Thursday, 10 May 2018

DEVI

Crraashh! Khatak! Raina woke up with a start...it's still night, her fogged mind told her. But the room was lit up with a soot covered lantern. She squinted at the source of light through eyes still half shut. 'What on earth is the old woman searching for at this god forsaken hour?' she wondered. It was still night. She was bent over a box and taking out some bottles filled with liquids in multiple colors and hues. Eyes wide open now, Raina watched in consternation as the old woman poured a red liquid onto her hands and rubbed it over her forehead. Mumbling something under her breath, she then painted a white swastika in place of a bindi. Slowly she got up, picked up a statue-ostensibly of her goddess-and wrapping it in a shiny red dupatta with a gold border she turned towards Raina. Gesturing her to get up and come with her, the old woman moved out of the house.
'What does she intend to do? Is she some kind of a tantrik? God...is she going to kill me to appease her gods?' Raina shuddered in terror.
~~~~~
Raina was an avid traveler and amateur photographer. Having gained enough confidence, recently she had started traveling solo and exploring the countryside on her own. She had reached the old woman's village by the last bus the previous evening and asked a teenage girl sweeping her courtyard for a place to stay overnight. The girl told her that she lived alone with her grandmother and if she wished she could stay the night with them. Glad for the offer Raina had grabbed it immediately. She had been invited inside and offered a weak tea with home made besan laddu. The sun was setting and Raina wanted to capture the beauty of the village in the faint light of dusk. Her DSLR invited some curious glances as she chatted with overawed kids who had been escorting her to the small natural lake at one end of the village.
The old lady sat staring into nothingness when Raina returned to her shelter for the night. For a moment she had wondered why the courtyard was so huge when all they had in the name of house was three small rooms but immediately shrugged off the thought as irrelevant to her.
~~~~~
As she got up and straightened her crumpled clothes, Raina could hear loud chanting of mantras and prayers in the courtyard. Ostensibly there was a large gathering outside. 'Is it some kind of festival today? Or some celebrations?', she wondered while watching the devotees bow before the statue placed on a pedestal. A huge brass platter laden with fruits and sweets was kept in front of the idol. People kept ascending the platform, bow before the deity, offer whatever little they had brought, perhaps ask some wish before returning to their place amidst the milling crowds and joining in the chorus.

Raina tried asking the granddaughter about the occasion but she hushed her into silence. By now the chanting had grown into a virtual crescendo. Suddenly the old lady got up and started dancing to the beats as if under some trance. She started banging her head before the idol and mumbling again. Her hair came loose from the bun and a strong wind wrapped them around her freckled face lending her a mysterious aura. The devotees started chanting even louder, the dholak and manjeera played furiously. The old woman's head moved in circles now. People prostrated before her now, 'Devi mata aa gayi, Devi mata ki jai ho!' they chorused. The spectacle went on for half an hour, people offered more fruits and clothes, grains and even money to the 'Devi'. They begged for forgiveness for their mistakes and sins. And prayed for her blessings. The granddaughter distributed some fruits as holy prasad to the villagers who accepted with with utmost gratitude and divinity.
The old woman had gradually calmed down. The gathering also drifted away soon.
The offerings were collected by the granddaughter and put away inside the house. The old lady had washed away the paint from her face and was sipping some tea. Raina who had watched the entire spectacle in silence now gathered some courage and asked the old woman hesitatingly, 'Amma, what were you doing there?' She just smiled mysteriously and kept silent. But Raina was determined to make her speak. 'Please Amma, tell me.' she insisted.
'You won't utter a word to anyone? It's between you and me only?' Amma looked at her anxiously. She couldn't risk letting her secret be revealed to the entire village. Raina patted her hand reassuringly and repeated her question.
'I lost my husband a few years ago. We were married quite young and he turned out to be a tyrant. He would beat me often just like the other men beat their women. He would refuse to go to the farm, start drinking from noon and if I didn't respond to him the moment he called, he would kick me. If the food was not to his liking he would thrash me black and blue. We had a son who turned out to be exactly like his father-rude, uncaring and violent. He also had a roving eye and would harass the girls in the neighborhood. Their parents often complained to us but my husband fought with everyone and did nothing to correct the boy.' Amma let out a long sigh and fell silent once again. Raina waited patiently for her to continue.
Taking a sip of the stone cold tea, she picked up the strands again. 'We got the boy married to a beautiful girl from the neighboring village thinking that she would be able to reform him with her charm but he was a tough nut to crack. One day he molested a woman in the farms and her enraged husband chopped him to pieces there and then. When my daughter-in-law tried to intervene and save my son she was also attacked and she also died in the hospital a few days later. It was left to me to bring up this little girl singlehandedly.' she fumbled with words as she reminisced about those fateful days.
'What then? How did you become the 'Devi'? And why?' Raina prodded her.
'As you can see my granddaughter is turning out to be a pretty woman too, there's always the fear of her falling prey to the predators in our society. We also don't have any man in our family to protect her and our lands. After the death of my husband and son the village landlord manipulated the land records and started sending feelers to me to vacate my land since it belonged to him now. I refused to go away and instead lodged a police complaint. He kept sending his goons to threaten me but I stood my ground courageously. One day I was tilling my land alone when he came there with his men and started beating me. I fought tooth and nail with his men but I was hurt badly. As I lay bleeding from my wounds, they laughed uproariously and ran ruckus over my land. Determined to save my ancestors land, I got up somehow and started chanting the name of my goddess. They were amazed to see me stand up despite my bleeding wounds, the chants scared them and they ran away lest they invited the curse of the goddess. And then the idea struck me.....' the old woman didn't need to say anything more. Raina nodded in silent understanding.
Amma was finally at peace. Closing her eyes, slowly she lay down on her ragged bed. Finally, she could rest.

Friday, 4 May 2018

MAY

April singed
So I had asked,
May,
Will you scorch?

May says I donno!

May may be hot,
May may be cool.
It may delight us with breeze,
pleasant and gentle.
May may appal us with
storms and hail.

May is bewildered,
May is shocked.
Nature is furious,
Nature is freaked out.

The heat blisters,
Earth sizzles.
The copper sky turns dark,
Our vision is shrouded too.
Gods thunder,
Lightening frightens
the living daylight out of humans.

The nurturer is hurt and angry,
The oppressor is wounded.
Unsated quest for development
invokes the curse
of our procreator.
May sheds tears
In monstrous amounts.
And so do we-
the incorrigible morons!
We refuse to realize,
we're on the path to harakiri!

May,
May you forgive us?

May says I donno!

Saturday, 28 April 2018

ज़ुबानें

ज़ुबानें हैं, यूँ ही चलती हैं,
चलती ही जाती हैं,
बेखटके, बेधड़क, बेरोकटोक।
लम्बी, टेढ़ी, कड़वी, तीखी, मीठी,
क़िस्म क़िस्म की ज़ुबानें,
कुछ सुनी कुछ अनसुनी,
कुछ आँखों की,
ज़ुबानें।
मगर
ये कोई बहती धार नहीं
कि मैली ना हों।
कीचड़ से लथपथ,
ज़हर में डूबी,
पर मीठी चाशनी से लिपटी,
मानो कोई तेज़ धारदार छुरी,
पीठ पीछे ही नहीं
वार करती हैं
सामने से बिंदास।
ज़ुबानें,
अनदेखा अनसुना करने की कुव्वत
हर किसी शख़्स में नहीं।
#MotorMouths
#AcerbicTongues

Sunday, 15 April 2018

APRIL

April,
March
of promises is past.
Spring of rejuvenation
Is lost.
There's fire
In the squalid air.
And within me.
Flames of fury rise,
Stirring in frantic motion
A placid heart.
Asphalt on the roads melts
As inflamed feet stomp.
The sky burns
With cries for justice.
Hawk eyes
Squint menacingly
From behind
The silver screens,
Preying on
Innocent calves.
The horizon of hope-
Bleak with
acrid, ominous shadows.

April
You singe.

May,
Will you scorch, too?

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Elegy To Hope

On the bed
of a sombre leaden sky,
an elegy is written
in sheets of downpour
and hail
to the hopes
of a devout farmer.
Swollen clouds,
wrapped in a shroud
perform a funeral march.

God is
stark blind
to his dreams
and despair.