Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Poem for a Grandmother

For Mahamaya Sarkar, died September 13th, 1984.

I remember not crying.
At four o' clock the school bus had dropped me
At the appointed place, like everyday.
I don't quite remember who'd picked me up, now.
I remember asking after you, suddenly, and being told
You had 'gone off to god', which I could make no sense of.
I remember being startled by many strange faces.
I don't remember your face too well,
I remember a white clad figure on the cot,
I remember playing with your lips, opening them
Giving you funny faces. You did not resist.
That wasn't surprising - you never did.
I remember your teeth were somewhat brown.
I was hurriedly pulled away by adult hands -
I don't remember whose.
I remember you had made 'tribal costumes' for me
Out of palm leaves, and crowns that had cost no blood,
And flutes I could not play.
I remember you wearing both your glasses to amuse me,
And when asked how you looked, I'd promptly said, 'like an ape'.
You almost fell down from your chair, laughing.
You never had any money to speak of, yet when you came,
All the way across town, your hands were never empty.
I expected them not to be - it was my right.
I remember, better than your face, your stories
Of a childhood in Tripura, coming home at sunset
On a buffalo, Men who'd been swallowed whole by pythons
But survived. I remember crying my heart out,
More than a month later, at Indira Gandhi's dead face
on the TV screen. Years, lost kingdoms and eternities later
I'd realize, that I cried for you.

by Arka Mukhopadhyay

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