By Goirick Brahmachari
The Drawing Room
An old harmonium sits over a rug
by the window of my high school winter vacations
with its wood and keys and wires and bones. A tanpura
stretches her neck in sleep. A fat book with a hard cover
left open, my mother’s glasses, pages of poems
in the breeze, shadows,
No candles, no incense sticks.
An old harmonium cuts the bed on a stifled summer evening.
Time does not move an inch.
Every key you press now breaks its rib.
Air heaves through the bones; every note,
a fractured memory, years of inertia, a page in blue ink, a song
copied from those thin brown books that store black and white keys, transparent tea cups,
some red tea, ginger, sugar and a portrait
of an old lady who sang to the road through these wide, green paddy fields.
What Ma did not know about Gitabitan
Among other things, it was used
to iron papers, rupee notes, thin books,
posters, if not clothes, during power cuts.
My encounters with Rabi Thakur
(1) The first fight
It was probably after Durga Puja, or
was it before?
The first one fell as we took the stage and
then, a few more came our way and,
all we could do then, is to just stand there and
smell those rotten tomatoes.
The night before Saraswati pujo was usually the night
of conspiracy and broken secrets. When lovers planned evening walks
through dusty streets wearing white cotton saris under the moonshine,
we counted time to settle scores. David Bowie came very close,
but when I sang, Who wants to live forever, everyone seemed to agree.
So after the pujo and the anjali, when food was being served,
We Sherlocked our way to that room where the tape recorder was
to stop an extremely out of scale Tagore song that was streaming out loud
only to replace the tape with ours.
Soon, at least for a few minutes,
there was Freddie Mercury all over the blue skies of GC College,
over its walls and ceilings, echoing through the main field, as we breathed in
free birds in the sky, every second.
Mercury over the Saraswati statue, inside the statue, melting;
Mercury over the faces of cranky, old teachers, young protectors
of faith and culture, burning; Mercury over out of scale, local nasal singers, raining; Mercury
over lovers who had planned an escape, now lost;
before they finally caught us.
I never told Ma how suffocated I used to feel
on evenings like those when I had to sit
along with her students and sing
Tagore with Rohan, while cricket awaited us.
Many afternoons turned evening
and it was time to study,
(4) Synthesis (At the School)
(In memory of Sangeet Vidyalaya, Silchar)
A dream like this may not make you feel bad
and this was real. I floated across the walls inhaling a different time.
An old man dances to a song meant for kids,
Soon the kids will join. The best one gets a sweet.
He sings and holds time in his feet
Every single step a different beat
Every day is his birthday, he claims.
A young lady sings with her eyes closed
There is no room for time
wide enough to fly
An elderly woman
tries to explain the meaning of songs.
I do not understand anything.
But I stand there to see her eyes
moist, as she turns the page
loses speech, sentences
Only a few disjointed words remain.
(An ode to stage)
At first it was just a tremor in my stomach
then it raised like vapour clouding my lungs
and then my throat felt like a stone
and I could not stand anymore, I could not sing
when the fear of the stage gripped my throat
and I sang the same lines five times and then stopped.
(1) Tracing through Arnob
A clarinet snakes into your chest
sucks up all liquids.
You raise your hands expecting rain,
sometimes magic, if nothing more.
Nothing changes, nothing really left to be said.
(2) Tracing through Ghatak
No paddy fields of hope, no cloudy skies
No bicycling through the fields of crimson soil
No old men crying for old love
No singing by the window on a full-moon night
No dying, No wanting to die
No coconut flowers, no Khol, Kortal
No spring, No winter
No home, no lovers lost in rain
a railway track
that ends in a river
(3) Tracing through Ma (and baba)
Ma lost her voice the day Baba died. They had fallen in love in the winter of 1960. For years she sang and Baba sang through her.
[Pic-credit: Goirick Brahmachari]
Goirick Brahmachari lives in New Delhi, India. He hails from Silchar, Assam. His poems and articles have appeared in North East Review, Nether, Pyrta Journal, Raedleaf Poetry, The Hindu, Economic and Political Weekly among others.
For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.