Monologue 2020 – a Poem by Tapati Gupta

 

What am I ?

Just a unit in time.

A little more than a century now  since WW 1.

Looking behind me I see a vista of years

Torn asunder by strife, greed, cupidity, hatred, genocide.

Nature devastated in the name of progress,

Ravished and cropped with deadly poison

so that crops grow aplenty at the cost of your health.

There is of course a vibrating optimism,

A faith in scientific innovation for the good of humanity,

Stretching beyond the limits of the universe,

Traversing other worlds, ambitious for expansion,

Dreaming of making beneficent drugs from lunar rocks,

As if enough has not been done already to make life long

Till you live on without zest, sans teeth, sans eyesight, sans brain

sans all but a faintly breathing heart,

And when that malfunctions your life can still be ticking

with a battery powered machine.

The whole world is evolving towards artificiality

You are also experimenting how youth can be prolonged and ageing delayed.

You blame me for covidisation of the wolrd

But have you ever analysed your own misdeeds ?

You call me a bad year, the worst ever in living memory

Yet I am just a unit in time, an aeon in the panorama of Time.

The virus sure is more lethal than previous ones

May be it is nature’s experimentation on human guinea pigs.

You have used nature to serve your purpose of wielding power

On other species, other human enemies

 to kill whom

 you devised biological, chemical and what -not weapons.

You have neglected nature’s beautiful creations,

You have polluted beautiful minds, made them cry even in sleep

Yet you blame me for covidising the world!

I, 2020 have given you occasion for self-searching,

For submerging yourselves in sunshine and waterfalls,

In learning to trust your own abilities, utilize your gifts,

By missing human contact you will learn to hold hands properly.

I, 2020 have united the whole world in common misery,

I, 2020 have tried to erase boundaries and made science achieve

common goals for humanity’s benefit

I, 2020 seek to erase the carbon footprints,

To re-plant forests, dismantle walls that separate   blacks and browns and whites.

I am no prophet and cannot say whether you will safe-keep

 the lessons learnt for future benefit

But surely you will realise you too are part of nature,

 You too are agents for creating its rhythm 

Do you realise that you, and not the stars, have initiated this covidisation ,

You have encouraged and aggravated it

It is up to you to cleanse yourselves before the malady starts dancing in the universe.

Before it bamboozles your intellect.

Stop blaming me.

Let me efface myself peacefully into ether.

May you re-achieve the zenith of perfection

But do not forget me, the dauntless 2020

Build me a memorial with grass flowers and thorns.                                                      

 

 

Tapati Gupta is a retired Professor of the Department of English, University of Calcutta and former Head of the Department. An erudite scholar, a theatre, arts and music aficionado and enthusiastic photographer, she continues to pursue new interests with indefatigable zeal.

Flash Fiction from Pawel Markiewicz

I have dreamed during the whole night. A dreamy Erlking has come to me with his wizardry of muses. I opened my dear soul for his fulfillment as well as for the dreamery full of moonlit night. A shooting star became my best dearest friend such a weird of some druids… In this starlit night I feel a paradise in me. The Erlking, a ruler of thousand elves from a holt, told my the most marvelous story about magic not of this time. Listen to me! 

The meekest story

            A wise man in former times told kind, that there is the marvelous world behind a primeval Birch Grove, the so called woodland of Zeus, at each midnight. The gorgeous magical world  wakes and dies after seven hours of fulfillment of fire and warmth. There the magic is released, with that it pushes in the beautiful world with magic power. There is a silver queen of fire and volcanoes called the Loving of Silver Light. The charm repeats in each night. The Loving of Silver Light was once a woman from Sparta who lived in the ancient world in this city. She was popular with the Goddess of the most beautiful hunting, so that she liked wonderful forests. Each tree was  the most propitious trace of the nature which she liked which all of her heart. She spared life and her son was unfortunately sick and the Councilor Sparta’s decided to fall him in a mountain slope. It happened his will. The mother was for the sake of the love a lot of  worried and inner bitter, so that she fell into circular volcano to suicide. The goddess of hunting has her  meanwhile rescued.  She told her anyhow: Wait for moonlit ghosts, that will  You  carry the light of liberty. They come from Diana. All ghosts come only when a young dreamer throws down into the volcano a piece of paper with the meekest poem of magnificent tears. The simple woman from Sparta has become the Queen of the volcano and the fire. She had to sleep peacefully all days. She awakes withal every midnight, every time that the awoken and even so propitious moon  wakes her with it silver sparkle. For the sake of the warmth of the silver sparkle awakes her volcano-like ghost at each midnight withal longing and love for forgotten Sparta-worlds, for marvelous woodland and the fossilized goddesses  who have for ever  sunken. Her soul could not be freed, because she has become Apollonianly beautiful she-ruler. Her enchanted place was this volcano. There, at midnigh, some ghost of fire, water, air and earth had to find their silence and pleasure inside in the crater, before they flocked to the meekly propitious world, carrying the love, wonderful dreams, fulfillment and good feelings. Sometimes these powers argue with themselves because of the word-like malice, so that the volcano seems to become exploded.  The Loving of Silver Light liked the moon and its light. She has waited for the young dreamer and freeing through  Diana’ s ghosts. It was difficult to find this dreamer, because nearby nobody saw into the volcano in the dark, but moonlit night and threw no poem inside. In a gorgeous night a human from Poland Pavel came here and followed beautiful ways of she-wolves-songs and the ways, illuminated by lunar fulfillment. It led him in to crater of the dreamiest volcano. Er thrown a piece of paper, with the poem, entitled: “The rambler and the time-like roads of the Sparta”, because of the weird of the volcano, so that the Queen with the lunar ghosts have vanished with tender Diana’s ghosts. In the paradise she has become free and freed.


Since this time the volcano stops burning. It ferments not any more. Only the moon aches to illuminate kind for hikers their ways.

Paweł Markiewicz was born in 1983 in Siemiatycze, Poland. He’s formally educated in both law and German studies. Twice, he was the scholarship-holder of the Forum Alpbach: the village of thinkers in Tirol. He writes in Polish, German and English.

“Durga Pujo: The Occupation of Space and Time in My Head” by Ronald Tuhin D’Rozario

 

 

Time — I see its impatience — from the first rays of light almost between the interpretation of raag Bhairavi spreading carefully across the skies of my city in a slow yet steady process like making an omlette in a saucepan fold by fold till the dominance of night turns deep and I close my eyes.

As I grow older I gradually discover the presence of ‘timelessness’ stuck in the throat of time. I exist between two contrasting polarities for unknown reasons — my body begins in the month of April but my heart dwells between the Autumn of October.

I spell T- I- M- E between my fingers almost in a sense of search like Helen Keller. ‘Search’ is a lonely word — filled with anticipation but no certainty. And this search too sometimes turn futile and it seems impossible, and lost to me.

Light drags along the streets of the night. It stretches and moulds the iris as it wish to be perceived. I prefer to use the word ‘darkness’ as a synonym to sleep, for in light — my thoughts which are often ‘Hoh-Joh-Boh-Roh-Loh’ (in a clutter and a chaos) would retain sanity and form a shape which is easier to interpret, only in the dark.

I look at the street of the night and can almost feel the desperation in its inability to hold back human footsteps of the day. There is a sense of loss all over its surface. The mind begins to interpret the isolation of the street a little deeper — unconsciously, as if almost in tune with the senses. What I’ve discovered about human tendencies is that we always save a bit of us to live for the next day — we never tend to exhaust ourselves completely. In pillows, we end and from it, we begin. The head seeks something to lean on — for it is not only the thoughts that it carries but also the control of the entire body begins with it. In it, we conclude the ‘Pitripaksham’ within it creates the ‘Debipaksham’:

‘Baajlo Tomar Alor Benu’ /  The flute of your light plays on…

Ma comes home.

The final touches of the pandal are on. I can hear the rhythmic ‘Thok-Thok-Thok’ (knocks) of a hammer over a nail in the quest to fix the blocks. Perhaps, all these sounds are a part of the ‘Agomoni’ (Advent) too. I consider these sounds a prequel to the sound of the ‘Dhak’.

I look at the pandal of my locality — which is only a few yards away from my house. I always had a fondness for Durga pujo and have many memories attached to it. All these memories are raw and intense. This keeps me connected to my real self.

‘How can they identify the landmark years after years to occupy for a few days of prayer chants, smell, and worship? If it is their senses which confirms them to choose the space or the belief?’ I wonder about this reoccurring question in my mind. I look at the space that owns — vacantness, dust, and neglect for most of the year, suddenly gets a new face that draws attention during this time of the season and never fails to be the ground on which constructs a temporary shrine made out of — bamboos, cloth, ropes and tireless hardwork. Somehow — the earthen face of Ma Durga in the Kumortoli getting her details marked by the artisians turns prominent on my mind.

The rawness of halogen lights falling  over the pandal reminds me of a colloquial term in Bengali. Whenever there’s an excess usage of electricity, they say ‘current poorche ‘ (electricity is burning out). I draw to a conclusion — everything in use is burning out. Life is burning out and so is the tea when the kettle turns hot under the flames.

I discover autonomy in creation and into creating something and gradually come in terms to the understanding that — there’s a lot of giving away involved in the process of creation and creativity. A lot of the self gets burnt out, like this phrase in Latin: ‘Quod me nutrit me destruit’ (What nourishes me, destroys me.) and no longer remain in one’s inheritance alone, but divides to becomes a shared object between the admirer.

That’s how a work of art detatches from the creator’s ownership and becomes an observer’s admiration — That’s how a mother’s nourishment becomes the meal for her child in the womb, and her love for self gets traded between the family members. The image of Michelangelo’s ‘Pietà’ flashes in front of my eyes.

I begin to understand why the goddess doesn’t comes alone to her father’s house on earth but with her children.

While standing in front of the pandal, I inhale deeply the smell of this bamboo structure and the wood and the saw dust and all other things that forms this pandal. It takes me into the space of my childhood. I supress the emotions with a stiff jaw and savour the taste of it on my tongue for the remaining part of my life.

Strangely, these memories come alive in my mind only when I am standing in front of the pandal. Otherwise I fail to recollect them while sitting at home. There’s something about this place.

I imagine about the formation of the goddess from the soil and turning back to soil once the religious rites reach its conclusion — doesn’t it signifies destiny?

My mind repeatedly questions about the space: the pandal occupies — the soil that formed the goddess and the water she would return to after the festival — Can all these space be identified? Shall it be forgotten with heat, dust, and rain?

It amazes me how we create our own space within the space (universe), almost like rooms in a house and yet we eventually die in spite of putting in so much of effort in survival. If the space we occupy could be quantified, I wish to souvenir it.

Isn’t this what life is? To make memories and leave a part of us into everything so that we are remembered, when we are gone?

The rituals of Durga pujo comes to its closure. I remain awake to see the first rays of pre – dawn appear on Bijoya Dashami, as I have watched on Mahalaya while listening to ‘Mahisasuramardini’ on the radio. There is sadness in the sound of the dhaak just like the heart that feels heavy to bid farewell.

I feel a sense of tiredness in its sound as I try to listen very carefully and understand the pattern of its rhythm. I recite: ‘Dhina dhin dhak dhak, Dhinak dhinak dhak’ it goes in a repetitive slow and endless  cycle. Lights — sound — and the flames of sondhey arati, completes a full circle like drawing a diagram on paper using a compass from the geometry box — ‘Bisarjan’ / the immersion. Until next year. The worship with fire concludes in the ritual of water — sailing the goddess to her home in Kailash. I look at the water in my glass. I see a ripple inside the diameter of its circle as an insect struggles to survive after a fall.

By water we are blessed to life — into  water, we detach from life. It gives. It takes away too.

But I shall be buried like my ancestors. Shall I remain on earth like a tree to soil detached from all that has migrated to water? 

These rituals may not have any scientific reason to it, still, we believe in it because of our attachment to the person performing it or to the person for whom it is being done.

Every day before I left home for school, I would touch Ma’s feet for blessings followed by throwing my arms around her neck and kissing her cheeks. And she would not only touch my forehead marking a sign of her blessing but also bite the tip of the little finger on my left hand spitting on me, ‘Thoo, Thoo’ to ward off any danger.

The longing grows prominent to be amidst the known territory. Perhaps that’s how the brain confirms it as being safe — Home.

The longing turns distant gradually.

Like this line from Tagore’s poem: ‘Raat’er sab tarai ache diner aalor gabhire’ /All the stars of the night remains within the depth of daylight — I believe somewhere a mother still performs this ritual for her children.

 

 

 

Ronald Tuhin D’Rozario writes from Calcutta, India

Seeing through Sounds: Musings by Paloma Bhattacharjee

 

 

These days I look out of my balcony much more than usual. Moss grows all over its walls like Alzheimer’s disease. Sometimes while standing there, watching the sky change colors I think of a poem my father would frequently recite when drunk (in cannibal mutterings) – ‘If I die……leave the balcony open’. The poem has stayed with me. From our balcony you can see our lane; it makes up for an inability of a visual respite with a bricolage of amusing sounds it offers. My house is where the lane snakes inwards and then returns to bite its own tail.

The mornings here begin indistinctly, with one leg still in a dream. They begin with a hum of birds and those out for morning walk. Though this is abruptly cut short, by men whose days start by sauntering into the lane with toothbrushes stuffed in their mouths. The Assamese men’s’ fractured Bengali, the Bengali one’s caricatured Hindi becomes indistinguishable through the nauseating sound of their toothpaste clogged words. As they arrive one can also hear the stealthily retreating footsteps of those who until then were busy rustling with sticks their neighbour’s spilled over gardens’, ‘stealing’ flowers for their morning offering to god.

Our lane used to be bordered by sloping tin roofs, back when monsoon meant falling asleep to the thumping- pattering sound of rain on the tin. Now my lane is peered over by ever-multiplying balconies. A quarrel roars out of one of them every morning, until it is drowned by a collective cacophony, of chatting, a dog squealing in pain somewhere, screaming vendors and engines refusing to start. The man in the opposite house briefly interrupts all of this when he comes out of his house and caws like crow, louder than ten crows together! Till a flock of crows actually descend for food he offers in his porch. This is a ritual he begins his days with.

The rest of the day till sunset is an audience to the motley of distinct calls and songs of vendors. Their language-a strange concoction of dialects of Assamese, Bengali and Hindi having rubbed onto one another for years.

 The vegetable sellers make multiple rounds of the lane, singing out names of what they have got. The utterance of each vegetable’s name stretches over couple of steps and swings in the rhythm of the baskets on either side of his shoulders. Hearing him a woman from the window of her kitchen screams, ‘ Hey, Brinjol come here!’

Paloma paper image

It is the fish seller’s, whose declarations of arrival have the widest range. Sometimes they are met with louder ‘No No, Not fresh,’ but on most days the tempting echo of names of fish are enough to tickle taste buds and change lunch menus in the last moment. The fish vendor accepts the blame with his certification of quality, “take back your money tomorrow if it tastes anything less than what I say’.

One of the fish-seller’s sing out the names of his fish in such a grief stricken tone, I heard someone ask him the other day ‘why are you mopping like you’re calling out your lost fish?’ Then there are those whose calls are loud enough to be heard from two streets down the road. My old grand-uncle who sits in the balcony and reads the morning newspaper every now and then shouts back at them “Softly! Why can’t you sell your fish softly, my ears will burst?” the old man oblivious to their laugh that follows his audacious antic.

By late morning the iterant seller with a basket of plastic utensils and sundry will call out ‘horekmaal’, a common word for everyone who has lived in my city, Guwahati.  Only recently I’ve realize it’s actually ‘haar ek maal’. It’s strange how continual uttering often beat words into shapes of their sound.

By afternoon it’s usually calmer. All sounds seem to lull the slowness of it—the gurgling of pigeons, a far away echo of crows, the plinking of LPG cylinders rolling down from vans. Even shouting seems softer in afternoons.  Sometimes the confectionaries on wheels peddle around and sometimes it is the ‘ferry-Alla – the one with cosmetics and jewellery in a box that he carries like a suitcase on stick.  

But just like the tin roofs, many familiar sounds have not been heard for long now. The scratchy cry of the muri (puffed rice)-seller. The call of the Dhunkor – the person who refurbishes old pillows and mattresses, whose voice would be indistinguishable from the droning of his stringed instrument. Even the peddler who sharpens knives, scissors and blades hasn’t come for long. Except for today, when I suddenly heard a familiar sound from years ago. It was a flute seller. He walked around the lane with his bunch of flutes, playing his tune to the sweltering afternoon. Except it wasn’t the usual ‘pardesi pardesi jana nahi’ any more.

It was only recently that I read the Poem by Lorca for the first time, one that my father would recite – ‘If I die, leave my Balcony Open’. I realized the world the poet could see from his balcony – The little boy eating oranges or the reaper harvesting wheat – had to be evoked in the daylight, I imagine a sunny day. I was surprised for this was contrary to how I had always pictured the first lines of his poem, the only one I knew. For some reason I had imagined his balcony opening not to a warm lit day, but to the sad silence of an evening that follows after feistiness of a day ends. A dense silence except a distant murmur, a drunken man’s inebriated cuss and fading voices from televisions. A silence with no trace of the contagious sounds the day was marked with, like nostalgia without memory, or how the moss grows on our walls. I imagined so maybe because from my balcony I can see the silence of the evening un-remembering the day’s chaotic sound-scape, even if only until the next day, and that sound is the loudest of all.

 

 

Paloma Bhattacharjee is a graduate in history and currently works as a Research Assistant at the National Museum Institute, New Delhi. She has earlier written pieces for magazines such as Raiot, Eleventh Column, café dissensus everyday etc.