Summer, Kolkata

by Sutapa Chaudhuri (August 2015)


The upturned blank eyes of the street children,

like little dried up pools thirsty for a drop of love,

mirror the wrath of the loveless blank skies.

 

Their ramshackle hovels home in on the dreams of

droning  air-conditioners in luxurious high-rises;

the friendly neighbourhood wind, once their play-mate

 

too scorches in sudden betrayals. The burnt leaves

of barren, derelict shrubs on novel road-dividers

by the spectacular Race Course fit correlatives

 

for their sooty, charred bodies, emaciated with

hunger and an abject thirst for a shady refuge.

As if in a deadly collusion of nature and culture,

 

the mighty trees lining the Sardar Patel Sarani

are trimmed bare suddenly to satisfy some

law-makers’ whimsical decree. Their shady

 

foliage, like the nesting birds, now just a blank

dream of broken lives on bare branches. Yet the

pavements get redressed; colourful terracotta tiles

 

dress up the lifeless roadsides, blue, white or striped

in tiger hues; a fresh coat of paint dazzles the

beauty of the iconic Howrah Bridge; huge blue

 

rhombuses grace again the creamy borders of

the Vidyasagar Setu. The mighty Ganges and her

brother Hooghly, aged and moribund in a solitary  

 

river, silently sits and silts — unable to utter the

promise of a compassionate monsoon. Only the homeless

children, little bodies naked and brown like the dried,

 

sun-baked earth, cracked and rent asunder by the searing heat,

beg to the impassive passing cars, their bare arms outstretched.

Caught at an undue traffic-signal, their rolled up dark glasses

 

keep off the blazing sun; their sun-shades priceless

to ward off such unsightly images. Stopped engines

come to life as bored passengers whir past, cold and apathetic.

 

The dark roads of Kolkata glisten hazy with heat, the

marks of indifferent tyres on melted pitch offer for a moment

nurturing dreams of shadows and soothing dark waters.

 

________________________________________________

 

A poet, a translator and an internationally published critic and reviewer, Sutapa Chaudhuri, PhD, is Assistant Professor of English, Dr. Kanailal Bhattacharyya College, Howrah, West Bengal. She has two poetry collections — Broken Rhapsodies and Touching Nadir. My Lord, My Well-Beloved is a collection of her translations of Rabindranath Tagore’s songs.

 

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