Life has enriched me abundantly: for good and bad, kindness and cruelty, without asking for anything in return. It is ridiculous to pay it back in the same coin; but it does not mean that one will turn away. That may be the reason my poems speak about the melancholy of life: vocally or silently.
When a caterpillar is transfigured into a butterfly, when a husband carries the mortal remains of his wife from a remote hospital bed, when an approaching cyclone is abruptly terminated, or the untimely death of grandmother, sadness is the perennial guest of a poet, refusing to leave in a hurry.
Maya Angelou had said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I couldn’t agree more with her.
Letter to Dana Majhi
You can always find this
Rack of pain
In our celebrated myths.
Judge yourself with the protagonist.
We are born in a myopic world
That you are forgetting.
Your grief played as a cheerleader
Along with your tall daughter
Walking through the Tyburn scaffold.
What kind of revenge
Whets you while carrying
The dead one? Does memory die?
Is the sun pinioned like a carrot
Under the pewter sky?
Can eyeballing media grope
The latitude and longitude
Of your helplessness
Slipped into the slit of time, Dana?
We the people who shed tears
Hoping that they take
The shape of diamonds
Are a parliament of hypocrites.
Museum of sympathy cuckolds,
The antiques of shortcomings.
Hunger has spread
Like arabesque scrolls
In the map of our dream.
Dana, I’m also a reluctant member
Of the club of dim light
That has been outlived
Dana Majhi carried the dead body of his wife on his shoulder after being denied a hearse ambulance in Bhawanipatna, Kalahandi, Odisha.
The cyclone is an unclaimed industry
Producing the adrenaline of hope
For the space of assault we inhabit.
No cyclone, no music of development
You’ll hear. It connects us with memory;
If it does fail to visit
We earn cicatrices
Through bonfires of absence.
Breeding swarms of stories,
It settles in the hives of our past.
You were there before
And you studied my absence.
The branches of the drumstick tree
Turned into a run-down mansion.
Everyone camouflages a terrorist
Inside himself; it emerges
From the hideout, broken into pieces.
You were there afterwards
And you marked my presence,
Waiting for flight,
But no vigilante in sight!
Before I could reason out
An answer to the fluttering wings
Life turned risky
Alphabet of Silence
At a cultural meeting
The number of speakers
Was half that of the listeners.
The speakers clapped.
The listeners sat
In stony silence.
In the market place
The price of vegetables,
Vendors, their bellies wobbling,
Hummed their own tune.
In the mountain curve,
A river was busy composing music,
A leaf suddenly fell on its ribcage.
It made the river wordless.
In Parliament House,
The new PM became emotional.
That left the other members of the house weeping
Till the arrival of the next election.
Near the temple’s dark sanctorum
The priest did not chant his hymns
That challenged the audacity of the lord;
A court’s verdict
Went against personal interest.
Grandmother died of diarrhoea
Before father’s marriage;
Free from demons and ghosts.
There’s a handful of imagination
Borrowed from the neighbours’ stockpile.
Of late, I’ve been groping for
The tender breasts of words,
But they cower like mimosa
The moment I touch the skin.
Nights have turned into asylums;
Stars suffer from insanity.
Dawn awaits the first light
Without performing any recce.
Excerpted with permission from A Brief History of Silence, Manu Dash, Dhauli Books.