Thirteen Factories Museum

Chrestomather | December 7, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

 

Dear Mr Ghosh,

I noticed on your blog that a number of the readers of the Ibis Trilogy have enquired about what now remains in Guangzhou from the scenes that you have described in the books. I was also inspired to visit Guangzhou in November 2017 after completing a reading of your excellent Ibis Trilogy books.

I thought that your readers may be interested in the fact that the Chinese Government has now opened a new museum on the original site of the ‘Thirteen Factories’ It is called the ‘Quangzhou Thirteen Hongs Museum’ and is dedicated to presenting the culture and history of the development of the Thirteen Factories. The museum houses a fascinating collection of around 1600 artifacts including glazed porcelain, mahogany furniture, embroidery, silverware and numerous watercolour and glass paintings, etc.

 

 

Photo: Dr Jasbir Gill

 

 

I would highly recommend a visit by anyone interested in the history of the Opium Wars and the activities of the Thirteen Factories.

Regards,

(Dr) Jasbir Gill

 

 

 

 


Two Assamese Novels

Chrestomather | November 28, 2017 in Current Reading | Comments (1)

 

Rita Chowdhury’s compelling historical novel, Chinatown Days, is about a community that was founded by a handful of Chinese workers who came to Assam in the 1830s at the behest of the British East India Company, which was then attempting to establish a tea industry in India in order to reduce its dependence on Chinese tea. The descendants of those early migrants became a thriving and prosperous part of the ethnic mosaic of Assam. Its members spoke fluent Assamese and developed deep roots in the soil of the region. After 1947, they regarded themselves as citizens of independent India. But then came the India-China War of 1962 which stirred up a maelstrom of anti-Chinese prejudice. Chinese-Indians were arrested en masse and sent away to internment camps in distant parts of the country. Their links with their former neighbours were forever sundered and they were set cruelly adrift in the world.

Chinatown Days tells this shocking story by following the life-histories of a few characters. Rita Chowdhury is an energetic and empathetic story-teller; her novel is a moving saga about a terrible injustice wrought upon a group of blameless people.

Originally published in Assamese, in 2010, under the title Makam (taken from the name of the principal Chinese settlement in the region) the novel was hugely successful: it was re-printed ten times in its first year of publication. The English translation, which appears to be the work of the author herself, is thoroughly readable: the simplicity of its diction is a perfect match for the directness of the story.

 

 

Soon to be published by Pan Macmillan India, Chinatown Days deserves to find a wide audience, not only because of its many merits as a novel, but also because it tells a story that ought to be better known.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jangam (‘The Movement’) is a translation of the late Assamese writer Debendranath Acharya’s novel about the exodus of Indians from Burma during the Second World War. Jangam won a Sahitya Akademi Award in 1982, and to the best of my knowledge it is the only Indian novel devoted entirely to this sadly-neglected episode in modern Indian history. As such it is a historical document of inestimable value.

The novel has been translated by Amit R. Baishya, who is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Oklahoma. In his introduction, Amit Baishya writes: ‘I learnt that the author composed the novel from childhood recollections of conversations with returning soldiers and the personal research he conducted, especially at the British Library when he attended a school for engineering in the UK. Given the relative paucity of accounts by Indian survivors, Acharya’s views on the exodus may have been coloured by the material he had access to.’

Unfortunately the novel is marred by prejudiced and stereotypical depictions of Burmese characters. Nor is the text always well-served by the translation, which is riddled with infelicities and simple errors (for example, the name of the town Myitkyina is rendered throughout as ‘Misina’; Hoolock gibbons are referred to as ‘Hooluk monkeys’ etc.).

Nonetheless, Jangam is an invaluable addition to the existing literature on the exodus from Burma and the book’s translator and publishers (Vitasta, New Delhi) deserve our thanks for making it available to the public.

 

I am told that The Glass Palace served as an inspiration to both Amit Baishya and Rita Chowdhury: this is, of course, deeply gratifying to know.

 

 


letter on the behaviour of vines

Chrestomather | November 25, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

 

Dear Mr. Ghosh,

I just read your notes about vine behavior in your masterful “The Great Derangement” and thought you might be interested in the following. I study vines, but over the past decades my research has become focused on tropical forest conservation and rural development through sustainable management for timber, principally in Southeast Asia. As a side project I study sea level rise in Florida (see the attached popular account of this work).

VINE BEHAVIOR
Sequential expansion of cells around the perimeter of terminal buds of most plants causes elongating shoots to circulate. Because the sequence progresses in an anti-clockwise direction, the circumnutation spirals of most plants are also anti-clockwise. In most species, the radius of the arcs of a circumnutating shoot tips are usually less than a few centimeters, but in many vines, the paths follow by ‘”searcher” shoots and tendrils can be exaggerated by an order-of-magnitude. In under an hour in completely still air, the top 10-20 cm of a rapidly growing vine searcher shoot might follow a circular path 20-40 cm diameter in under an hour. Vine shoots and tendrils that encounter an obstacle within their circumnutation spiral continue to revolve, which is how they attach to trellises. If the obstacle is too large, the angle of ascent is too shallow for the stem or trellis tissue to support against the pull of gravity, and the attempt at climbing fails and the plant falls. (Note that contrary to the old song about the morning glory and the woodbine, it is NOT because she twines to the left and he twines to the right.)
Naturalists have long noted the phenomenon of circumnutation, and I recall that Darwin wrote about it in his book on climbing plants, but I found a series of papers on this topc by researchers from the University of Besancon in France to be particularly intriguing. I do not currently have access to my files, but as I recall, back in the early 60s, Professor Baillaud wrote a tome about the behavior of climbing plants. In that monumental work, he described how when circumnutating vine shoots and tendrils detect the presence of a potential trellis in the vicinity, they switch from following a circular path to an oval, with the long axis oriented toward to the potential support. In a very French manner, he was apparently comfortable describing the support-foraging shoot tip as having detected the “essence” of a support, and change their behavior so as to increase the chance of making contact.
You should note that I never had the pleasure of meeting in person any of the people about whom I am writing, and presume that they are no longer living. In any case, I will take the liberty of “connecting some dots” so as to make sense of the drama that unfolded over the decade after Baillaud published his seminal work.
Continuing the work on vine behavior under Baillaud’s tutelage was a young man by the name of Tronchet. In a paper published in the same journal, which was presumably based on his dissertation research, Monsieur Tronchet described the results of an elegant experiment in which he explored the “essence” detected by circumnutating shoot tips. He demonstrated with a column covered by wet cloth soaked in bark extract that the shoots detected the presence of potential supports chemically.
A scant year or two later, Madam Tronchet, presumably another student of Baillaud and the wife, or soon-to-be ex-wife of Monsieur Tronchet, refuted the latter’s findings. When she presented circumnutating shoots with clear glass columns that were dry, they also elongated their path towards the potential support.
I am not aware of any really definitive follow-up to this research, but by piecing together what is known from related more mechanistic studies, I believe I can explain this phenomenon through invocation of the gaseous hormone, ethylene. In response to even very low concentrations of ethylene, the cellulose microfibrils that strengthen cell walls in plants become arranged randomly, rather than like hoops of a barrel. Growing plants release ethylene, which accumulates where there is some obstacle to its diffusion. Cells with randomly arranged microfibrils expand equally in all directions whereas cells wrapped with parallel (horizontal) microfibrils elongate more than they increase in girth. This differential expansion causes the shoot to bend towards whatever it is that causes ethylene gas to accumulate.

Beautiful, no? I am thrilled by the way that when science reveals some underlying physical explanation for an observed phenomenon, it becomes even more fascinating. I hope you agree.

Looking forward to your next book.
Jack


‘Living with Disasters’

Chrestomather | April 9, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (1)

 

 

 

I just finished reading Amites Mukhopadhyay’s

 

 

Living with Disasters: Communities and Development in the Indian Sundarbans (Cambridge University Press, 2016). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mukhopadhyay’s study brims with insights into the life and culture of the Sundarbans. Of special interest is the author’s account of the impact of Cyclone Aila, the devastating storm of 2009. This is exactly the kind of ethnography that is required for this era of climate change.

 

Amitav Ghosh

April 9, 2017.

 

 


Letter from Amsterdam

Chrestomather | March 9, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Dear Mr. Ghosh, 

I recently came across your Ibis trilogy and read them all in one go. I was just mesmerised with both the story and learning about the history of the place and time it is set in. These books now belong to my favourites and I just want to thank you for the weeks of enjoyment and the valuable history lessons. 
After reading your books, I discoverd a historical painting of Canton’s foreign enclave tucked away in my hometown (Amsterdam)’s Rijksmuseum. The picture you painted in my head perfectly fit the actual painting when I saw it and staring at that painting, I could just see all the stories that took place there, just wishing I could go back in time and visit all those places myself. 
Thanks again for sharing your talent and knowledge. 
Best regards,
Jeroen


‘We are really running out of time’: a comment on my co-authored piece in the Guardian

Chrestomather | February 10, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

 

 

On January 31st, Dr. Aaron Lobo, a marine conservationist, and I published a co-authored article in the Guardian, entitled Bay of Bengal: depleted fish stocks and huge dead zone signal tipping point. The article has had many shares and comments as will be evident from the comments section at the end.

I also received an email from Dr. Naveen Namboothri, a marine biologist and founding trustee of Dakshin Foundation, an organisation that aims at informing and advocating equitable natural resource management

It is posted below with the writer’s permission.

Thanks for sharing. Amitav. It is quite scary indeed. And to imagine we managed most of this in the last 70-80 years! Anthropocene indeed!
Being a marine biologist, I have always believed (and still do albeit less convincingly than I did probably 3 years ago) that oceans are extremely resilient and can bounce back. But we are really running out of time and undermining the inherent reslience of our great oceans. To top it all, development policies are totally insensitive to such concerns and doing a great job of exacerbating such situations. There are only a handful of people who seem to know the issues, fewer who want to do something about it and even fewer who know what to do. While science can inform us of the challenges, it has little to offer in terms of solutions. Mainly because science has few answers. 
I agree that this as a social, developmental, political and ecological problem which needs not just the will at national and international levels but also the participation of the local communities at a ground level. While the first two may materialise when the proverbial “shit hits the fan” happens, the third is a mammoth challenge that requires a massive movement at the grassroots with a very crucial role for civil societies.  Given the current welcome the civil societies such as ours are receiving in India, I am not sure when and how that will happen.
Sorry for the rant, Amitav but once in a while, the frustration does get to me. 🙂
Best,
Naveen.


Victor Rangel Ribeiro’s ‘The Miscreant’

Chrestomather | January 27, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Victor Rangel Ribeiro published his first novel in 1998, at the age of seventy-two. It took its name from a fictional village, Tivolem, and is among the finest novels ever to be written about Goa. Peopled with a richly varied cast of characters  it conjures up an idiosyncratic world of reclusive musicians, charming thieves and querulous village gossips.

In his new book, a collection of fiction entitled The  Miscreant, Selected Stories 1949-2016 (soon to be published by Serving House Books), Victor returns to his fictional Tivolem giving us fresh glimpses into the inner life of this unique corner of the world. What makes Tivolem distinctive is that the village is deeply rooted in its own soil while also being extremely consmopolitan: many of its inhabitants have lived in other countries and continents, often in far corners of the Portuguese Empire. Victor himself partakes fully of this cosmopolitanism having spent much of his life in New York. This aspect of his life is also well-represented in The Miscreant, which has several insightful and observant stories set in Mumbai and New York.

Once again Victor proves himself to be an accomplished prose stylist and storyteller.


Himalayan Cornucopia

Chrestomather | August 28, 2016 in Uncategorized | Comments (2)

 

The Centenary Farmers’ Market in Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan, is a cornucopia of fresh, organic produce:

 

 

 

P1040074

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

chilies (an essential ingredient in Bhutanese cuisine), dried P1040003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and fresh;P1040004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sichuan pepperP1040061

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sheaves of asparagus

P1040010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

celery,

P1040016

 

bok choy, spring onions; fiddlehead ferns,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P1040070

bamboo shoots,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

plump banana flowers,P1040056

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and ‘fireball’ chilies, red and green . P1040055

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the mushrooms are the real surprise:

 

 

a profusion of chanterelles, P1040051

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and huge matsutakes, P1040052

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

that grow P1040019wild in the forests.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The market is so clean P1040050

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P1040043that this sign seems unnecessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fruit section is a riot of colour P1040027

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P1040024and of laughter too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A stall nearby offers another Bhutanese staple, cured meats

 

P1040040

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and racks of black pudding.P1040041

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P1040039

 

Also on display are strings of dried yak cheese, a popular snack also known as ‘Bhutanese popcorn’. Nonno Tsesham tells us that one piece will get him through a three-hour film.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh cheese and butter

 

P1040033

 

are two other essential commodities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the local honey, collected from buckwheat meadows, is highly prized. P1040063

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having filled a shopping bag, we carried it to the restaurant of the Folk Heritage Museum in Thimpu,

P1040097

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and were soon feasting on sauteed matsutakes

 

 

P1040083

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P1040086chanterelles in chile-cheese sauce,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

stir-fried fiddlehead ferns,

 

 

P1040088

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P1040094and fried cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A delicious meal, magically conjured up and served by the restaurant’s friendly staff. P1040096

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Letter from Kolkata: ‘The Great Derangement’ and a recent storm

Chrestomather | August 21, 2016 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

I am Deeptesh Sen, pursuing my M.Phil. in the Department of English, Jadavpur University. I have always been fascinated by your novels — every character and situation you create has stayed with me over the years. In our department, we have often discussed your books in class. For our course on postcolonial literatures in our MA class, we discussed The Shadow Lines and In an Antique Land. More recently, we discussed in detail The Sea of Poppies while studying narratives of migration and the South Asian diaspora. I have always wanted to talk to you about your books but never had the opportunity during the few times we have met briefly after your book launches in the city.

But your most recent book The Great Derangement appealed to me in the most unique possible way. It is indeed harrowing to think that we as a generation, despite the advancements in science and technology that we have achieved, have chosen to be in denial about climate change. But The Great Derangement is about many more things, not the least being the irruption of the non-human and the sense of uncanny that lurks within the spaces of the everyday.

Your description of the tornado that hit Delhi in 1978 and how you had stared at the eye of the storm left a strong, lasting impression in me. But what stood out for me was the relationship you established between our denial to accept climate change and our inability to imagine situations of extreme improbability that can invade the everyday at any moment. This is precisely where your reference to the Freudian umhiemlich becomes even more relevant. Not only do the spaces we inhabit have a potential to surprise us at the unlikeliest of moments, we can safely assume that these spaces that we claim to know well carry within them the germs of the unknown. I have always read and re-read Freud’s essay on the uncanny with profound interest but as someone working on Lacanian theory, I feel it’s Jacques Lacan who pushes the theory of the uncanny to an interesting end. Since the repressed and the return of the repressed are two sides of the same coin in Lacan, in keeping with his idea of the unconscious(or the Subject as he calls it) being always on the other side of language of the speaking being, it is not difficult to re-affirm the idea that the spaces of the everyday simply carry/conceal the uncanny on the other side. I must thank you for making me think in this fashion.

I was in Shantiniketan last week when I was reading The Great Derangement and thinking along these lines. Little did I know that something extraordinary would happen in my life very shortly that would re-affirm my belief in the ideas expressed in your book. This is also the reason why I decided that I would write to you and share with you the incident as it happened.

A couple of days ago, I was returning from Jadavpur University late in the evening. I was in a state bus travelling down the Southern Avenue from Golpark when the sudden cyclone hit the city. All the vehicles were stranded and in front of our bus, a huge tree collapsed in the storm. The bus quickly tried to take the other lane to go back towards Golpark but such was the fury of the storm that another tree along with a light-post were brought hurtling down. As the traffic was completely stranded in both the lanes by now, I decided to walk till Kalighat. But that is when I saw one of the strangest sights in my life and was continuously reminded of your book. The Southern Avenue, one of the last remaining beautiful boulevards in the city, had by then transformed into an unknown, dangerous place. The trees lining the lanes which make it so beautiful had turned the avenue into a virtual death-trap — the huge trunks were collapsing like a pack of cards on both sides of the road. They were also bringing down with them walls or light-posts and the fallen overhead wires left people in the danger of being electrocuted. To all the people walking down the Southern Avenue in the storm, or the line of makeshift roadside stalls, the familiar space they knew and loved had suddenly transformed into something monstrous and unimaginable. Even in the Jadavpur University campus, quite a few trees fell in the storm including a huge tree that collapsed opposite gate three causing the death of a couple of people. My friends who had stayed back on campus later described the storm and the destruction it caused as incredible. The spaces we loved had chosen to unleash their uncanny side at the most unimaginable of moments. Interestingly, as I came back home and logged on to Facebook, my newsfeed was filled with people discussing how unprecedented the storm was during the monsoon. Everyone was reflecting on the strange weather patterns that the city had been experiencing recently and talking about The Great Derangement.

I would like to ask you what you think about this cyclone. There was forecast of rain in the city because of a depression that had formed over the Bay of Bengal but the storm, in all its fury, seemed more like a nor’wester when it hit the city. About 120 trees fell in the storm causing unprecedented loss to life and property. But man-made interference seems to be responsible for the destruction once again — according to a report in The Telegraph today, it was the laying of concrete and injudicious pruning that loosened the top-soil and weakened the roots of some of these trees. Any storm can now cause grievous damage to people in the city.

I can very much relate to your idea of how the bourgeois world view banishes any form of improbability from the everyday. I thought it was very insightful to link it with why realist fiction has largely struggled to accommodate the issue of climate change. I was slightly surprised you did not mention your novel The Calcutta Chromosome at that juncture because it is one novel, I think, which pushes the narrative possibilities of the genre to its limits. The 20th century indeed witnessed what Weber calls ‘rationalization’ as you mentioned and there is a valorisation of the everyday in modernist literature. There was, as you pointed out, an intense focus on the personal, instead of the collective, in modernist literature with the rise of psychoanalysis in early 1900 partly being responsible for this. When Virginia Woolf wrote about trying to capture the incessant shower of atoms on the human mind, she was in a way laying out the essence of the direction that modernist literature would take.

Interestingly, I first experienced this bourgeois sense of complacency and hubris when I first took admission in Jadavpur University about seven years ago. I came from a modest background and was a part of a class and generation that worked its way into affluence due to the economic liberalization in the 90s. For me, to find myself among friends who have belonged to an elite, educated class for generations and possessed a great degree of social and economic capital was profoundly unsettling. As I slowly began to adopt to a more liberal, bourgeois culture, I learned that there was very little space for fear or doubt within their world view. The tiniest of things that I had seen my parents be anxious about were done with a great degree of confidence and nonchalance by the bourgeoisie. It was almost as if, in their world view, nothing could go wrong. I developed a great deal of admiration for this aspect of bourgeois culture until years of reading and experience made me re-visit my ideas. The valorisation of a certain laid-back attitude (an euphemism for indolence?) came from, I learnt much later, the socio-economic realities of the leisure class. And things did go wrong — a friend of ours lost his life in an unprecedented way in a personal tragedy. People I admired stooped to perform the basest of acts which I deemed to be unbecoming of the culture I had so admired. All these unprecedented moments brought back the possibility of the improbable in our lives until I understood that the banishing of the unpredictable was nothing but a great bourgeois hubris stemming from years of entitlement and anthropocentrism.

I am sorry if this has been too long. But your book made me think and it was the cyclone a couple of days ago that made me decide to share these things in detail with you. I will be very glad if you could find time to respond to this.  Also, I was looking forward to the book launch at Jadavpur University. Both Samantak-da and Professor Sugata Hazra are people I know and admire and I was looking forward to the session at Vivekanada Hall. But a bout of viral fever made me stay at home at the last minute and I was terribly disappointed to miss the launch. I hope there will be a more opportune moment for me to meet with you in person and discuss in detail about your books the next time you are here in the city.

Thanks,

Deeptesh Sen


Letter from novelist Aruni Kashyap re ‘The Shadow Lines’

Chrestomather | August 19, 2016 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Aruni Kashyap

The letter below is from novelist Aruni Kashyap, author of The House With A Thousand Stories  (Viking/Penguin, 2013). It is posted here with his permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Amitav,

I have told this to numerous people and have also written briefly about it but strangely, never told you that The Shadow Lines is one of the most important novels for me. I read it at a time when I was disillusioned with literature. I was planning to return to Assam to study in History in Cotton College, Guwahati, where my mother teaches Assamese literature. It was 2004, my first year at St. Stephen’s. I felt I was such a misfit. Most of the people had come from elite families, and it seemed there was no space for someone like me. Thanks to my parents, I went to a good school in Guwahati, but I had very humble upbringing. We didn’t know it was humble. We thought we were quite better off with so many books around! Just to put things in perspective : when my father received his PhD in 1998 (on human sacrifice in Assam’s religious practices!), a meeting was organised in our village where hundreds of people came to listen and “see” the first PhD from that region and more so because he used to work as a bus conductor during his MA days to fund his studies. My mother had a harder life : they were urban poor. She could study this far only because there was something called “britti porikkha” in Assam that waived tuition fees for students who did well in schools and colleges. For years, she went to school hungry. They had a few plantain trees at the back of their houses. On better days, she would go with her uncles to pluck some of them from the trees, and soften those by punching to eat before going to college. She didn’t have the money to buy textbooks so she would borrow the textbooks from her wealthier classmates, buy plain sheets and copy those textbooks down. Those handwritten “books”, stitched nicely with cotton threads, remained in our house for a long time – to serve as a privilege checkers for her children. I was so embarrassed of those stories in my first semester at St. Stephen’s. I was worried people would find out and make fun of me and to top it all, I had to read Dickens’ Hard Times which was just awful. I couldn’t bring myself to “fit into” the the atmosphere at St. Stephen’s. I also felt stupid. Everyone seemed more intelligent than me and I was scared to open my mouth in class. I decided to return to Assam to my parents’ horror and told the professor I still admire and still in touch with. Feeling free, I thought I should read a novel just to enjoy and not to analyse it. I picked up The Shadow Lines. The lectures on the novel hadn’t started yet and the intimate, inviting, funny voice of the novel, Tridib’s gastric, Ila, Mayadebi – all of them enthralled me. I don’t know what happened but that novel churned something in me and I stayed back to complete my course and I know, I wouldn’t have been a writer today if I hadn’t read The Shadow Lines. It is one of the most important books in my life. Thank you for writing it. That day in October 2004, when I was reading The Shadow Lines in that room in Rudra North, I had no clue I would connect with you. Your letter is so important for me.
 
Last year, I brought my mother to Delhi for treatment in Medanta. She has an unfriendly kidney, that hasn’t turned hostile yet thanks to regular check ups and I hope it wouldn’t. I was so shocked to see her. I thought about the woman who punched on plantains to soften them before eating to quell hunger and still did well in academics, who remained awake on rainy nights with pots and tumblers collecting water in the house because they couldn’t afford a new sheet of asbestos, and went next morning to sleep on highways in front of oil tankers during the Oil Blockade Andolon. I was so saddened. I wrote a poem thinking about those stories that I am no more embarrassed about. I am pasting it below. I hope you will like reading it.
 
I hope I see you again very soon!
Best,
Aruni
 
 
 

MY MOTHER BRINGS THE RAINS

My mother brings the rains to scorching Delhi, even
before she lands. The skies wear cigarette ash,
goats bleat, winds create funnels with the sand,
and even green leaves break-up with branches.

In her city,
she was the famous beauty. Men
stumbled when she walked,
women asked her what she ate, what she
applied on her skin, marvelling
at her elephant-apple rinsed silky hair; but
she had no secrets to share, and
refused to tell them her sorrows.
Years later, unable to leave the bed for months,
on her way to a faraway hospital before
the days of cheap long distance calls,
my father bought her a notebook.

Write, he said. For yourself, for your son,
Otherwise how will he know?
How will he know about
your Muslim lover who was beaten up by your brothers
for loving you, about the poet who wrote a new poem
every night on a different classroom desk
until there were none
left to pour out his heart, the geek who made you the protagonists
of his fiction but didn’t write reply poems like me?
How will he know about your empty stomachs,
the mustard oil you applied on your face, the
bitter juice you drank every morning for that
golden skin, that men could kill for? Sit up

write that you slept on beds from where you
could count the stars, that rains meant placing
tumblers on strategic spots of the house, and staying awake
with a mope made of old bedsheets. Write about
Rebellions and oil blockades, about
farmers who rushed to the streets of Hamdoi
to kill landlords. Spend the ink

if not for yourself, for your first born,
who you worried wouldn’t have a sharp nose
like his maternal uncles,
for you married low,
for love, for ideals, for protest marches
and poetry.

Rathalla Review, Spring 2016
 
 



ucuz ukash