By Gargi Dutta
Running around in circles
I’ve been chased by the same malady – over time.
Each time I shook off the rubble
I saw a part of me in the cinder pile.
Severed from my body,
Astonished, I documented my
Getting shorter with each passing year –
I found inches missing
One winter night.
In broad daylight
I walked around on stilts
To make up for my lost height.
Tricking the world into believing
My laughter, convictions, ideas –
Making sure they appeared inviolate.
It takes a touch by the flowing river,
Soothing words of a hillside,
A nod from a familiar tune,
The unconditional warmth of an afternoon
Or at least a smile from a balmy evening –
to open up.
On such days
I count the gashes,
And pledge my love –
To the remains
Of my rapidly diminishing self.
Story of a Tree
The other day a battered woman sat in my shade.
Disillusioned and exhausted, she first cried
Then fell asleep –
Tired of putting on a brave face
Negotiating life’s tempests.
I longed to caress her head –
So I let a few green leaves fall on her.
Last month it was an old man with Alzheimer’s.
Returning from a stroll, he couldn’t
Make out which path led homeward.
Years of unconditional giving streamed from his eyes.
Now a child again,
He felt no shame crying
While waiting for help to arrive.
Sadness caused my trunk to crack from the sides.
Some more time ago,
It was a toy-seller, a hawker with his wares.
Sweaty with the day’s toils
His face was sunburnt with
Hunger, thirst and hopelessness.
He counted his meagre gains
Before heading home
To the welcoming smell of boiled rice.
Helplessly pleading with the clouds to rain,
I longed to make his weary listlessness magically disappear.
There was also a couple, parting lovers –
One afternoon, years ago,
Barely speaking a word –
Of either comfort or complaint,
They held hands.
Preserving their tears for
When their eyes would seek each other in vain
In the crowd
And come back home, bereft.
Pulling my branches close together
I secured them from prying eyes.
My usual fire-orange flowers
Bloomed blood-red that summer.
The old banyan stands strong
Its sprawling vines a barrier.
Left behind on the other side
Are bygone moments of frenzied onslaughts,
A bygone me.
A twilight –
the sky, awash in purple and orange.
The river – broad, unrushed,
It’s gentle gurgle
Washes away the noise, endless desires.
Tending to the ravages.
Thatched huts in a distance,
Mud ovens billowing smoke
In preparation for the nightly cooking ritual –
Earthy fare, cooked for hungry children
Hardworking peasants, ageing parents, serial philanderers.
Tolling bells bring me back to the present –
Stall my relentless pursuit.
Birds fly back home,
Urging my soul to inhabit my body
To fill up the weightlessness.
I stand midwater.
It takes me a moment
To track the garlanded earthen lamp
Floating within –
Lighting up the crevices, cracks, the broken bits.
Each scar a precious possession.
Gargi Dutta lives in Bangalore, though originally from Burdwan, West Bengal. She has taught as Assistant Professor in English Literature departments of two renowned colleges in the city – Mount Carmel College (Autonomous) and St. Joseph’s College (Autonomous). She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in English Literature from North Bengal University, West Bengal. During her free time she writes poetry and looks after her plants.
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