Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Which side of the border? and fence? and angle?

All your shapes are drawn into paper
as jitter-quivery as brains;
your limbs flared out a little
for balance on the water;
someday no-one will bother
to ask what it all means,
someday all the borders will smear,
and where  will cease to matter.
I ponder the asking of questions
that really have no answer - 
the lift of pig-snouts in and out of  
the muck and melees of rains;
the blinks of streetlights climbing into dawns.


East Bengal or Mohan Bagan?
which of the narratives, dialects
do you speak at home, oh none?
yeah, your accent’s wrongly clipped -
where did your foremothers come from?
where are your descendants going?
what do you mean you don’t know
when our lives are being ruined
by borders drawn long ago?
how do you take your riverfood?
that’s the wrong recipe entirely!
The silver fishtail thrashes in the bowl,
the nib gleams in a sad chuckle.


An ad banner for a photo club says
to focus on the bigger picture
and then choose the smackro-ed details
to rub into an artistic blur;
someone like me in her status updates
has “control” paired with “gun”!
Somewhere a man holds aloft a banner;
near home the march of a million.
I ponder the building of echo chambers
that have no other options
except to return the same last words.
The domes and arches of your minds
fade away into the shadows.


Why do you worry about the murdered
halfway around the world
when your sisters are gang-raped
and your brothers killed
bloodlines can neither be erased
nor can they be re-drawn.
Sister, who do you call brethren
and which side are you on?
Specify your birthplace here,
and where is your deathplace?
The forms crinkle their eyes at me.
The ancient bones of pyramids crack
before the secrets spill.

For my readers who are not Bengali/Indian, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are football teams.  Bengal was partitioned into two separate nations based on religious lines during the independence of India in 1947, and there was massive displacement of people on both sides and horrific casualties.  The Hindus by and large came to India, and many Muslim families left their homes and went across to the other side.  Bangladesh has subsequently fought Pakistani control and become a sovreign nation in which struggle India too played a role. They celebrated their Victory Day on Dec 16.

The Partition is an event that Bengalis regretted then and some continue doing so now, it is artificial as the heritage and language and the culture is common. Even now, where an Indian Bengali has his roots - "this" or "that" side of the border, is an important part of his identity.  Signs of i.d. compliance, adherence to the correct protocols, supporting the "right" football team, cooking with the "right" recipe etc are given undue and sometimes quite ridiculous significance.  And we as a race elevate nostalgia to a fine art! Probably a little like the Irish from what I've heard, but then I wouldn't know firsthand :)
This week has been eventful in a bad way, too many terrible headlines right round the world, Sandy Hook, a young woman gang-raped in Delhi, political unrest in the ME, where to start or stop? Expressing in a poem is the best way to cope sometimes!

Shared for OLN @ dVerse


  1. The silver fishtail thrashes in the bowl,
    the nib gleams in a sad chuckle....what a way to end that first set of got my attention....and if only borders did not matter...and if only all the atrocity got headlines...or even better perhaps if some of the good did...if we reveled in what was good instead of different...and appreciated the differences rather than letting them tear us apart....nice piece...i dont know answers but i know questions....

    1. A constant struggle with the questions...thanks for your feedback.

  2. My son asked me, "Dad, is it wrong to not care about these murders?" We discussed how natural it is to care more deeply about what is close to you. In fact to get worried about abstract notions while not caring for your immediate garden is the worst of distractions, perhaps, because it feels self-righteous.

    1. Thank you very much for your understanding words. I somehow seem to remain connected to all the gardens I have ever set foot in...and some where I never have, but where my loved ones are. Difficult to be unaffected by the immediate garden!

  3. I agree with you that poetry is a good way of coping with what is happening in one's own area and in the world as a whole. So much senseless violence. And also so much quibbling about small things such as which version of a recipe (as you wrote about in your poem). I enjoyed both your poem and the explanation following.

    1. Sometimes things feel so much beyond control that poetry feels like the only way. Thanks for your comments.

  4. thanks for the footnotes..they helped a lot to understand the piece..i like how you ask the questions here..think many people do and i would love to know some of the answers but i think we all still have to go a long way...well penned

    1. No easy answers forthcoming anywhere...sadly...thanks for your feedback.

  5. The metaphor here is wider - we are more alike than different; we face hardships and horrors, we endure breakups and abandonments, we ignore slavery, abuse, cruelty and wars elsewhere and we cry for caring and help if/when it happens to us personally. Nature and man are cruel and life brings pain; but it brings joy and beauty, natural and with art as well. All the pieces fit together to say much about life on earth. Well done.

    1. We are more alike than different! Absolutely the point here...the point that's nailed deeper every minute. Thank you for your critique.