The smudged vermillion that trails along
The zigzagged contours of the abdomen of ‘Home’.
The heaving breaths, resuscitated in the folds and creases
Of the unstarched red and white of a sari, the intrusions
Of hungry, milk-fed infants, seeds germinating, lingering on skin.
Engravings of the Mother Mary and Madonna, mystic roundness
Of the luscious earth of the Jamini Roy Mother paintings
Revisit, eulogize you in practiced idolatry, while your progeny
Seeks you in the ebb and flow of unceremonious daily chores.
Incantations and haunting wails, the gushing waves
Of childbirth, pushed into the first pains of the earth, the elemental mother.
The first language of ‘Home’, the first smell of nutrition,
The carnival of dolls, the tender concoction of sleep in the dense child eyes,
The mismatched footsteps of chaos and a deep, impenetrable silence.
The touch of the progeny’s baby fingers cocooned in the mother’s hands.
The first tryst with thunder, rain and lightning, the frothing up of memories
An uninitiated child mind trailing after firm footsteps in a nondescript staircase.
A resurgence of that first, elemental pain, the face of your progeny becomes your face.
The folktales and mythical glory stitched around her flesh,
In her skin, she carries endurance, but aren’t her freedom songs her new weapons of choice?
In her, the heaving breaths of virgin souls, Mother Mary and Kunti explode.
The temple of the womb slandered a zillion times, the unwed mother, holding on
To the shards, the staggering breaths of her abandoned progeny.
Strip the layers of false myths, the memories of glorified verses, chip off
The painted canvas of imagination whispered through centuries,
To see revolution in her writhing heart, vestiges of the blood and phlegm of love.
Her flesh is how you survive through learning, unlearning, surrendering, transcending.
The winds hover around the quaint grasslands.
The sun’s hot, glaring smoke, a monotony of light
Leaves no fingerprints.
The splintered shadows of the clouds’ ashes and bones
Circle round and round, the earth cries, a lamb bleating
At the edge of sacrifice.
Outside, in a squeaking car, couples squeeze hands,
Ominous sirens, dead, squashed birds
In the interstate, descending into purgatory,
Ascending into self-love, after a day’s bruises.
Outside the bolted window, the blackened sky waits
Like pregnant chanting,
Puddles washing away human sins.
The earth spent her fertile years
Tending to wounds, to necessary pauses.
The language of fallen trees,
Lightning in suburban pockets.
In the pitch-dark, secrets gush in,
The childlike submissiveness, a moist story
Hidden for eons, beneath the earth.
Rakta Karabi (Red Oleander)
[Inspired by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s drama ‘Rakta Karabi’, dedicated to the heroine, Nandini.]
Where are you, my Rakta Karabi,
my beautiful, fierce red oleander?
In the boughs of my ever-yearning body,
Here, I cocoon the want, the throb
Of the blood of your cruelly pierced breast.
I am Nandini, remember me?
The woman who crumbled in the quest
Of my Rakta Karabi as all my words lay writhing,
Imprisoned in small heaps of nothingness.
Our Raja, the mighty King smothered with his cycle of abuse
My love for Ranjan, as darkness encircled my silent night,
Each note of my unsung hymns rising out of the unruly wind,
Out of the uncaring earth, out of the invincible depths of the sea.
Each note emerging out of the bloody pain of your red breast
Like an insatiable hunger as the mad world of the king
Hummed around me, consuming my burnt edges?
Red oleander, my Rakta Karabi, my lips had a tremor
That delighted me when Ranjan’s love hid in the folds
Of my yellow sari. The soft grass of the meadow looked greener
The pastures swirled around my madness, no greed or power
Could touch me there, where I hid you in my flesh and bones
Rakta Karabi, they seized me, weighing my madness
Against Bishu, the mad man’s lunatic songs.
But then, I flung myself down
In an abyss of no return, my sorrow
Floating over the heavy monsoon sky.
In me, I hold you still, your crushed red breast
The flesh of your sacrifice, unleashed
In the dark King’s world.
I am Nandini,
The sun-drenched golden maid,
Hiding you between indiscriminate desire
And irrevocable faith.