Covid Relief in India – Call for Donations

Dear All,

As India continues to reel under the wave of a devastating second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, people across the country are experiencing unprecedented, limitless suffering as they grapple with a collapsing health system marked by lack of oxygen, lack of beds, lack of medicines and lack of vaccines. Images of endless funeral pyres, reports of struggles over cremation plots and screams of people dying at hospital gates must traumatise anyone with a sensitive heart. At this tragic juncture, we request our readers to offer financial donations to various NGOs and foundations which have been trying their best to offer assistance to people in desperate needs of assistance. Please help if you can, A little assistance will go a long way towards mitigating the misery of multitudes.

If you are interested in finding out real time availability of beds in West Bengal, click on the following link:

https://excise.wb.gov.in/CHMS/Portal_New_Default.aspx

P.S. Members of Plato’s Caves are not directly associated with any of these organisations. We are showcasing these information because these organisations have a credible track record of offering urgent assistance of which many people are now in dire need.

Important Announcement

India is going through the worst socio medical crisis since the birth of the nation. Keeping these trying times in mind, we at Plato’s Caves have decided to temporarily suspend all publications. Rather, it has been decided upon that we are going to use this forum to spread information regarding all covid related emergencies, availability of hospital beds, oxygen supplies, (mostly in and around West Bengal) etc. We urge the readers to spread and amplify the posts as much as possible.

We start by providing you with a list of the suppliers of Oxygen, food items and essential Supplies.

Thanking you

Team

Plato’s Caves.

Poems by Suchita Parikh-Mundul

 

second skin

I drank the shade

of my skin

the day I was told

my colour was unwelcome.

I became a liquid pool

with milk, sugar

and ginger added in.

I tasted sweet

and yet I burned

in the throat

of those

who spoke my name.

Steam arose

from my surface

like pearls emanating

my body,

each one telling the

story of a little girl

who eventually chose

the colour of tea.

a girl who swallowed

all the evenings

in big gulps

and filtered them

into tones of earth,

sand and soil,

with granules

of identity swirling

like a tornado

deep within

its sediments.

If you ask me what

I taste like now,

I’ll tell you

I’m the flavour of equilibrium.

I allow the sun

to dawn over me,

I allow my skin to feel,

I allow myself to be.

 

kintsugi

I shatter like a crystal cascade

shards scattered to perfection

a pretty implosion

fragments reflecting the light

glinting in the politest manner

falling to pieces unobtrusively

laying in bits like a jigsaw

until I am haphazardly fused

continuing neatly as before.

 

the fault-lines are visible

intricate fractures

arteries hidden beneath the skin.

 

a delicate figurine

encased in a vitrine

breaking apart

and mending ad infinitum.

 

I am documented as

a living artefact:

dimensions and flaws noted

contours scrutinised

statistics feigned

described in academic phrases

lined with inscrutable science

a model of culture

a shadow of truth

a subject of anatomy

studied at length

transformed into a rag doll

voiceless, abused, torn

abandoned.

 

I become a woman:

jagged edges shaved

with normative blades,

broken surface levelled

with modest shawl,

serrated voice smoothened

with orchestral breadth,

identity smothered

within insular home,

buffered by the blindness

of seeing eyes,

standing in one piece,

translucent, minutely stained,

with lines running

through like kintsugi.

 

 

 

the examined

dismantle my breath and watch

it erode the air you breathe.

listen to its cadence punctuate

the thrum of the outside

where flowers multiply

and die like fallen stars.

map my face to trace

the darkest hours of solitude

where space and time invade

my sanctuary.

rock the cradle where I sleep

with eyes open.

look into the hollow

that forms my pupils

and lists the days I didn’t

make it out of bed.

watch the sun levitate

like a ghost misunderstood.

watch the night owl guard

forgotten nightmares.

excavate the fissure

where a smile once

cracked the cheek.

or turn a blind eye

when I look to you.

it is what I’m accustomed to.

 

 

Suchita Parikh-Mundul is a freelance writer, copy editor, and poet. She has worked with magazines and websites. Her poetry has appeared in Sahitya Akademi’s Indian Literature, online literary magazines Muse India, Cerebration, Hakara, The Pine Cone Review, and in international anthologies. A collection of poems, Liquid Apnea, was published by Sampark, Kolkata in 2005.

Poems by Anila Pillai

 

Account of Unheard Voices

 

Tapped I wish I kept those voices

To hear and feel mesmerized and pumped

When unheard them then

Never felt so profound and of depth

Now that I am an adult, all those voices preach me at times of dearth.

Ages passes and still the story looms around

Never does a flying mind be caught with string of words

I believe and now I know it’s not the note for posterity to count.

 

Momentary indiscretion and unworthy I settled then with them

Harassed, sad and cursed my birth

Now that those voices are left as mere voices in void

Long to hear them in person, like how thirsty would crave for fluid.

Experience taught and caught be right for I heard not those voices right

Filial sounds when there, seldom accounts when not, heavily recounts!

 

An Ode to April

 

April is as diverse month

For some it’s a moth that make silk

For some it’s a froth like any other month

For most it’s a loth to despair and displease

 

Culture fall as it’s a month to speak up

Joy is the tail of the full length snake

Be it jovial or making a foolery light

 

Marks the beginning of a new dawn

Amidst the scorching heat many rituals are performed.

Flowers with fragrance burst out and bloom

Butterflies and humming birds delightfully zoom.

 

Glorious flowers are kept and glared

Believed to bring luck, charm and to be flared.

The new beginning is marked with morning sight

Filled with gold, idols, flowers bright.

Mothers usually hold the eyes tight close of her child

Brings near the decorated space to worship in traditional style.

New day new look dress cool stand bare foot take blessings of elders

Along gets much awaited monetary bewilderment.

 

Are as youngsters we celebrating it right I think with a sigh

Or are we only waiting for the last and desired papers that cost high!

The day is relished with aim to be with the same all year long

The very next day seems nothing but forlorn.

Deepened worries stack is put back

Which is as coated as plaque!

Despair, gloom smack hard

Be brave and bloom is the best hack!

 

April is a diverse month

Amidst the scorching heat it teaches to be glittery along the runs.

 

 

Anila Pillai is a poet, writer and essayist. She has published her creative and scholastic works in National and International anthologies, journals and periodicals. She can be reached via mail @ anilapillai.gems@gmail.com.

Poems by Manjiri Indurkar

 

Ants are medical prodigies

 

Did you know that if you turn red ants

into a chutney you will never get a bacterial

infection?  Ants, many believe, are medical prodigies.

 

 An ant colony once helped detecting

diabetes and early childhood blindness

in a friend who couldn’t understand

why ants bit him, every time he peed.

 

When he mentioned it to me, I suggested he pray

to the ant god, Nyonye-Ngana,

whose name we didn’t know then,

but even if we did, we wouldn’t be able to pronounce it.

 

My hypothesis was that he had

disrespected the humble, hard working ants,

and had left them with no choice.

But what if his susu is delicious, suggested another friend.

 

What if they are trying to crawl inside his nunu?

Shouldn’t he taste his susu before summoning the ant god?

Why waste his time if a simple taste test can solve our problems?

Or we could just offer ants our susu and see, if they like it just as much.

 

So in empty bottles of Vaseline petroleum jelly

we offered ants our urine,

but only his was the crowd pleaser.

We informed everyone of our

discovery, and they were pleased.

 Because, ants are wise, and attracted to wisdom.

Ask anyone.

 

Funereal Stories

 

Aai talks about death again.

All the good swimmers we know

are drowning themselves in water.

Acche tairaak ki maut paani mein hoti hai,

she reminds me, when we find out

Baba’s friend’s son drowned in the Narmada.

He was a national swimmer, the newspapers

said, but Aai already knew that, not

because someone told her,

but because she is exceptional at this guessing game.

 

We aren’t in mourning, but we are creatures of habit

so we talk of each one who died of drowning,

and I listen to her stories with the patience

of a chronicler. A father and son duo,

died in Omkareshwar, a few years back.

The man’s wife still believes, they might come

back. The son was playing and accidentally

pushed the father, and they both fell into

the water, the current dragging them away.

Another father son duo drowned in a well

in their own front yard. The son drowned first,

the father drowned because he jumped in

to save the son. Expert swimmers,

all the these people.

 

My mother remembers the son who

drowned in the well, as the boy who

ate salt, when there was nothing else

to eat. He never complained. As if it’s a virtue

that should have given him a longer life,

but the grim reaper only knows how to kill.

Your virtues aren’t of any use to him,

nor are your talents. It’s why swimmers

also drown and die. Swimming is not

a survival skill, after all.

 

Just when you think that we are done

with all the drowning stories, and are

ready to move on from another death

that did not happen to us, Aai comes up

with a new one. A relative who was part

of a big circus crew in the ‘60s, once

drowned in the Arabian Sea. Now,

don’t ask me if he was good at swimming

or not, I don’t want to spoil the story.

 

He drowned and the family looked for him,

waited for the sea to throw him back,

the sea always gives back, whatever it takes,

Aai said. But the sea seemed to have eaten him.

And digested his bones.

Twenty five years later, when his mom was

visiting the city of his drowning,

she saw a shop, named after her son.

So, she went to the shop, and there he was,

her drowned son, who the sea did not return,

selling groceries like it is the most obvious thing.

 

Once you drown and come back, how else do

you survive, if not by selling survival itself?

So there he was, reunited with his family again.

People do come back, says Aai thoughtfully.

Why didn’t he get in touch or try to find them

for twenty five years, I ask. But the story time

is over now. All questions can wait till the

next funeral arrives. 

 

 

Manjiri Indurkar writes from Jabalpur. She is the author of It’s All in Your Head, M published by Tranquebar, Westland. She is one of the founders of the Bookshelf Writing Workshop. Her chapbook of poetry Dental Hygiene is Very Important was published in 2017. Her debut poetry collection entitled ‘Origami Aai’ will be published in 2021 by Westland. Her works have appeared in places like the Indian Quarterly, Cha: Asian Literary Journal, Scroll, Indian Express, Poetry at Sangam, The Bombay Literary Magazine, Himal, Skin Stories, Indian Cultural Forum, and elsewhere

Poems by Judy DeCroce

Isolation

In this hour,

a year, long stilled—

guarded by stony air

everyday locking you in

narrows unchanged,

unreleased time—

days of one,

nothing more,

according to its will.

For Later–For Later

Old friends—before and after

                                comings–partings

words leave

as if nothing has happened most of my life ago

calm, flowing, feeding and feeling with

some grace in the changes

a surprise in knowing that yes,

elsewhere is waiting

echoing the days far away

towards these I move and falter

bending much—yielding less.

Judy DeCroce is a poet/flash fiction writer and educator who has been a frequent contributor to many journals and anthologies.Judy is a professional storyteller and teacher of that genre.  She lives and works in upstate New York.

Poems by Ken Cathers

 

pretty things

 

don’t know if

it’s finished yet

 

this pretty thing

I’m working on

 

has ignored me for days

disappeared

 

is out prowling

the village

 

may return with

a live bird

in its jaws

 

a small dismembered

rodent. . . one can

only hope.

 

is it too much to ask

for a few stolen lines

            a stray image

 

pray it doesn’t

scavenge too close

to the heart of the night

 

grow blind

with darkness

 

bring nothing back

but hunger

 

 

and Jonah

 

 

and Jonah

knew the whale

was sent

            for a reason

 

for him, who

couldn’t swim

couldn’t drown

 

kicked against

everything. and

 

the whale was

the world

swallowed him whole

 

took him to the one

place he had

to be   always

 

spat him out

unchanged

           

but hollow inside

blind this time

 

broken, remembers

nothing   almost.

 

waits to be

filled with voices

become other

 

wants none of it. . .

wants to be unchosen

sent back

 

awaits the unravelling

of days

 

watches the sky

for thunder

 

the ocean

for the slightest

ripple

            of whales

 

 

 

what it is

 

it is a blemish

that won’t heal

a sore that weeps

            clear liquid,

 

it is a pest,

irritant, will not

be ignored

 

something to pick at

pinch between fingers

like a flake of skin

            that will not tear away.

 

it is beyond

the realm of ointments

medicated cream

 

your doctor avoids answers

suggests prayer.

           

it matches all

the descriptions.

            leaks blood.

 

has become the focus

of every waking thought

            becomes larger

 

becomes something

you can

            no longer doubt

 

has acquired a name

characteristics. . . .

 

you curse

the gradual process

            of stages

 

resist the idea

that it is all important

all consuming

 

keep busy

wear long sleeves

high collars, avoid

 

the harsh light

that reveals

without mercy..

 

 

Ken Cathers has been published in numerous periodicals, anthologies as well as seven books of poetry, most recently Letters From the Old Country with Ekstasis Press. He lives on Vancouver Island with his family in a small colony of trees.

Poems by Sreejata Roy

 

Living in a house made of loneliness


In the midst of a city of unmet desires
Being thankful for the roof over my head
For the ever receding ground beneath the feet
Once in a while, a stranger or two walks past the window
Stopping by to exchange a bit of warmth
I bottle the moments in perforated glass
Like fireflies, to cast their glow
In half – hearted winters
When the smoggy sun sets to make way for a grey moon..
And the city descends to a drowsy slumber..
Or rises as blurry waves from the heated roads of an ever unquenched earth

I wonder and wait for the air to turn sooty enough

For a lone spark to erupt the city  in  flames

 

A Warning



Someday I am going to rip the throats
Not of those who bulldozed our possibilities
Through policies and bills,
Who profited from our blood
Spilling onto the oceans
Snuffing out millions of habitats,


But of those
Who derived no gain,
Who did not just stand and watch
Yet acquired a pleasure
by scraping
Us layer by layer
In doses of everyday matters

Who deliberately  ignored small requests
To heed which they were paid
In the first place

It is such bricks
That make those pillars stand
Over us.

 

Frightening Possibilities



I saw it crawl toward me
Bit by bit
Eating my insides out raw
The loneliness approached
As darkness grips
On the palling  twilight
Falling falling falling
Gaping as a howl
That devours the sunshine
To nothing

Creeping around you
As phantoms of a presence
That once was
Loneliness arrives
As you try to busy yourself
To distraction


But the porcelain vase rolls
Striking the ground with a shatter that breaks the silence
To reveal the  emptiness  it held.

 

Sreejata Roy is a PhD research scholar (2017-) at the Department of English, Rabindra Bharati University. She is also a lecturer at Jogesh Chandra Chaudhuri College, University of Calcutta. Her research interests include the postcolonial city, Indian English novels, Gender studies and cultural studies. Her doctoral dissertation focuses on friendship networks in the urban context of Bombay.

Kāthā: Unheard Female Voices from Ramayana

 

This is the final installment of a trilogy composed by Somrita Mishra, Aishwarya Dasgupta and Susmita Paul, with illustration from Subarnarekha Pal, who have come together to revive some previously unheard female voices from the Ramayana. Read them, hear them, re-think with them.

katha title illustratiion

Vaidehi

Susmita Paul

They are undecided about the way in which the fire will be lit. Some suggest that a pyre be built. Then they can look up to me as I stand tall on the pedestal of the pyre. Some suggest that there should be a sitting arrangement in the middle, so that the fire can surround me. It would look poetic, says the court poet. Whatever may be the fire arrangement, the washer man wants it to be telecast across the three worlds. “Then the milk will become separate from the water!” he had said, informed Urmila. Since the building of the pyre has started, no one has seen his wife anywhere. I overheard the maids whispering, “She feared being thrown into the pyre by her husband! What a shame!” Amidst all this commotion, he has not come across the guest quarters where I have been shifted since the last court meeting.

My first maid is of the opinion that this is a conspiracy that is being hatched against me. I yawn. She continues dusting. With her back turned to me, she says, “Which sane husband will put his wife in fire because of a stupid washer man’s comment? I say, memsahib, there is plenty of dirt in this curry!” I leap out of my bed as I remembered that I have left the curry uncovered. I planned to send it to him for lunch. I arrange the cushions and sink into them. No point in rushing to the kitchen now. The cat will have a good lunch today. “…and then there is also the question of an heir.”

O, I am getting so forgetful!

I need to send that letter to him. That is why I had planned to cook the curry. Without the curry, a letter will seem too intimate. Now what? May be it’s better to wait a couple more days till all this fetish over proving purity is over.

Gosh! I do not understand what these men want. That dupe wanted flesh but didn’t force himself upon me. And my husband wants to be a good king. He wants to put my flesh to test  so that there is no riot in the kingdom.

The grapes look luscious.

I pick one and put it in my mouth. I ask the maid to leave. She looks at me deeply and says in a ghoulish voice, “If only women could be left to themselves.”

As the clicking of her bangles cross the door, pass through the corridor and chime past the guarded entrance, I suddenly remembered the beautiful fish shaped eyes looking at us from behind the bushes. I  look vaguely at the grapes.

***

I look vaguely at the grapes as Lava and Kusha compete against each other over who could eat more. It has been years and yet no one called to check on me. No one. Not even the pigeon in my courtyard that used to follow me everywhere.

It is a pity.

Life in this hermitage is pretty peaceful. Well, for the most part I am allowed to be myself. I remember my childhood days in my father’s palace- carefree and self-absorbed.

I remember clearly it was the eighth day of the month of Ashwin.1. We were running around in the garden, competing against each other to see who can pluck the most fruits from the trees. Clambering up and down the trees, everyone was hoarding plenty. I stood in front of the grape vines for some time. It was virtually impossible to pluck grapes without someone’s assistance or breaking them completely.

I looked around.

My sisters were at the other corner of the garden. I burrowed my feet in the ground. I could feel roots growing out of them. I closed my eyes and focussed on my breathing. I could see a burning white light between my brows furrowing through the air. As I dropped to the ground, I held a bunch of the most luscious grapes that I had ever seen.

I felt a gaze.

Urmila’s voice pierced through, “Vai-de-hi, Vai-de-hi… where are you?”

I jumped across the fence and into the courtyard.

I ran straight into my father’s chamber across the hall.

There was no secure place where I could hide these.

I turned around and ran towards the official courtroom. I knew a place where no one would find these grapes.

I held the table with the bow carefully with one hand and hid the grapes underneath it.

I felt that gaze again.

I quietly turned around and met it.

My father was standing at the corner, looking at me. I could see that he was trying to appear only amused. I couldn’t understand what else he had in that smile.

Urmila’s voice, “Vai-de-hi…” snapped me out of further thought.

I put my finger on my lips as I smiled at my father and ran out of the room with a spring in my steps.

***

Lava and Kusha immediately spoke in protest.

“She is not only our mother, but also our Guru. You cannot challenge her without confronting us!”

“Guru?”, he asked surprised.

“Yes. Though we have been largely trained by Sage Valmiki in our military powers, it was Ma who first made bows and arrows from sticks in the woods and taught us how to focus and hit grapes ten feet away.”

“She is our first Guru. She taught us how to meditate and levitate.”

Ma helped us learn how to pronounce ‘Om’”.

Quietly I said, “Stop Lava and Kusha.”

Lava and Kusha looked at me in disbelief.

Having taught them to stand up for what is right all my life, I shouldn’t have stopped them. Having taught them to stand by what is right all my life, I needed to stop them.

I could feel the roots growing from the underground. I could feel it.

“It is time”, I said.

 

—————————–

1 In the myth of the Akal-bodhon (literally translates as untimely awakening), Ram prays to Goddess Durga to help him defeat Ravana in the inauspicious month of Ashwin in the Lunar Calendar (India). On the eighth day of Ashwin, Goddess Durga appeared in front of Rama, pleased by his devotion.

Susmita writes in English and Bengali. Her works in English are upcoming/published from/in Indie Blu(e) Press, “Headline Poetry and Press”, “Montauk”, “Learning and Creativity” and Plato’s Caves Online. Her published books are Poetry in Pieces (2018) and Himabaho Kotha Bole (When Glaciers Speak) (2019). She is the Founding Editor-in-Chief of The Pine Cone Review. Her personal website is www.susmitapaul.org