The Diva Sings Again

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Image credit: Shutterstock

She becomes a sublime blue in the gossamer evenings of numinous arc lights and mad, concerted human cheer.
Her voice breaks out in mad bursts of diabolical fire and her electric beauty
An infinitesimal light
Unbound, the world sees her in her finest atoms
Her glittering particles awakened in her exotic melodies.
Wine, the color of the night pours on her in staccato coughs and topaz red
The star girl of the rock solid earth
Wipes her transitory woes and tramples them with her pointed heels.
Dresses in lush satin and sequins
And cradles her guitar, rehearsing her choreographed, practiced, self-same numbers.
Inside her, the synchronized melodies
Swell and rise in ripples, and the notes
A crescendo of a hurricane, never ravaging a life, other than her own.
The night pulls her in, a rancid fairytale
A few blasts of jeering, leering voices
The repetitive strokes of allergic fanfare, weaned at the onset of a hazy dawn.
Tonight, she presents her last love song, a melancholy strain while the crowd craves to dance to her fast, rhythmic renditions.
One glaring teardrop, a blasphemy,
A banishment in the bottomless pit of anonymity.
The arc lights turn brighter and the weight of the world, bulkier beneath her drooping, sinking frame.
She lifts herself again, spreads her joyous, dainty wings to let them know
She was only a weary hummingbird,
A heart beating on, one of their very own.
But would they take any of it? She was a diva, a joie de vivre, after all, floating around their wondrous, impalpable wants.
All Rights Reserved. Lopa Banerjee. November 8, 2017.

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Author Spotlight: Otherness: Souls of Brown Women

OTHERNESS: SOULS OF BROWN WOMEN
by
De.B. Dubois



Blurb

Who is the brown woman? How does she live defined almost solely by her skin colour and all the history it carries? How do we carry racism deep within us even when we think we don’t? These are questions that require deep thought and reflection, and that’s what Otherness encourages us to do. In a world increasingly divided along the lines of colour, despite its apparent modernity, here’s a hard look at the realities that lurk within us, both as individuals and as a society.

Read an excerpt here:

Who is the brown woman? How does she live defined almost solely by her skin colour and all the history it carries? How do we carry racism deep within us even when we think we don’t? These are questions that require deep thought and reflection, and that’s what Otherness encourages us to do. In a world increasingly divided along the lines of colour, despite its apparent modernity, here’s a hard look at the realities that lurk within us, both as individuals and as a society.
Grab your copy @

About the author


De.B. Dubois is an Indian-born-Swiss visual artist and feminist writer. She grew up in Calcutta until she stepped out to explore the world by herself. Debolina Dubois-Bandyopadhyay, better known as De.B. Dubois is licensed with International Degrees in Communication Arts and Cultural Studies, as she extended her Fine Arts and Design education in Mumbai, Sydney, Basel and Paris. She is titled with a Master of Arts FHNW in Design from Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst, Basel, with special emphasis on Design Culture, Design Research and Sociology. This apart, she enjoys long walks through nature trails, a good glass of absinthe from Val-de-Travers, and creating visual arts.

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Guest Post: Interview with De. B. Dubois

“Who is the brown woman? How does she live defined almost solely by her skin colour and all the history it carries? How do we carry racism deep within us even when we think we don’t? These are questions that require deep thought and reflection, and that’s what Otherness encourages us to do. In a world increasingly divided along the lines of colour, despite its apparent modernity, here’s a hard look at the realities that lurk within us, both as individuals and as a society.” Otherness

Thus goes the blurb of the recently released book ‘Othernees: Souls of Brown Women’ by author De. B. Dubois. In a brief chat via email, she explained to me the overarching theme of her book and also the social construct regarding skin color and a woman’s identity.

Lopa Banerjee: What, according to you, is ‘the woman of color’? How would you define it in terms of the societal construct, in terms of the realities we see around us? And most importantly, how did it affect you as the author of this book?

De. B. Dubois: According to me, and for the topic of the book “Otherness”, the (textbook) definition of “Women of color” (singular: woman of colour, sometimes abbreviated as WOC) is a phrase used to describe female persons of colour. The term is used to represent all women of non-white heritage, often with regard to oppression, systemic racism, or racial bias.
In the preface, I have mentioned that “Otherness” is an appropriation of William Edward Burghardt “W. E. B.” Du Bois’: The Souls of Black Folk. This book “Otherness” is written from my perspective as a student of sociology, design culture, design research and art, during my Master thesis (research work done on “Perception of Beauty”), where I was examining Eastern and Western print advertisements and how these visuals sub-consciously constructs and constricts our perception of good and evil. For example, if you see a film – any given film – the protagonist is visually represented as someone beautiful compared to the antagonist. Often times, terms such as “ugly”, “dark”, “dirty” and “brown” are associated with either the way the antagonist looks like, or the way the antagonist behaves. Sub-consciously we are allowing visual media to tell us what is to be considered clean (white), dirty (brown), and evil (black). This colour signification is very complex and has been thrown at our sub-conscious through centuries of artwork, literature, religion et al. And the problem of colour is far more devastating in terms of iconoclasm than any other problem – to the point that it white washes any coloured existence. Shockingly, as coloured people, we tend to idolise whiteness at some point.
So, if I have to define the societal construct in terms of the realities we see around us, simply, it would be this: “They don’t like you. They don’t dislike you. You are different. Sooner or later the difference scares people.”

As an Indian Bengali, I am no white person. I might be tall, I might be “paler” than the average Indian, I might even speak three European languages – but visibly I am Brown. Therefore I stand with not just first hand experience of this:“They don’t like you. They don’t dislike you. You are different. Sooner or later the difference scares people.” but also as a witness to other brown-women around me. Especially the ones who were adopted as a baby, and only know the West as their home, and culture; when I get to hear these brown women (my friends who are perfectly integrated within these “white countries” – growing up as a western children with non-coloured parents), phrases such as: “I wish I was fair like you…” – it effects me on a level that simply cannot be expressed in words.

To find out more about author De. B. Dubois and her books, do visit her Goodreads page:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16194571.De_B_Dubois

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For Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff

#GloPoWRIMO

My dedication poem for Catherine and her irresistible love for the dark and sinister Heathcliff in Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’, loosely based on the tideling form, invented by the talented Daipayan Nair.

Wuthering Heights

We collide, burn
Our fire, and smoke
Did you die, unburied, Wuthering Heights?

Heathcliff, the dark-skinned gypsy
Nibbled on my being, me, a mist of his particles.
I died. Did you die, unburied, Wuthering Heights?

The landed gentry, my conceit, my injured vanity
Stabbing my singing throat. You owned me, smelled of me.
I died. Did you die, unburied, Wuthering Heights?

In the moors, we, the hot lilacs gathered and tore apart,
Our torrid air and salt rippled, in a point of no return, no start.

Did you die, unburied, Wuthering Heights?
Heathcliff, your demonic master usurps you, and my piteous clan.
I reach him, a cold ghost, crooning amid shattered glasses, and pregnant sighs.

All Rights Reserved. Lopa Banerjee. April 18, 2017

An Ode to ‘Ijaazat’: The Final Approval

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.

ijaazat_movie

 

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

 

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My Mother: An Obituary

For My Mother, Rama Bhattacharya, on her 3rd birthday in heaven

By Lopa Banerjee

 First published in Incredible Women of India, dated February 25, 2016.

“Jokhon porbe na more payer chinho ei baante

Ami baibo na, ami baibo na more kheya toree ei ghaate go…”

(When you won’t be able to trace my footprints, imprinted on the roads, you won’t see me then, in the jetties, I won’t be then to row my boat.)

Rabindranath Tagore, Geetabitan.

Dear Ma,

A picture of you stands unassumingly, along with old and new DVDs and books, in the top-most shelf of one of our old glass showcases that have traveled with us from one home to another. I see you today, as I see you every day, in the blissful sheen of smile with my first born tucked blissfully in your arms, surrounded by your erratic husband, my father, who loved you in his own queer, idiosyncratic ways, surrounded by me, your only child and my husband. “A complete family portrait, I will keep it snugly in my heart always!” You had expressed in unbridled joy that day, almost seven years ago on the New Year’s Eve, while returning with a bunch of family pictures that we had taken together at Portrait Studio, Omaha, Nebraska, where you had come to visit us.

Seven years after, a copy of the same picture lies, along with a stack of other pictures and memorabilia in a damp nook of your Barrackpore home from where they took your lifeless body away, but where the imprints of your being still lurk, crawl at the old, chipped walls, the unkempt furniture, the dusty staircases. A home, its bricks and roof and floors that you had built with your sweat, your diligence and utmost resolve, a home where your words, your silence and your fatigued breath still echoes, calling out my name.

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My mother and my firstborn, my elder daughter Mithi

In a different home now, inside the quiet confines of a nondescript apartment building in Irving, Texas, pictures of you, in various phases of your life peep from our laptop screen, which I, your only daughter randomly saved in digital formats from old, tattered, sepia picture albums. They were my last desperate, painstaking attempts to hold on to you with my parched heart; in all the sights, smells, noises and touch and their smooth, velvety feel in which love was formed since the day I was born, till the day I gave birth. The sensations and their impact seized to be physical, yet whenever I touch the framed pictures, printed and gleaming, whenever I run my fingers through the elusive screen that freezes those sepia and coloured moments of you and me, the sensations gush through my veins, real, lingering.

“Ma-r shob jinish shonge kore niye ja, ekhane kichhu fele rakhish na” (Take away all belongings of your mother with you, do not leave anything in this house)…relatives, neighbours had commented on the day of my return to the US, following the rituals of your first death anniversary in our Barrackpore home. They had quite obviously referred to the more valuable worldly stuff that you had left in the house, but do they all know what else you had left inside the rooms, interspersed with moments of love and beauty, with which the mundane glittered, glorious? There, in the eerie silence of the old steel almirah of your bedroom, lay a stack of your saris, starched, folded, nourished with unconditioned love. In the middle rack of the almirah, old, almost archaic bank documents, question papers from the school where you taught, handwritten notes and old, tattered inland letters of your old students, old papers, souvenirs from my father’s office rested inside files piled up against one another. Inside the drawers of our old dressing table in Barrackpore, a gift from your parents for your wedding, my old report cards, the first, raw sketches of my preschooler days cough up the blood and phlegm of my washed out childhood days. You had wrapped them all in the blanketed warmth of the rooms, your old tanpura which you had brought from your parents’ home, your rusty vermilion cases, your combs that still carry thin, curly strands of your hair. You had shielded them from the ever-changing world outside that was unaffected by your sedate, solitary life.

In the kitchen of our new home in Texas, I am chopping bottle-gourd and potatoes in much the same way you had told me to, while sharing your signature recipes that you wanted me to acquire skills in. “Never ever tell me to cook. I am not born to cook. I am only born to read and write poetry”, I would boastfully tell you on your face in my carefree student days. You would laugh it off, convey my immature statements to other women you knew, who all told you it was just a temporary phase, a perspective that would never hold good once I would marry and enter domesticity. I had your genes, after all. The genes that carry poetic veins, the genes that know how the fish and vegetables dance in a geometric swirl and traipse across the aromatic blend, inside the mouths of the oiled, heated pots and pans. Cooking in my later life, came to me in the ether waves of the long-distance phone calls and long, descriptive e-mails from you, wooed me and overtook me as yet another sacred journey solidifying our bond, much in the same way as your poetry, your rhymes and recitations did.

“Lau-te kokhono ada dibi na, panch foron, hould, nun, dudh ar narkel dibi, amrit er moton lagbe khete.” (Never add ginger to bottle-gourd curry, a concoction of the five whole spices, turmeric, coconut and milk will do wonders to the dish, believe me, it will make it taste heavenly)…I smile, my eyes misting over, the tinkle bell of your bangles, the conch shells in your hands still reverberating in the damp, molten kitchen of our Barrackpore home, sprinkling salt and turmeric in the giant fish pieces in smudged utensils.

“Pooja kori more rakhibe urdhe, shey nohee ami/Hela kori morey rakhibe pichhe, shey nohee ami./ Jodi parshe rakho more shonkote sampad-e,/ Sammati dao Jodi kothin brote shohay hote,/ Pabe tobe tumi chinite morey.” (I am not the one you hail in the alter, worshipping, nor am I the one you keep behind you, in negligence. Recognize my essence while you keep me beside you always, in your bounty and amid deep hours of crisis, allowing me to be a true partner in your life’s journey, a true accomplice in your missions)…I can still hear you mumbling the lines of Tagore’s ‘Ami Chitrangada’ (I am Chitrangada) to yourself, in the ethereal twilight of your everyday kitchen songs.

In your young, struggling days, when you and Baba (father) came together in the same music school where the numinous beauty of Rabindranath Tagore’s songs made both of you create your own universe of love, you had held his hand tight, learning to love yourself more with each passing day, for his sake. You had come to his ancestral home as a new, demure bride amid 25 odd, unyielding members who never understood your true worth; you had embraced his handsomeness and youth, his strengths as well as all his quirky ways, his occasional bouts of temper, and took upon yourself the mammoth task of supporting his demanding family, financially, emotionally, even while draining yourself excruciatingly. “What was the purpose of all your sacrifices for them, tell me, when all they did was to exploit whatever resources you had? They made you give up your music, stopped your recitation classes. They didn’t even let you eat properly when you were expecting me, years back. Do you expect them to change and love you unconditionally in return?” I would ask you quite often, when I grew older and wiser, unable to come to terms with what you had faced, while you covered up with a smile when it hurt you the most. I never got a concrete reply, but your silent resolve spoke volumes. You had loved my father till your last blood drop, and his entire realm, both in its pleasantness and its disagreeable mess, was your own. Right from the moment you discovered him as your young husband in your first nuptial night, to the last evening before your fatal stroke many years later, when you were washing his soiled clothes in the bathroom.

My mornings would never be the same, Ma, without your little love-notes inscribed in our Barrackpore home, swaying with the lilting tunes of your Sanskrit chanting at the wake of dawn when with eyes shut and hands folded in a gesture of pranaam, you would utter the divine “Om jabakusuma sankasang kashyapeyang mahadyuting”, invoking the Sun-God. A sliver, a chunk of my childhood and adolescent days, with lines of Rabindranath and Jibanananda Das, and most prominently, the lines of a poem, “Bhoraai”, by your favourite poet Satyendranath Dutta dangles in the rusted, dusty corners of the rooms, the verandah and the terrace of the house, trying to reach me every day, crisscrossing the haywire traffic of the continents. The lines that you had recited with flawless diction and the inimitable prowess of your elocution, the lines and their literary essence that you had taught me with utmost care, lines which had then, unknowingly, laid the foundation of my love for the scribes.

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the bliss of a child: me and my parents, many moons back

“Oi meye amader moton-I hobe, angul fule ki ar kola gachh hobe?” (Your daughter will be one of us, nothing greater, who has ever seen a grape growing to be a banana tree?) You had silently listened to one of my elder cousin sisters predicting an inconsequential future for me, while I sat in your lap, reading out my favourite books to you one day. In your silent resolve, you had held me closer to you, whenever the uncertainties in my life spiraled out of control, for you knew, in your heart of hearts, that I will rise and shine, and find my own little firmament in the vast galaxy of voices, visions and expressions.

Today, I dedicate each and every small or big publication to your loving memory, to your simple, yet profound teachings. I cook the recipes that you had taught me across the miles of our distance, I prepare boxed lunches for my daughters and watch them grow with starry eyes every day, much in the same way that you did while I was growing up, knowing that perhaps my own words, thoughts and actions, my own aspirations would find their way in posterity. Perhaps, many moons later, when my bare form will meet yours, suspended in time and space, trying to gauge the vacuum in between, our words and the silences, the pauses in between will resurrect us. Till then, let your clumsy, messy, soppy remembrances tell me your stories, every day.

I will remain your daughter in this life, whichever domain you may have crossed over to.

Happy birthday, Ma.

Yours’, Papai.

This, I Believe, I Am

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Image source: Morselsandjuices.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A short creative nonfiction piece of mine, in which I essay my internal journey, the conflicts on the way and how I am happy to break the mold of stereotypes, ‘This, I Believe, I am’, published at ‘Morsels and Juices’, an e-journal, a community showcasing stories, articles and poems by aspiring women writers and published authors.

Sharing an excerpt of the piece here:

“When I was the skinny little dreamy-eyed girl with braids, pleats and an awkward posture, I found myself growing up in a house cluttered with old furniture and the sternness of rituals, with a father always away at work and more away from doting his child, a silent mother cocooned in her daily worries, an aunt making up with her supernatural stories, a school full of classmates stealing lunch from my box and discarding me as ‘vague, imaginative and weird’. Months and years flew past, swallowing me up with devouring loneliness. The sky seemed to loom, gray and dead, above me. Yet, in my mind, a sulfur glow of a different sun gave way to streaks of opaque dark.  I’ve been threatened and insulted by the mediocrity around, but in rare moments of clarity, I saw the world as it should be. I broke the chains of mediocrity, and felt free. I felt free with redeeming, everlasting imagination, with the ever-growing, luscious vines of music which I discovered everywhere around me. In the beauty of my solitude which then, had overpowered me, I began to look for the mystery of colors and brush strokes, with the inspiration and creation of artists I seemed to know from my previous births.”

To read the full essay, do visit:

http://morselsandjuices.com/tea-room/this-i-believe-i-am/comment-page-1/#comment-1502