“Feeding the Population on Starship India” by Vijayalakshmi Harish

on Starship India
we grow wheat
sinuous, golden, shining stalks of
trapped light
the paddy fields, wet,
lush, green carpets
a tactile memory
of paradise– or so we are told.
every living chamber has
hydroponic garden
teeming with ginger, garlic, green chillies, coriander
and an assortment of vegetables.
fish flicker
within carefully calibrated water tanks
chicken, goats and cattle
populate the pasturedecks.
cardamom, cinnamon, pepper,
bay leaves, coriander, cumin, mace, mustard,
and every other spice
you can think of
share space with the mini fruit trees
mangoes, chikoos, litchis
apples, bananas, coconuts,
bite sized.
in the community dining areas,
the air is fragrant with masala chai, kaapi, biryanis, beef fry, paniyarams,
dhoklas, sanpiau, parathas,
sunny jangiris and puranpolis
that jostle for space
with pots of moon-faced mishti doi;
gulab jamuns and rosogollas
that mimic submerged planets.
the old habit of melding cuisines thrives
so now, in addition to indo-chinese, and Indo-Italian,
we also eat Indo-Martian and Indo-Plutonian.
you would think all this plentiness makes us happy
but food is more than the sum of its ingredients
and something must be missing
because nothing tastes
like it did on Earth.
of those who remember,
some say it is the earth itself,
that crucial missing ingredient.
others claim it is the waters
of the Ganga, the Kaveri or the Godavari
that are missing.
and always, they look apologetic.
their sorry sorry sorry, an incessant drum beat,
as we hurtle through space
in search of a new home.

Vijayalakshmi Harish is the author of Strangely Familiar Tales, a self-published collection of short speculative fiction. She is also a co-editor of Write in Power: An Anthology of the Personal and the Political, which features poetry, prose and art by South Asian people of marginalized genders. Her work has previously been published in various journals and anthologies, online and in print.