mothers, daughters, community,

the heartfelt laughter, streaming joy.

All smiles as traders chase rupees,

tease, then pleas from men on knees

to try, seduce, through atmosphere;

these fabrics mere trompe l’oeil; steer clear?

It’s not sarees, but sheer cheer shouts.

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