26 Jan 1986
There she lives, in the mysterious air of Kashi,
Troops of shaven heads clad in pure white band together,
With earthen pots cautiously set on her tender top, she falters,
Squeezing through the blackened alley, down the stairs by the Peepul tree,
Descending the bloody creek, with ghastly bodies that reek of half-done rites,
Mumbling her eerie chants, to the Sun Goddess, to the Ganges, to the dead,
Skipping the bobbing heads of crowds bathing their sins away, she contrives,
Stripping her now blotted widow Saree, pleat by pleat,
Disposing all the woes, sins and regrets to the river that takes it all in,
Stark naked, folding her hands in prayers to the ashes of the heavenly souls,
Sullied-Unsullied, pure-impure, grey-white, all persevere under the same sky,
Surviving the odds, she serves the old, languishing to die,
With tears of pain, I curse her for her life,
She held my hand when father fought for independence, dotingly, assuringly,
Why? Where shall I go now? To strip myself of anger or love?
Ma? What was it about the land of the dead that clasped you between life and death?
Or was it the father who martyred himself at the border?
There you glorify, glorify death, in the mysterious air of Kashi.
About the Sukshma Series:
The Sukshma Series is a first-hand account of an educated woman of post-colonial India reflecting on how the social and political set-up of the country defined the status of an Indian woman.
The title of the poems is “Sukshma”, the title is very deliberate because Sukshma essentially means dormant energy and in the context of the central character’s feelings, it is quite pertinent. Sukshma is an educated middle-class house-wife in the 1980s in India. Sukshma maintains a personal diary in which she scribbles about her emotions, fears and anxieties in her life and expresses them only through the medium of poems. Evidently, her writing is mature and literary, but she is torn between the responsibilities of the household, family, children and the rigid social structures of the society that prohibit her aesthetic ability to write, so she keeps them private and writes very irregularly. Sukshma keeps her writing energy dormant and concealed from the rest of the society because she fears the aftermath of being deviant. Through her writing, she speaks volumes about her predicament as an Indian woman and reflects on the violence and horrors of her critical situation.