A Foolish Thing Was But a Toy

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

so close.

 

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

room.

 

“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

elders!”

“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

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