‘A mother’s love often fashions a kind of eternity’
– Requiem for a Son, Kamala Das
Tonight, I met the loneliest woman on earth, crossing
the slow moving traffic jam at Kalkaji. Her obsidian body
stood frozen in awareness of how grievously
her Shiva and Ganesh had wronged her.
Shaking her out of her imploding reverie I knew
I was part of The Helpless Dark. I knew it wouldn’t spill into
We shared our incapacity to console,
huddled at the edge of her narrow, weepy Universe. I lugged
her birdlike body, lending my pink kerchief,
looking at cobwebs beneath those eyes
gathering the muck and marrow
of all these fruitless years.
Watching her stand by the kitchen slab,
dabble in flour, make seventy chappatis
for chattering guests, an incandescent
flame licked her brackish elbow.
I sensed a certain something I still can’t name
come alive in her head. Leaping
from the kitchen-slab, running amidst guests
to get ice, I returned to the forgotten wound, now sacred
only to me, it seemed. I resumed my seat
over the slab watching alphabets float in dull gravy, wondering
if she had such burn-marks all over her body,
accumulated by the forgetfulness of memory.
Rummaging through left-overs she had warmed,
I broke her heart, refusing her hands
from feeding me. The burn mark stared,
still staring at her guilty prince. Insisting casually
that she too have another chappati, I felt
the power of understatements
communicate that which
would have destroyed us
had we understood
their meaning better
than we thought we did.
She knew she
had been wronged. I knew
the part I played.
*Was highly commended during the All India Poetry Prize 2014.