Togetherness and moist memories — two recent poems

Togetherness Formulae

(first published in Anti Serious)

Chatter until it’s banter
Shadow and
be shadowed.

Expect, so you can
accept. Sing at your
own risk.

Make play of work,
it helps keep scores.

Love, snore, engage, detach
Talk dreams and work woes.

Nibble together
on sunshine and serendipity,
aged wine and fish music.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Thirsty 

(first published in Open Road Review)

Birdcall will start soon. The room will gather
echoes of a backyard drifting across seas.

The moistness of memory blotches the seen, the felt,
making them apparitions of the once-seen, once-felt.

The neighbour plants bitter leaf to mix in her
tropical fish soup. The ocean surges in her dry throat.

Open the southern window. Hoard unending
afternoons before they get frost-bitten.

Let sleep hang in the air while a
spotted dove returns with stolen monsoon.

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On a Cloudy Day by Rabindranath Tagore

Every day is filled with work and people. At the end of each day, one feels the day’s work and exchanges have said all that needed to be said. One doesn’t find the time to grasp that which remains unsaid within.
This morning, cluster upon cluster of cloud has covered the sky’s chest. There’s work to do today as well, and there are people all around. But there’s a feeling that all that lies inside cannot be exhausted outside. Man crossed seas, scaled mountains, dug holes under the ground to steal gems and riches, but the act of transmitting one person’s innermost thoughts and feelings to another—this, man could never accomplish. PartlyCloudy On this cloudy morning, that caged thought of mine is desperately flapping its wings inside me. The person within says, “Where is that forever’s friend who will rob me of all my rain by exhausting my heart’s clouds?”
On this cloud-covered morning I hear the inside voice rattling the closed door’s fetters again and again. I wonder, what should I do? Who is the one at whose call my words will cross work’s barrier to journey through the world with the lamp of song in my hands? Who is there whose one look would string all my strewn pains into a garland of joy and make them glow in one light? I can only give it to the one who begs it of me with the perfect note. At the bend of which road stands that ruinous beggar of mine? My inside’s ache wears a saffron robe today. It wants to emerge into the path which, like the innocent single string of an ektara, chimes within the steps of the ‘heart’s person.’
Translated by Bhaswati Ghosh

Rain’s Letter by Rabindranath Tagore

Dear Friend,

Living as you do amid the desert of Sindh country, imagine the monsoons in Calcutta.

In this letter, I remind you of Bengal’s rain…Ponds swelling with water, mango orchards, wet crows, and ashadhe tales. And if you can recall Ganga’s bank, then think of the cloud’s shadow on the streaming water and of the Shiva temple located within the peepul tree under the cloud cover. Think of the veiled village women who fill water from the backside banks, getting drenched as they make their way home through the bamboo briars, passing paathhshalas and cowsheds; think of how the rain splashes in from a distance by placing its feet over the waving crop fields; first on the mango orchards at the end of the field, then on the bamboo backwoods; next, every single hut, every village fades out behind monsoon’s transparent cover, little girls sitting before huts clap and invite the rain with their songs—ultimately, the downpour captures all land, all forest, all village into its snare. Unceasing rain—in the mango fields, bamboo bushes, river; on the head of the boatman sitting crumpled as he flinches while wrapping his blanket. And in Calcutta rain falls at Ahiritola, Kansharipara, Teriti Market, Borobazaar, Shova Bazaar, Harikrishna’s Lane, Motikrishna’s Lane, Ramkrishna’s Lane, Zigzag Lane—on mansion roofs, shops, trams, the head of buggy coach drivers and so on.

These days it doesn’t rain heavily, like it used to in our childhood. Today’s rain has no grandeur of the past, it is as if the monsoon season is focusing on economy—it’s on its way out after sprinkling a little water—just some gluey mud, some drizzle, a bit of inconvenience. One can manage the entire rainy season with a torn umbrella and a pair of shoes from the China bazaar. I don’t see the revelry of the yesteryears thunder, lightning, rain, and breeze. Rains of the past had a song and dance, a rhythm and a beat—these days monsoon seems to be gripped by the jaws of ageing, by ideas of calculation and bookkeeping, by concerns of catching a cold. People say it’s only a sign of me growing old.

Perhaps it is that. Every age has a season; perhaps I am past that. In one’s youth it’s spring, in old age autumn, and in one’s childhood, rain. We don’t love the home as much as we do in our childhood. The monsoon season is for staying at home, imagining, listening to stories, playing with one’s siblings. In the darkness of the rain, far-fetched folklores assume a degree of truth. The screen of a thick downpour seems to put a cover on the world’s office activities. There are fewer wayfarers on the streets, fewer crowds, the usual busy-ness isn’t visible in places—the doors of houses are shut, coverings drape offices and shops…


…I remember, during rainy days I would run across our sprawling verandah—the door banged with the wind, the giant tamarind tree shook with all its darkness, the courtyard welled up with water up to one’s knees, water from four tin taps on the terrace gushed forth with a thud to join the courtyard water…Back then flowers bloomed on our keya tree beside the pond (the tree is no more). During the rains, when the steps on the pond’s bank vanished one by one, finally the water flooding in to the garden—when the clustering heads of the bel flower plant stayed upright above the water and the pond fish played around the water-logged trees in the garden, at that time, I raised my dhoti to the knee and imagined romping around the garden. In rainy days, when one remembered school what a gloom clasped one’s heart, and if Mastermoshai ever knew what one thought upon suddenly spotting his umbrella at the end of the lane from one’s verandah…I hear these days many students think of their teachers as friends and dance with delight at the thought of going to school. Perhaps this is a good sign. But it seems there are a growing number of boys who don’t love play, rain, home, and holidays—boys who don’t love anything in this wide world besides grammar and geographic descriptions. The sharp rays of civilization, intellect, and knowledge, it seems, is making the population of innocent children dwindle, replacing it with precocity.

Ashadhe tales = Improbable, fantastical stories

Translated by Bhaswati Ghosh

Photo courtesy: http://www.chitambo.com/clouds/cloudshtml/precipitation.html

A Song in the Cloud–Kajri

In his comment to my previous post, Abhay said, “Rains bring some of the most original emotions.” I think that holds especially true in a tropical setting like India, where the prolonged and scorching summer makes the monsoon season one of the most awaited and treasured. Consequently, the metaphor of rain makes its appearance in all things creative–painting, literature, music, cinema. Rains here evoke a host of emotions, from joyous outbursts that sing with the dancing greens to pangs of separation from one’s lover that cry with every burst of lightning and thunder. The latter translates into a particular form of folk/semi-classical music called Kajri.

Sung in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Kajri has a popular legend associated with it. According to folklore of Mirzapur, a place in UP, a woman named Kajli had to live in separation from her husband, who lived in a faraway land. She would miss him all the time, but when thick clouds splashed monsoon showers across the land, the estrangement became unbearable for her. She is believed to have taken her petition to a certain goddess Kajmal with her wailing. The other origin story comes from the Hindi word kajal, meaning kohl. The colour black is related to the dark clouds of monsoon, which in this case, bring relief.

If folk beats and earthy melody interest you, listen to a selection of Kajri here.

Image:

Bovitz

The Wait

I waited for you.

I waited through days that won’t turn into nights.

I waited even as others fled, unable to bear the separation.

I waited with the still, suffocating air that drained out my senses.

For you I survived, barely alive, yet expectant, when others died.

I waited when the prophets said you would take a long time coming.

And then, you came.

You brought the cool brush of night right into the day.

You embraced me with a smile; my reward for not deserting you.

You changed the very complexion of the air with your every stance.

You put life back into dead, parched souls with your lush strokes.

You came for me, defying the prophets.

You came.


Dearest Rain.