Bama


Have you heard the story of Faustina Soosairaj?
Shorthand, Bama
Longhand :

In 1992, a woman walked out of the gates of a convent
and a burning forest lost its wind.

When you place a system in place of the earth,
in place of a mother,
in place of family,
in place of village,
in place of a river,
you are cutting water with the colonised arms of your grandfather –
tired, and slowly, giving up.

Bama is a name that does not sit well in her own country.
Bama is a language they do not trust their children with.

Tomorrow,
when the newspapers open at the sound of a bird calling,
a life lost beneath the waves,
mud collected under the ashes and the rain,
Bama will be a mirror they will not want to look at.

What do we say of our families,
when we sit at the dinner table today,
emptying the food out of our plates,
and carefully slipping dalit history under the feet
of a wounded table, that develops a limp
without moving?

Bama is a language we do not trust our children with
Bama is the water we have denied the right to be offered

Under the street light,
a father reads out his daughter’s prayer
and no sticks break into two that night,
no homes are burnt down,
no river is run over by fire.

Bama becomes a welcome wrapped in the folds of the printed saris,
In the toes of the men, in the tiny palms of the children
Bama is the truth, a confessional, a language they are slowly learning to speak

When she wakes up tomorrow,
Bama will be the sword and its warrior,
The leaves sharpening its edges,
Apples ripening against the window,
Sunlight entering the bones,
A mirror she will always remember to keep clean.

In our homes,
before we sit at the dinner table,
we will rinse our mouths
and  completely remove Bama from our tongues.

Our uniforms soak in fresh water,
and the grime slowly crawls up to float.


Note : Bama Faustina Soosairaj is a dalit feminist and novelist who joined a convent, leaving her job to work towards the education of dalit girls, but faced discrimination even within the system. She left the school, and began her work on her autobiography ‘Karukku.’ When the novel was published, Bama was ostracised from her village for portraying the community in poor light, until her father sat them down to explain her message.

Northern Patrika (Allahabad)

 

Nothing remains unread here :
Overs missed, electric wire heating in the sun, acts revised.

Reading is a habit we developed too early in life,
Thanks to our grandfather, who slowly turns the first page
Holding tea in one hand – an accompaniment to watch
East Bengal burn as a child.

Roads have been blocked again,
New gulmohars bloom with the old.

Polls drop,
A window is rolled down to catch the wind

Three farmers lost their land today
Railways have new bedsheets, berths and bathrooms

Inside, tea leaves slip with grace,
Kettles boil without a sound,
A city washes its hands in its own river.

I Come From Autumn Setting In



Somehow the leaves never caught up
With the spring in my mother’s fingers,
And the newspaper lost a headline.

We collected seasons like a prayer,
and we were aware we were no Gods,
but the air remembered to leave
its dirty shoes behind
before entering our mouths.

Worms inhaled slowly, and died without knowledge,
and if we came from the same earth,
my father’s music would be the only music I’d love
but I  already missed a note behind.

How do you run to catch a whistle that you cannot hear anymore?
How do you run to listen to the wind?

Tell me, how do you run to save an autumn you’ve left so far behind.

Loudly Soft Dancing

And to say the least, I’m still,
A canvas floating in the air, as a city is pushed
Into the hungry mouth of a burning river.

Sometimes, they say, beauty is in the air around you,
And I forget breathing.

Bones like fish compete to swim,
And a mother becomes a body finishing the race.

But that is not certain, and to say the least,
I’m still – a breeze stuck between falling leaves,
A shadow caught beneath a wish
A dance     sometimes    forgotten
By a blade.

The Report Says

 

“It shouldn’t require a Syrian man on camera holding his dead twin infants for the rest of the world to pay attention”- A Daily Beast Reporter.

Add that to the report :
Some of the stars washed up
In small shoes*

Missing link to full report :
Some of the shoes point forward,
Or, some of the shoes grace heavenward,
Or, some of the shoes tie their necks around their own bodies,
And casually leave the laces open.

Death is sometimes a repose of the soul,
A scattered seconds hand that finally sleeps,
A vehicle that empties all of its fuel one night
A check-post where the guards
Have busied themselves with a radio

A child switches on the TV,
And watches his own burial begin,
Before the end of a spring when he was born.

A bomb drops and casually mistakes lives
for a toll booth, a runway,
and taxiing is an act known only by hands clasping
today, forgetting the name of their god.

Add that to the report :
Somewhere, a star lies,
its toes still playing with water beneath its shoes.

*The first lines are the last line of Maggie Smith’s Small Shoes.

Second-hand Gloves

 

Sooner or later,
some hands will need
second hand gloves, worn by gods
who have seen what snow looks like.
When that happens,
a daisy will bloom and die.
Run to catch its breath,
your gloves pulled back on,

& even the fireplace melting the ice
under your skin, will wait for you.

 

Mid-Air

Hope dangles delicately through the air

The drawing room is suddenly still,
A postcard is a symbol of an urgent prayer

Senders beware, there is no address in the receiving corner,
And heaven is a country, with too many families building homes.

I’m mid-way, a coin tossed,
A wish clinging like an old cardigan,
A nervous count to a verdict,
Each number whispering –

Stay. Stay. Stay.

 

(*Written from the point of view of a coin in mid-air).

 

rain (noun) :

  1. A clean shower dirtying a city, cars collapsing like past birthdays, shops opening their shutters.
  2. A unit measurable in the number of branches hanging heavier than the trees, like blankets slipping through the cradles.

rain (verb) :

  1. To fall
  2. To wreck a boat, a garden, a home.
  3. To leave.

Some Place Called Earth

Welcome to the planet :

This is where the bee sits quietly by the shore,
Do not mistake its sting for a lesson,
A mountain rising in your palm to climb to,
A boat passing by and turning into a photograph,
A fisherman carrying an empty net home.

This is where morning enters soundlessly through the window,
Do not mistake its recurrence for an opportunity,
A wave erasing a wish from the sand,

A bird sharpening its beak for lunch,
A bus arriving five minutes late to the depot.

This is where the god watches silently through the sky,
Do not mistake his temper for an answer,
A storm entering your father’s coffee,
A lightning stuck beneath the pillows,
A rain flooding your home.