Arts Illustrated

Atlas of Colour

By Suchi Govindarajan

Arts Illustrated Poetry Contest, Winner

If time were a country, would you travel with me? We would not need visas or passports or permits No documents would define our birthmarks or borders.

Somewhere there, we will find that hibiscus bus
Where once I pressed my face against the window
And saw how your curls held first light and then fire.

Remember how you would make music from the wind?
Remember how the birds would answer your calls?
The doves came in flocks, whispering and humming
They sat on phone-lines that once carried our voices,
A web of our secrets strung across the city.

Some days, we tried to fold our lives into paper-boats
We sent them out like hope amidst the rains. Some
days, we launched our kites towards the clouds
Knowing, laughing, that they would not reach heaven.

Like lost prayers, our kites still sway in the wind
Like lost prayers, they endlessly chant a name
The name of a country lost to memory.

Judge’s Note

Atlas of Colour is a beautiful poem that draws its strong imagery from the painting that forms its theme. The poet takes us to the land where we ride a ‘hibiscus bus’ (lovely!), ‘fold our lives into paper-boats’, and launch our kites, like hope, into the air. If time is a country, we travel to this place where ‘no document would define our birthmarks or borders’. In The Atlas of Colour we find the land of our childhood, and so, ‘The name of a country lost to memory’. This poem, through its interpretation and imagery, recreates the fairy tale magic of the painting, and becomes for me the hands-down winner.

About Suchi Govindarajan

Suchi works as a technical writer, pretends to be a photographer and dreams of becoming an artist. Poetry is her first love but she also enjoys writing humour pieces and travel essays. Her first book is 'Why don't birds comb their hair?' (Pratham Books, 2019), a picture book for children. You can read her work at or follow her on Instagram: @suchiswriting