Day -6 of Inktober this year perfectly coincided with Mahalaya. What better Prompt for the day when the baritone at 4 am spreads through cities announcing the arrival of Debipokhyo, and with it the Festive Spirit. I’m an atheist, but Durga Puja is not really about the Puja.
I came into this world with strong tree-genes in my roots. My granny, my ‘didu’, was an avid lover of plants. Nurse by profession, I used to see her run back at the end of her tiring workday in the humid sweltering May heat of Bengal, straight up to the terrace where the concrete floor would still burn, to see how her beloved saplings and plants (read grandchildren by choice) were doing. I would see her caress them with her hands while she watered them, not with the strictness of a governess and neither with the overindulgent abundance of the grandma, but with the perfected measurements of a mother. And my, did those plants bloom! They spread their arms skywards in leaps and bounds spreading way beyond the confines of the terracotta and the soil that held them, they twinkled in endless smiles every morning when she slowly said bye to them before work and as the clock struck past office hours, they dropped one by one as if they missed her way too much. And then in the evenings they danced with the mad tempests of the Bengal evening as if sharing their blues with her, and then spread their fragrance calling out to her, showing as much love to her as she did to them.
My mother is named after a flower, and so is my sister. My mother is ‘shiuli’, she spells autumn to our homesick hearts, unnoticed by many she blooms in the night and hands over the steed to my sister in the morning, leaving behind a heartful of home in the air. My sister is ‘aparajita’, proud and royal in the early hours, carrying forth the love into the day, spelling hope.
I carry no flower in my name, nor do I have my grandma’s nurturing hands to make plants grow, but where do I escape my tree genes? This evening, with this concrete jungle taking its toll on me, I escaped a few miles away, to a place of solitude. But there, I found an aged, wizened old tree, with more rings on its stem than 4 times the years in my soul, lying felled. And the leaves, almost felt blue in their sadness. And I felt the tears welling up inside of me for a love I did not even know existed.
Please, please, don’t let the dragonfly fairies lose their wings. Please don’t make us moonchildren fade away.
My breath holds dusts, Like half-crumbling memoirs Some figments from lost cities, Some glitters from emerald tapestries, Some bits of this maritime humidity And frosted flakes of forgotten winters.
But I guess it’s for the better, How no kiss came with complete abandon, How your back under my nails, Always shifted, uncomfortable Betraying that tiniest bit of caution. Scared, lest I transmit them-
Entire stories, captive under my eyelids Entire worlds, inside my flesh and body. Entire graveyards of almosts that died on my tongue. Hand to hand, mouth to mouth, More pamphlets, less poetry, reeking of my sedition.
Would you drive a dagger through yourself, Unless reality, with its daily grisly ritual Is used to cutting you deeper, bleeding harder?
Would you fall on a sword, Unless the sharp blow slowly tearing into you, Is still less cruel, still hurts lesser, Than that daily sucker punch in your gut?
Would you, by your own hands, Choose to stop the manic rhythm in your chest Unless in its last beating throes, your dying heart, Thanks you, for freedom, for emancipation From the fist that was reaching into your ribs, Crushing it, crumbling it, ripping you apart.