by Sutapa Chaudhuri (November 2015)
In mustard oil, with poppy-seed paste
and diced Jack-fruit seeds. A sprinkle
of salt and turmeric over the cubed greens,
a dash of five-spices, or garlic, in the hot,
sizzling oil, swirling in the pan—
Pervading the darkened room, the aroma
of burnt chillies and mixed spices float
aimless; choked up, the vent-air chimneys
cough wheezy. Nostalgia and lost homelands
well up, crowding the eyes, watery and dim
with tears. A streak of sadness, alone and
groping, sightless amidst the habit of formal,
early dinners, hides silent in the thick richness
of a pungent, virgin oil, strong and flavourful.
Its temper cannily mellowed by the soothing
poppy, and a steaming white, jasmine rice. The
well-known aroma of a home-cooked comfort
and the secure warmth of the scented rice on
the designer dining table, spice up stale talk on
everyday matters; in some unheeded corner hide
the pale, washed out memories of long-gone
forgotten childhoods, a game of devious
hide and seek in the dark alleys of lost lives.
Suddenly, the silence shatters, an intrepid ring
of the cell-phone shreds at once the cumbersome
monotone of a solitary loneliness. The well-loved
tune of a beloved poet calls me back to life. Intimate,
the ringtone sings of eternal friendships on rainy
Shravana nights. The well-lit exchange of wishes, and
casual enquiries of well-being end in an innocuous
swapping of stories, known and unknown. Treasured recipes
roll out slick, masked in an informal, acquired imitation.
Lost connections and ghost lives haunt in myriad forms;
secretive, the tongue grows accustomed to lies, as I try,
haltingly, to translate my life to your eager ears.
The present lies obliterated; forever enveloped in darkness.
Sutapa Chaudhuri 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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