T (no first name) Wignesan


The Shore Temple in Mahaballipuram


The mirtangist may never willingly hear
may not want to hear
the multaiyam announcing his cue
nor the melodist aware of the flautist's right
to the change in the raga
the plucking of the yal strings
to the goatskin drummed bleats
and pleas
of mindless fingers
for out there
on the receding promontary's rising granite mounds
of three-tiered edifices
held up
by the Pallava's view
of the Descent into the Ganges:

rishis crosslegged contemplate yakshis or apsaras' unharnessed
thighs
attenuated waists commodious backs buxom breasts
where mantra-chanting brahmins bathe drink and contort themselves
through puzzling demeaning rites
where Hanuman's emissary mounts guard
where the wizened Ganesha
with Buddhic lobes
his tusks bent inward
the noble crown and forehead
higher than the top-heavy octogonal coupole

The yal's graveness guiding the scorched chiselling hand
through all the buffeting splash and spray
the taste of briny sand in jasmin-scented rounds
of hand-pressed rice
till the sun roots out vision
from botched corneas
deaf jabs of moulting faltering hands
on damp sand

Thus would prideful devotees heedlessly later claim:

« This is a monument to Pallava vision
Pallava faith
Pallava fortitude
See how the obedient ocean dutifully recedes
from Pallava wrath and glory! »

Even the hardest rock wears with the winnowing wind
Little by little a decade of centuries later

To whose glory must this monument testify
to
the servile sudra mixer of sand and stone
the poor flabbergasted feckless porter
never knowing why the bother
about effigies of mythic figures
the spurned sculptor
whose fingers now and then falter
the endlessly silhouetted nubile lines of near-naked damsels
balancing sandstone blocks on wicker-work troughs
on lean but sturdy necks
the overseer
the mandore
yelling through hoarse parched out throats
so many curses to stem the rising tides
to keep them from soiling the temple's wicket-gate
the carpenter called to mind the scaffolding
hugging the walls with his spindly legs
and trailing loin cloth

and then the women-folk huddled in the windy hutless hinterland
around myriad swishing swirling wood fires
hoisting earthen pots of gruel
and culled gourds of well water
on thick matted hair
their infants slithering on hips

all who on pinching stomachs and broken backs
graft their unwritten signatures
in the howling cavernous dirges of the Coromandel ocean breath

(©: T. Wignesan - Paris, March 12,1992; rev.2012; from the sequence/collection: 'Words for a Lost Sub-Continent',1999.)

Submitted: Friday, July 13, 2012

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