‘The Flood’ and other poems by Mahathi
(In India modern dams are constructed without arranging alternate habitat to the displaced people, who are mostly tribals living on the forest resources. The dams on other hand are causing great environmental danger by razing down forests, historical monuments and other natural resources.)
The lightenings are mellifluous, I thought!
Some like curled silver twigs, some like hot copse
of burning summer woods and some like drought
made cracks on earth with fresh monsoon raindrops.
On path familiar and weather too
not new, I quickened pace; my soles like blades
of hoeing plows and legs like chugging new
engines, towards my home in foliar shades.
My home in fact a humble hut, amid
the bamboo trees along with other huts,
such small below the thickset sylvan lid;
with fruit and meat enough to fill our guts.
The God had never forsook us, nor Ma
Godavari, the river pious and kind.
As sons of nature, heed to every law
she etched on woody reeves, with wind-pen signed.
The raising concrete walls, of river dam
well nigh to our dense jungle paradise
are like lifeless zombies ready to damn
our lives and raze down, this God-given prize.
Our woods don’t swallow us, the rains don’t pare,
the gales don’t scare and river never seeps
into our blood. We’re safe! The nature bare
is fair to us than well-dressed urban creeps.
Near dusk, the sun is dangling gracefully
in river’s blissful lap as nascent moon
is growing high besieging the yonder lea.
It’s four miles now…I reach my heaven soon.
Suddenly stopped my walk. I heard something,
not that familiar like the thudding moans
of falling trees, nor lightenings singing
the thunder songs, in husky baritones.
I stopped with a start and looked around. Oh my,
from dam, the dribbling down, strong water stream,
through cracks that widened like an evil eye
that started lunging down, with vengeful screams.
The dam is crumbling like a burn’g Phoenix
with water soaring up slashing at sky
as one giant tide, that looked like a raising Strix
with flapping wings ready to jump on pry.
I stood agape, spellbound, with sprinting chill
along my spine, as tides in gushing spree
devoured from grass meadows to verdant hills;
from little herbs to tallest banyan trees.
I slowly veered my eyes towards my dear
village. There’s nothing mine, except a sheet
of water, leaving me alone with drear
heart beats thudding aloud the urbane deceit.
What do you expect Punditji from me,
a brothel girl? I have the same from where
you came; that same crevice…oh don’t you see?!
I wonder is that such a visual fare?!
You hanged the sacred thread on Bilwa bough
and slinked into my hut. That thread remains
sacred and body too you cleanse! But how
you think can scrub your soul off carnal stains?
You stepped into this vile threshold of vice
expecting something new from me…the taste
of flesh in folds of skin for joys of trice.
Same zest here, savor you, with stealthy haste.
I’m not well read O’ priest! Forgive my lay
queries! I heard this worldly life came out
of Sacred Women’s womb!? For you I lay
the same from which as well some life did sprout.
In spite of all penance you did, you’re still
a human with wild rush of blood and yen
for quirky joys. But I’m a stoic by will,
a working flesh for coins in this dark den.
Like you I too have feelings none. No fresh
inklings for thrills. Mine just a business
and yours a whipping urge. My banal flesh
is moribund and numb by male grossness!
A born ascetic you’re and me a trained
harlot. Your birth couldn’t change your worldly needs
and my foul life couldn’t mar my faith ingrained!
Let’s churn this paradox to cream new meads.
Tell me something of other world’s grandeur
and I teach you this world’s veiled ugliness.
Discard your qualms O’ desperate amor,
Let’s bare ourselves with utter shamelessness!
(Bilwa: Indian bael or : Aegle marmelos. Considered as a sacred tree, so dear to Lord Shiva)
(Sacred thread: Yagnopaveetham: a thread wore by Hindus especially, Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vyshya castes at the time of initiation into Vedic Practices, just like baptism in christianity. The Initiation ceremony is known as Upanayanam (Upa: extra or additional; nayana: eye)
THE LEATHER JACKET
He’s not looking sideways, that little boy
In long leather jacket. May be some eight
or nine in age with no traces of coy
Demeanor, puerile smiles and jerky gait.
Sans turning head he watched the people spere
Through streets, talking, laughing and nudging each
Other. He never saw women so near
sans veils in camp, that’s far from civil reach.
All women he behold wear long izars;
But vague pictures of one…with gentle glee
And loving smiles on battered face with scars
So often flashes in his mind…Ammee!
Yes, Ammee died and he with them, amidst
The broken buildings, sometimes in bunkers
And often running through the nauseous mist
Of blowing bombs, hoping for life in blur.
The bruises still raw on chest, elbows
And knees aren’t troubling him. He’s used to pain
And learned to swallow screams. Those sharp cane blows
On back innured his skin and every vein.
He mused over jennat and seventy two
virgins always. “Whre’re they?” The sky he scanned.
“What’s meant by virgin?” Quietly wading through
The crowded streets he thought and reached the end.
He thought. “May be those virgins never wear
Izars. With brightened face exclaimed “Ammee!”
Yes one of them must be Ammee!” With care
He slid his hand inside and pressed the key!