Corinthians 13.11 “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I
understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a
woman, I put away childish things”.
She was dropped on the earth like an imperfect midnight
song, her shrieks, and cries ending on plummeting notes. “Look
how she cries as if she would suck the entire earth.” An elderly
aunt remarked, seeing the infant for the first time.
The youngest girl of the family was odd, uninvited and
brittle like a torn page of an old, dilapidated book. “If you really
have to choose between saving the mother and the child, please
save the mother”, they had said hours before she emerged, a tiny
mass, in the operation theater.
A truant girl with thick glasses, she runs and stumbles over
unlikely places, rusty bicycle spokes, smelly insect repellants,
smudged kitchen utensils.
“Arey, chhnuye felishna, ogulo shob entho, nongra” (Why did you
touch those utensils in the kitchen, you dirty girl? Don’t you
know they have our leftovers?) Elderly voices scream, at the
sink, at the open courtyard.
As the evening tiptoes, she reads in her science textbooks
about the planets, the moon, and the galaxies. The moon is a
teardrop away; with her hands, she carves a long, imaginary
smear on the sky’s elusive contours. She stumbles and falls again;
the threshold of the brick and mortar world summons her,
rebuking, severe. It is the world where nobody holds on to dreams
In the mathematics class, everybody is solving algebra
problems, their minds straining to internalize numbers, their
strange, calculated concoctions. The hands are crafting words,
shapes and colors in the back pages of the algebra copy,
weighing their beauty and sanctity in the finite space of the
“Aye brishti jhenpe, dhaan debo mepe/Aay rimjhim borosharo
gogone” (Come soon, dear rain, I will bestow you with my
harvest. The monsoon sky beckons you)…..the Bengali rain
song swirls and twirls in her mind, lovely, rich, buoyant. The
lilting music sucks her away from the finite space of the room,
outside the precincts of the school, to a drenched, green yard.
A sharp, tingling pain in one of her cheeks, followed by a
sudden, hard slap. The world of music and rhythms dangling in
the page, have been torn and crushed, like submissive dirt. After
the ‘time out’, she tries to hide beneath one of the benches in
the class, become a pale white corpse nobody would notice. The
room around appears as a scrunching reality of a space, a tiny,
blurry dot. Poetry, to her, is not a way with words, but a way of
talking to her life, to the earth and the cosmos.
Dreams have chased her, or rather, does she chase
dreams?….. “Good acts will give you good dreams, remember.”
A motherly whisper lulls her to sleep… She has all kinds of
dreams: angel dreams, demon dreams, crisscrossing in the
narrow by-lanes of her sleep. Dreams in which a part of herself
is slashed in pain, dreams in which she has been chaperoned by
a resurrected self, dreams where she has picked up her fallen,
slain self. In dreams, there has been a carnival of absolution.
In dreams, the evening soap operas have had wings, the
black-and-white television set has been a paper boat sailing in
the summer wind; cadence and rhythm have burst in sudden
rain, in poetry.
…..The household is a strange, solemn concoction of mad
rage, empty sobs, and nothingness. Nothingness encompasses
the petty family fights, the sharp, stabbing pain of the slaps of
Sunday morning defiance.
“Why argue at the slightest chance? Try and respect
“Why shout and dress like a man? Cover yourself properly
like a respectable girl!”
“Remember, no defiance will be allowed inside the house!”
The voices collide with each other, as she hides in the attic