My mother has passed over to another domain, the ever elusive domain of death, and the much talked about, yet unsettling, mysterious domain of the after-life nine months back. I flew back to India to see if I could at all save her fledgling life, lying in deep coma in a small, almost unknown hospital in the outskirts of Kolkata. All I could see after I reached in the wee hours of the night was her corpse lying over heaps of ice, waiting for me to see her for one last time before being cremated. This was a sudden, unexpected blow to me and I have written about the experience at length in my full-length memoir, after the closure had come to a full circle. I have been witnessing the event of death in my family ever since I was five years old, the austerity, the sudden cessation and the rituals that have been a part of it, but this event has actually been the dawning of an entirely new realization, a new epiphany for me. As much as I have written about my mother in poetry and prose following her sudden death, all of it has stemmed from the fact that she had been and will be a secret, silent anchor, plaguing me with the burden of grief and loss with her death, yet showering my path with light, meaning and bliss.
On that note, I would love to share a small homage to the loving memory of my mother on the International Mother’s day. Since all her life, she has been a keen devotee of the songs, poems and literary works of Rabindranath Tagore, since she has transferred this unquestioned devotion to me in my childhood, I had to come back to none other than the bard himself to reiterate my thoughts on what our relationship had been about, and how the memory of her love would keep me going for the rest of my life.
তবু মনে রেখো যদি দূরে যাই চলে।
যদি পুরাতন প্রেম ঢাকা পড়ে যায় নবপ্রেমজালে।
যদি থাকি কাছাকাছি,
দেখিতে না পাও ছায়ার মতন আছি না আছি–
তবু মনে রেখো।
যদি জল আসে আঁখিপাতে,
এক দিন যদি খেলা থেমে যায় মধুরাতে,
তবু মনে রেখো।
এক দিন যদি বাধা পড়ে কাজে শারদ প্রাতে– মনে রেখো।
যদি পড়িয়া মনে
ছলোছলো জল নাই দেখা দেয় নয়নকোণে–
তবু মনে রেখো। (The lyrics in original Bengali, courtesy: Geetabitan.com)
There have been several translations of this song that speaks of physical separation, the pain and the inevitability of death, and the spiritual proximity of love, the gift of memory and reminiscence that transcends the physical spheres. I have been inspired by all these translations, but was tempted to write down my own version, which goes like this:
And, still remember me, if I go far, far away, remember me.
Even if the trappings of a new love shroud old ties of love and attachment, remember me.
If I remain close, yet distant from you, lonely and unrecognizable,
Like a shadow, remember me; still, remember me.
If tears drench your eyelashes, remember me.
One day, if the journey of this life ends at the stroke of night, still remember me.
One day, if my absence interrupts your chores on an autumn morning, remember me.
If, recalling my memory, tears do not moist the corner of your eyes,
Still remember me.
‘Sneher folgudhara’ (coining your own expressions in Bengali), the never-ending cascade of love that will bind us, forever, even after the body turns to ashes, and returns to the earth after death. Love–Your daughter, Papai, who will always remain a daughter, carry your bloodline forward and pass on your legacy of words, thoughts and unconditional love to my daughters, irrespective of your physical absence.
My favorite rendition of the song by Kanika Bandyopadhyay:
The bard singing the song himself (a rare treasure):