Note: A roseate sonnet, dedicated to the beautiful, lonely, vulnerable and literary soul of Charulata, the heroine of Rabindranath Tagore’s magnum opus novella ‘Nastanirh’ (which had been filmed by Satyajit Ray, the Oscar-winning filmmaker as ‘Charulata’), the lovelorn soul who seeks love, acceptance and validation from both her husband Bhupati, and realizes the irony of her twisted fate towards the end, when both she and her husband seek a closure.
Every time I have let loose, I went flopping, I drifted ashore,
My pain, lopsided anguish charring me with the embers of my torn poetry.
The silver swirl of my words, my unquenched thirst you had never known, my husband,
Voices floating inside my lovelorn being, in your brother’s bonhomie, had found delightful symmetry.
For you, beneath your spectacles and uninviting cool, had never known how
While I chewed on betel leaves, I scraped inside like crimson paint, pummeling my raw pages like dough.
Did even Amal know, when we wove our silken dreams of our clandestine garden, our little lake, idyllic ducks,
How I craved to be princess of yore for you both, slithering in your mediocre love, every then and now?
A damned, accursed princess, seated unaware, beneath the shady canopy of the hog plum tree,
Burning my untainted silence of moments, dreaming of rampant, inconsequential poesy that was never to be.
Running away, surreptitious, from my frayed edges, Amal, didn’t you trip over our shadowed world, for once?
Only if I had known before, our twilight hill would be crushed, trampled, our rhythmic melody broken down, thus.
Silent, ebbing and swelling inside, my domesticated footsteps censured me, “Charu, be the cloudburst, but never the rain.
Enter my wet, plundered earth, my husband, let us take each other in our lost catharsis, let me be your loving wife, the adulteress.
All Rights Reserved. Lopa Banerjee. March 27, 2017.
P.S. The novella in Bengali has been translated by me as ‘The Broken Home’ (available in Amazon Kindle) and fetched me the International Reuel Prize for translation in 2016, instituted by The Significant League, a literary group in Facebook and The Autism Village Project Trust.
Note: ‘Second Skin’, the prose poem is one of the winning poems based on a photo prompt contest hosted by the vibrant literature group in Facebook, The Significant League. The photograph, a seething document emphasizing on the crass and ruthless impacts of our urban civilization, had been taken and shared by the prolific Indian author, Dr. Santosh Bakaya.
What is the road made of, when we wait, deep, eager, in the tail-end of its sooty flesh?
The dirt is our pixie dust, the molecules of our tainted breaths traipsing with the smoke, swirling in the summer of smells. For ages, we wait, in the clogged pores of the city streets, clenching our calloused fists, our crooked teeth.
The streets become our cradles, rocking us in its high-pitched sopranos. We know the glittering place where the horns screech and trample the silence of our waiting, a waiting with its high and low notes, a waiting in its repetitive rhythms.
A waiting which becomes a clenched metaphor, telling our tale of rags and our smudged brown skins, our soiled faces that slap you hard, slap your conceited words, your vanilla-scented clothes, your practiced complacency.
Ah, this street now, at some uncertain end of the labyrinthine maze, stares in our faces. We flop down, inhale the putrid air, soaked with stories like that of ours, stashed away, nonchalant.
This street now, our second skin, is the rhetoric of our unnamed home as we slip into its monstrous bed, sucking full throttle, from its blackened, emaciated nipples.
Hey baby, suck on, why worry when the earth’s crust is but an unzipped black pit, an ashen pasture when you can roll around in the dirt and lick its fevered heat, running your little fingers over it when the blackness bleeds?
Hey baby, clap, clap, clap in your silver swirl as the thumping in our chests turn into a rhythmic chanting. Let our black foams squashed under the car tires be the thick wash of blood between all things terribly shiny and white.
Let them stop in their tracks for once, in their white skins and made up hair, grabbing the flesh of this cul-de-sac where we now squat, sculpting the pathos, the bare-boned poetry of the city street.
All Rights Reserved. Lopa Banerjee. March 3, 2017.
P.S. The other winners of this contest are Geethanjali Dillip, Bhuvaneshwari Shivkumar Sharma, Fatima Afshan and Rahul Ahuja.
My belated and small offering on the World Poetry Day, loosely inspired by the Tideling poetic form created by the very young and talented poet Daipayan Nair from India, dedicated to Henrik Ibsen, his phenomenal play ‘A Doll’s House’, and to all of us women folks.
Good, good heavens,
My beautiful, happy home!
Who calls you ‘A Doll’s House’?
A self-loathing of debt
A pinch of punctuality, a tinge of engagement.
Who calls you ‘A Doll’s House’?
The messed laundry,the maimed laughter
The sweet scent of prayers that you slaughter
Who calls you ‘A Doll’s House’?
The burnt garlic, the half-cooked onion smirk,
At a quiet cranny, Nora’s crochet and embroidery lurk.
Who calls you ‘A Doll’s House’?
Nora’s starved essence, her miracles and crushing blows?
Ibsen squints from his cold grave.
All Rights Reserved. Lopa Banerjee. March 21, 2017
To know more about the Tideling poetic form, do visit the poet’s blog:
1857 DUST OF AGES VOL 1:
A FORGOTTEN TALE
1857. The rebellion erupts in India. Despite its attempts to stay aloof, NAVGARH, a small town near Delhi, is drawn into the conflagration. And at its heart are Princess Meera and Captain Richard Smith, with their strange alliance made for the throne of Navgarh.
2016, Shiv Sahai, a young Indian art historian and Ruth Aiken, a British scholar discover an excerpt from the journal of an anonymous British soldier, searching for his wife in the chaos of 1857 Delhi. As they begin investigating the scandal, they become aware of the vague rumours that are told in the bylanes of Navgarh – about a princess who married a British soldier to save her kingdom.
Read an excerpt from the book…
Camp, Delhi Cantonment, 16 August, 1857.
Things have changed forever. A day spent in the company of my old friend Knox made it clear. These distances can never be bridged.
The pole of his tent snapped in the storm yesterday; and for the sake of old friendship, I offered Knox my humble abode. But his rancour was jarring. His determination to teach the enemy a lesson, the unshaken belief in the rightness of our mission– such bitterness asks too much of friendship and duty.
Earlier we went over the battlefield. One of our regiments was destroying the village near the bridge to prevent the enemy from getting cover in it. Elephants were pulling down the walls. The villagers stood by as their houses turned into mud while the monsoon clouds gathered on the horizon. Unfortunately, they were the Jats, who, for the most part, are our friends. We decided that the destruction of their homes and fields was necessary. Twenty-three men – their countrymen – were lying together in the ditch at the back of the village; we weren’t sure if they were the rebels. A party of Rifles killed then en masse, just to be sure.
We left the village with our bags swollen like raisins in water. And who can blame our light-fingered gentry? Armies are said to travel on their stomach.
At some distance from our camp, I can see the sun setting over the fort of Delhi. It isn’t much different from the first sunset I witnessed here years ago. How things have changed! We came with a mission – to know this exotic land, to bring the light of knowledge and civilization to its darkness. Now the memory leaves me embarrassed. These massive red walls made me uneasy even then. Today they mock our camp again. Whatever be the outcome of this devil’s wind, it has revealed the banality of our mission.
Knox’s bitterness is an expression of the anger in the camp. When the cannons are quiet, the silence resounds with confusion, with terror, with rage, but most of all with the question ‘Why?’ As we sit around a small fire every night, the question rages in every mind. ‘Why the mutiny? Haven’t we brought the glory of civilization to this land of superstition?’ These thoughts simmer as we deal with hunger, heat and rain.
But soon these questions will be forgotten. The winners will annihilate the other side. Already I see the madness in the eyes as rumours reach us from other places – Cawnpur, Jhansi, Lucknow. Madness will soon be let loose.
I often feel that the answers that elude me today were within my grasp a short while ago. They are somewhere near, yet unreachable, like the time gone by.
I promise to look for them once I have found her again. For she, I feel, holds a part of it.
So every evening, I try to escape this madness by thinking about her, Princess Meera of Navgarh, a rebel soldier and my wife. It is the third year of our marriage. Three years of tenuous links and fragile understanding. It was only a matter of time before an explosion happened. And it happened that eventful week when Navgarh too burnt in the fire raging all across India. The news that the sepoys in Meerut had rebelled spurred both of us. Did I expect Meera to be a dutiful wife when all her beliefs, her convictions pulled her in the opposite direction? Was I surprised on knowing that she was in Delhi, amongst the rebels? Would she be surprised on knowing that I have followed her as an enemy… a British officer? And as I follow her, I stand here once again, after five years, outside the walls of the Red Fort in Delhi.
About the author
Delhi-born Vandana Shanker is the author of the series 1857 Dust of Ages, a historical fiction set in the year of the great uprising in India. A PhD from IIT Delhi, Vandana is passionate about history, storytelling and art. Apart from writing, she teaches literature and creative writing in Malaysia. She has also taught in Universities in India and Vietnam. She currently lives in Kuala Lumpur with her family and wants to travel the world.
Stalk her @
Note: My poetic tribute to the relentless, unblemished spirit of the teenager Durga, a poetic celebration of her short, unceremonious, yet unforgettable life and the haunting reality of her untimely death in Satyajit Ray’s ‘Pather Panchali’ (Song Of The Road), the award-winning cinematic adaptation of the master storyteller of Bengal, Bibhutibhushan Banyopadhyay’s magnum opus novel of the same name.
The light that had flickered and blazed had found its humble moorings
In the moonbeams of a brother’s quiet smile.
The light, naked, unabashed, glaring, rose and fell
between the crests and rims of an untamed want of ripe mangoes
and guavas picked up from neighbor’s orchards, her kith and kin
for whom Durga was the other name of a censuring reality.
The light, an all-pervading truth, had shone, wandering in those wistful eyes
Loosening in their shores like sea water, and she clutched the brother’s shoulders
And took in the delight of trains whizzing past the silhouetted fields, whistling,
While the kaash flowers swayed in those eyes in their ivory nakedness.
The moon of her newborn puberty ached in the dark edges of her kohl,
A dark ink that had craved for a morsel of pampering from a troubled mother,
Splotches and shades of a promise peeping by, whistling in her ears the provocation
Of a scrumptious feast of a wedding, the provocation of a sweetmeat
Of a fancy doll, a string of false pearls, which she could cling to, as her own.
The light that had cradled her lap which hid sweet nothings for her ancient, dying aunt
A strand of forbidden silver which had carved her destiny, in a dilapidated hut
Where hope was but a shallow inhale, trading her brother Apu’s porridge
with her grim, corrosive punishments, a plate of squashed rice
and a mother’s wordless tears waiting for her, in an eager dusk of her return.
The light, which had died out, in spurts, stumbling upon the dead aunt
In the lingering quiet of her way back home, chewing on rural titbits.
The light had taken in the world in the diamond drops of a torrential rain
Squandering in the open fields when she too hungered to live life
In bite-sized chunks of enduring moments, swirling, dancing around her.
The ashen sky of Nishchindipur, the nonchalant village
Where she anchored her tomfoolery, had flashed that one final grin
As she hung, loose, papery-thin in its sunless folds, taking in
Her wild breaths, hissing against the wind for one last time.
Death, her truthful, final kin had put his arm around her
While the brother listened to her last wish to storm out in the open fields
To see a stray train whizzing by….
The brother, the stoned mother, the bereaved father,
The starched cotton sari which she would never ever wear,
Waited and moved on in the bare-bone life, trudging on uncertain miles
Where her dim light, the dying vapors of her last breaths waved at them,
In a choking, molten surrender.
All Rights Reserved. Lopa Banerjee. February 28, 2017
Also, sharing a detailed, in-depth essay about the grinding reality of death and the philosophy of life as depicted in the Apu trilogy that I had published in 2014 in Cafe Dissensus e-mag. It is also archived in this blog (January 2014).
Note: For the love of COFFEE, the magic word, a beautiful poetry prompt initiated by The Wordsmiths, a poetry group in Facebook.
Between a sip and a cup, here I stand, a mistress of your desires, brewing in your coffee with my own feminine juices, a dash of my own spiced up wants gone awry, a tinge of your own fragrant clouds, blowing the mist of your long, wistful years.
I don’t get the thick broth of your molten voice any more as you sip the remnants of the cup with an intent oblivion, as I still long to grip your hands around the coffee mug, dull, blunt, practiced in traversing the known route now, the route of a ripened home where love is not a sonata anymore.
But then, between a sip and a cup, here I stand, housing forgotten echoes of lovelorn voices, the musk of my shimmering remnants spewing a beautiful venom in that one coffee mug, a concoction that might still glitter in the pastures of your throat as you pass that one dart of a glance and kill me yet again, kill me with your red velvet mouth, your brazen kisses, whisking me away.
Between a sip and a cup, here I stand, threadbare, coughing up my staccato wants, waiting to become a doomed fairy-tale.
Note: My poetic tribute to the haunting, melancholic, yet the beautifully touching saga of love gone awry in the hands of destiny, the irresistibly deep and unforgettable chemistry between Mahinder, Maaya and Sudha in Gulzar’s timeless love saga ‘Ijaazat’, based on the Bengali story ‘Jatugriha’, by Subodh Ghosh. The film, unforgettable till today for the tenderly crafted lyrics of Gulzar Saab composed with finesse by the phenomenal R.D. Burman, followed the story of couple who are separated and who accidentally meet in a small waiting room of a railway station and discover some truths about their lives without each other.
Like weary travelers, lost in the waxy orbit of time
We lose our shores, and then, keep coming back
To where our stories began, the Ground Zero
Where you slouched against my caramel skin,
Lost in the deep, blinding maze of a past, passionate, drunk
With the lyrics and heartbeats of Maaya, the wandering girl,
Her eyelashes, soaked with the salt and oil
of the forbidden randomness of your wants.
“Ek akeli chhatri mein jab aandhe aandhe bheeg rahe they
Aadhey sookhey aandhey gile, sookha to main le aayee thi…”
The raindrops pelting on the window where she stood,
Forlorn, dreamy still, asking you to return the cloudbursts
Of your memories in spurts, were mine too, the clouds which I stared at
Like forbidden turrets of your leftover dreams overlooking
Our half-baked love songs, yawning with an emptiness
As I had rinsed off their remnants from our rooms, our plates,
Our cups and dishes, our breaths, entwined, yet not whole.
I did look for you and long to hear the syrupy strains
Of those lovelorn lyrics, which you had once hummed to me.
I did look in the hand-delivered letters of the postman
For the silhouettes of those sullied memories and burnt out poems
Which never reached me, as I settled down, colder, less rippling
And more permissive, in a new mooring.
Forgive me, today, as I dried off your wet hairs, drenched in
Our once-familiar raindrops in an unfamiliar station,
Waking up to dig in the dust of our forgotten, forsaken days
Waking up to your frostbitten face, bursting wide, crooning
In the smoked mirror of this tiny, clumsy waiting room.
Forgive me, like Maaya, the sad, wandering girl who gagged herself
And was washed away in the crossroads of your tyrannical trails,
The sky, drunk, sunken, taking in both our salty waters, and crackling.
Forgive me, today, as I seek your approval, for one last time
To drive off to my moorings now, as you will drive off to your own,
The smudged lines of our story, hanging loose, askance,
In this Ground Zero where we had stumbled upon, and burnt.
All Rights Reserved. Lopa Banerjee. February 17, 2017
Watch the full movie here:
“Distance and memory are uneasy twins. As one advances, the other gallops in an interminable contest of catch up. This fraught relationship is at the heart of Lopamudra Banerjee’s memoir. The tension begins with the book’s title itself – Thwarted Escape – an oxymoron if you will, yet one that makes sense as the reader starts journeying through its pages.
The book’s four sections – on childhood, womanhood, motherhood, and life and death – reminded me of flower arrangements – of their evanescence, their beauty. Banerjee, the florist, crafts delicate narratives as she pulls them towards a theme bunch. She uses the present tense to a delicious effect, pulling the reader into the immediacy, and hence, the momentariness of her experiences. The beauty results from her love of language – the carefree abandon with which words spill onto the page. Then there’s the fragrance running through the sections – the author’s constant introspection, a memoirist’s greatest tool. And often her biggest risk.”
It is my pleasure to share an overwhelming review of my book ‘Thwarted Escape: An Immigrant’s Wayward Journey’ written by the brilliant writer/translator Bhaswati Ghosh, published at Cafe Dissensus journal, New York. Do read the full review here, friends.
Note: My poetic tribute, dedicated to the soulful ghazals sung by the celebrated musical couple Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh jee
I don’t know how the kohl-smeared nights would dissolve
Into the fresh dawns, squinting into the day, when your voices
In the unison of duets, would waft in the lingering, dark silence
Of a bedroom with crinkled bedsheets and the recycled language
Of the two-in-one stereo, my unrequited wants, cocooned in
The sweet, fleshy cracking of your ghazals.
I knew not, at the end of those nameless siestas, when my senses,
Handcuffed, trudged through those uncertain mazes, how I would
Unwrap myself, lapping up your waves, losing myself in your shores.
“Tumko dekha toh iye khayal aayaa, zindagee dhoop tum ghanaa saayaa”…
I only knew that in my first love’s eyes, I was a washed out night raaga
From the flesh of your moonlight’s swirling melody, a raaga that
Would come back to you again, with my cheap tears of a love,
A tight embrace gone awry. I only knew that in my eyes clamped shut
In that clumsy bedroom, all by myself, I would hum, together with you,
“Iye tera ghar iye mera ghar/kiseeko dekhna ho gar/to pehle aake maang le
Meri nazar teri nazar…”, feeling my rib cage, my bones and the throb
Of my man’s Adam’s Apple, brush against the twilight music of a love nest,
A nest where our smudged syllables would one day, give in to stark, dead silence.
You both knew the trail, didn’t you, the trail of quivering, lovelorn hearts
Who hummed along, biting deep into the flesh of those lyrics in symphony?
Did you know the smog, seeping through your incandescent tunes,
As you sang, every strain filling through your own cracks, your own pores
While you couldn’t rain together anymore?
Did we all know, us, the sagging vines, hanging around
Your bestselling albums, that even melodies could gag,
In life’s unmarked road where you clasped tight
your tragedy, your only route to break free?
I come back to those nights in nameless, grey spirals, your ghazals
The cinnamon wants traipsing around them still, rolling slowly
In my senses, like a dream, forbidden, interrupted,
Which might make a lover out of me, yet again.
Also, visit this link to listen to the soulful melodies by this classic duo:
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