On the 28th of April

“Fifteen rupees-”
“What! Fifteen rupees?! Just when I said ten rupees-”
“Look here, do you want the tomatoes?”
“Ey, Shanta! Tomato mao?”
Tida tao, tida tao!”
“To tomato lagbe?”
“Na, ja chai ney neychi.”

A hand-cart pulls up beside us and we shuffle a few steps onto the footpath to make room for it.

I follow my grandparents through the streets around Lake Market. My grandfather’s face gets harder to read and his temper more unpredictable as he grows older. My grandparents bicker often, like they do over the colour of toast they prefer, but it is easy to see that there is still a fondness in their sixty years of marriage – a sort of fondness that is apparent in its absence in the marriage of my own parents.

 

 

Toast grows cold when it is left uneaten on empty tables, and there is no background chatter of Kolkata’s heat to drown out the silence of Bangalore.

Remnants

DSC00504

All that is left are names
And a flow of words continuously evolving.
Such is a now departed race.
All that is left are memories
Of a childhood in carefree greens
And of struggles, hidden and unseen.
All that is left of surprise
Is that of your grandchild’s face
When you slip into dialect unknown.
So lies the fate of a now forgotten race.

Day Five of Darshit’s Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge, which Sheth nominated me for.

Diaspora

Day 3 of Darshit’s  Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge, which Sheth nominated me for. 

DSC05674

As the bus runs past the blue plastic roofed hut,
The image of tales once told by the old
Of dhoti-clad, bare-chested artisans
Moulding forms of holy myths divine
And faces of doe-eyed goddesses
Lingers in my mind’s eye.
Their dark sienna skin is beaded with
The monsoon rain,
Their long fingers cup scared earth,
Giving birth to the mother
In a land and time not their own.

This picture is from the Durga Puja celebrations in Pune around this time last year. There are Bengalis everywhere in the world, divided only by geography.

Family

I’m almost entirely sure that Darshit’s challenge which Sheth nominated me for was supposed to be done on consecutive days, but sometimes real life interrupts the world of prose and poetry. So, here is Day 2 of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge.

Bloody Partition of India BBC Picture Men, women and children who died in the rioting were cremated on a mass scale_ Villagers even used oil and kerosene when wood was scarce

(Photo courtesy of the BBC)

Family

It was 1946 and the war was over. Twelve year old Bhushan had returned to Kolkata after a short stay in the Bangladeshi countryside during the bombing of the city. He settled down into the low bed in his room and looked out the window at the empty sky. It wasn’t too long before the chatter in the streets outside lulled him to sleep.

His father worked as an accountant with the British Police Force in Kolkata. He never spoke of his work at home. In fact, he never spoke much at all. However, Bhushan knew that one thing he could never bring up at home was the subject of his uncles.

The sound of slow, heavy breathing from behind him woke Bhushan up in the middle of the night. In the faint moonlight he could just about make out the outlines of three men sleeping on the floor. In a sleepy haze, he felt a familiar but elusive warm arm wrapped around him.

When he woke the next morning, the men, as always, were gone. He never mentioned the enigma of the disappearing men, but he had a feeling his father knew all about it.

Bhushan heard from his friends during a football match later that day that four men who shared his surname had been arrested for conspiring against the government. When Bhuhsan went to bed that night, he wondered if family really mattered in the end, especially when your father worked for the British and when your uncles were hailed by everyone else as noble freedom fighters.

Sure enough, he was not woken from his sleep that night, nor the night after, but the lingering warmth of the arm never left.

My grandfather once recounted his memories of his uncles, Swadeshi freedom fighters in Kolkata, India towards the very end of the independence movement. They used to creep into his home at night, much to the knowledge of his father, a British military intelligence officer for the British Police in the city.

I’m going to nominate  rhapsodicdelirium for this challenge, because I just can’t get enough of her work!