Jyotirmoy Prodhani’s poems have a yearning rusticity about them

POETRY COLUMN

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.

Shifting Trees

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.

Field Rites

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.

Dispossessing

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.

The Dispossessed

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

Aspirations, taboos

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.

Forlorn Bricks

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: rajaprodhani@gmail.com

Ananya S Guha

Ananya S Guha

Ananya S Guha works in the Indira Gandhi National Open University, Shillong (Meghalaya) as an Academic Administrator. He has over 30 years of teaching and administrative experience. He has six collections of poetry and his forms have been published world wide. Some of his poems are due to appear soon in an Anthology of Indian Poetry in English to be published by Harper Collins.