POETRY EDITOR ANANYA S GUHA’S NOTE:
Jyotirmoy Prodhani’s poems have a yearning rusticity about them. They hold dialogue with people and place and evoke sights, sounds and smells. They are indeed rites of passage. Gently the poems draw you to a cadenced, measured rhythm and lyricism.
When you inherit heritage
You also inherit its baggage-
Peeled off walls, cracked roofs,
Water pipes choked with peepal roots,
Electric wires hanging like loose ribs of a tired farmer,
Floors caving in,
As if sinking into a hidden pitcher of coins,
Obstinate doors and windows refusing to open.
In my era
It is constant construction –
Resetting the lilting limbs of the ancestral pride
Layers of lime and mortar, Damp Proof solution,
Rubbed with the hope to keep its mood dry,
Breaking and making the floors, walls,
Cornices and pillars adorned with intricate patterns and dulcet designs
Are all routinely replaced by commonplace straight lines with crooked finish
And a relief in managing to have it stand upright.
It is all about incessant ventures –
To keep looking at the flaccid shadows
Of the pampered house
And planning so many other things be done:
Inventing new methods every year
To stop water leakage off the roof,
For one hates to look up with bated anxiety
With a party of buckets,
As if a formal rite to respond to the rain.
One needs to go for ingenious ways to break walls
And fit new doors
For the original doors have become boundary panels
Of the newly demarcated lines of fresh separations.
Old heritage is a new geography too.
The actual entry is a backyard now,
The back of the house has come up with a tiny gate,
It is a front for one of the newly born parts.
And the old majestic well is gone,
There are several hand tube wells in every corner.
Water too gets new identity.
Trees have suddenly shifted from their places
And stand awkwardly at odd corners.
Some of the trees that used to be part of the boulevard,
Now stand in the middle of a road precariously counting its days.
The gooseberry tree beyond the brick wall
That used to be our prized retreat
Now finds itself in the back of a courtyard.
One looks at the new geography with awe.
It is all like a magic show-
The familiar paths turn into a labyrinth taking
Even a very confident walker to a strange territory.
The Ashoka tree has got a new address too,
And that old tree, we used to call ‘green sweet mango man’,
Is just fenced out to make ways for a new passage
And the beetle nut groove where ghosts used to come every night
Is a vacant croft where even spirits would fear to haunt.
Few years hence you never know
Which side the trees would move again.
Evening is the time
To roll the ropes for the plough,
Nurse the flippant flame on the hookah sillum,
Talk of the paddy fields that once saw
The spirits of ancestors walking by.
Next morning, even before the break of the day,
Time to take out the bullocks
With cattle plods and the yoke.
Every summer flute in the evening is a routine
Along the twirling of the dotora’s strings.
As winter arrives, it is time to collect seeds in a cane basket
For next year’s sake.
Every autumn, is the smell of jute reeds,
Spread out in the outer yard like a series of horizontal temple tops.
Spring is for the fields,
The time for dipping paddy seedlings in ankle deep slush,
Against the whistling of the rain.
The sense of belonging is to
Walk in one’s own paddy fields
The lore of time is to tell the tales
Of the ancient trees in one’s own homestead
But the teeming red flags have fenced them out
Reducing them into maggots
Sieved out off their ancestral ponds.
They want to come back home.
As the day draws into night
They too want to sing their songs
As they put to sleep their amazed grandchildren
They too want to weave the tales of their very own hills
As they sit around the warmth of the burning flames
But they are a tiny collection of souls
In a lonely landscape
They sleep to pass the night
Dreams have no meanings
Ambitions are sins
Yet they beat the drums in whispered rhythms
One day they would ride on the giant chariot
Into the kingdom of the sun,
So did the old man say to the toiling youths
Looking vacantly at the empty sky.
He walked down the ruined paths of upturned stones
And stumbled on the desolate posts
That lay like beggars on the edges of broken roofs,
Mystery perched on the dark crofts.
Amidst this ballad of tired earth
He tucks himself
Into the quiet lore of the forlorn bricks
And surveyed the plods of clay,
For he still believes that one day
Those clouds, huddled like a group of urchins,
Would burst into a chorus of wings.
If you still wonder as to from where this
Ordinal mendicant makes his entry,
Rest all your suspicions aside,
Because in a day or two
He would sprinkle his magic water
To turn the parched furrows
Into stanzas of sparkling corns.
Jyotirmoy Prodhani teaches English literature at NEHU Shillong. His published books include Creativity and Conflict in the Plays of Sam Shepard, Culture, Ethnicity and Identity (Edited), Modhupur Bohudoor English translation of Assamese short stories by Sheelabhadra. He has also translated and published Assamese and Rajbanshi short stories and poems into English. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org