Amma (1927- 30/6/2004) with K, 1992
Last Wednesday evening I caught a bus from Alleppey to Trivandrum . I couldn't get the train because of the holiday rush. The bus took nearly 5 hrs to traverse around 160 kms. En route, one passes the many small towns on the NH 47, which is clogged with traffic. The streets of the towns choke with people and brightly lit shops; people are in a frenzy of buying - vegetables, fried chips, dresses, household items.
P and I spend a quiet Onam. K could not join us, because they don't have Onam holidays in Bangalore. I browsed, brooded and cuddled Sancho. Wrote a couple of poems(????).
Browsing through the old files, I discovered the following poem, which is unpublished - that is, neither in my collection ' Signs of Love' nor in the magazine that occasionally put one. It is a bit old, ( written in 2004) but connected to Onam, so I thought you might like to read it.
In Kerala, when somebody asks - Engane undu Onam? ( How's Onam?), those who have had a death in the family during the preceding year would reply - 'O, njangalkku onam onnum illa! ( No Onam for us). There were two deaths in ours this year.
But then, that too shall pass. So, dear friends of the blogworld, let me wish you all a happy Onam and a great year to follow!
Onam*- festivities and happiness,
Dresses in colour, TVs and fridges
Cars and bikes in a spending spree.
Respite from a life, lived mundane.
Onam, my first, without my mother
Forty-six Onams I spent with her.
Her age not counted in mouthfuls of rice1
Her last was a ball for the crow to eat.2
Onam- a week a year, from one to next
Sky so blue and fields so green.
Clouds have gone, weather is mild
Onam will come, the dead will not.
But trees do flower, waters do rise,
Hills turn green, despite the droughts.
They mightn’t be the same, yet they are,
Despite the deaths, life doesn’t end.
Somewhere, in some house, a baby is born,
Somewhere in a newborn, relives my mom.
I wouldn’t know her, I wouldn’t see her,
But somewhere, somehow, we would meet.
I’d hold her hand, touch her head,
Hold her cheek close to mine.
I’d sense her soul from the smell of her skin
The smell, the feel, of my mother’s milk.
I’d tell her I loved her,
Love, neither shown, never given.
I’d talk to her in words so sweet,
Bitter were those unto the last.
I’d hug her, with all warmth and love,
For never did I know the touch of her heart.
I cared for her with all my heart,
But walls did grow, watered with hate.
A horse, whipped, without reason,
A dog, kicked, howling in pain.
Whimpering in fear, uncomprehending,
Yet I took care unto her last.
Ah! Time! Come to a grinding halt,
Shift a lever in reverse mode.
Stop at the day when I sat on her lap,
Gave her a kiss and hugged her close-
And slept- as I did, once, in her womb.
28.08.04. Onam, Trivandrum
*- Onam is an annual festival in Kerala, southwest India.
1. At forty-six, I have eaten forty-six Onam feasts- forty-six mouthfuls of rice.
2. In the Hindu rituals, a ball of cooked rice and other offerings are given everyday till the sixteenth day of death- left on a banana leaf, you clap your hands for the Jungle Crow, the symbol of the departed spirit.