Encroachment - Poem by Aruni Kashyap
I have known this river like tea leaves.
I have bathed, ran on its wet sands.
Grappled in its shallow banks for fishes and caught tadpoles.
Sometimes, avoiding restrictions I have even plunged naked
into its arms.
Hence I know, it has young blood in it.
And many cultures, ammunitions that have sunk into it.
They lie like treasures, loot
of seventeen victories against Mughals
over six-hundred years by Ahoms.
I have touched its chest, its shallow.
When it swells under weeks of rains
river-dolphins show their tails like mermaids,
just one glimpse
showing displeasure over constrained spaces.
We are the generous ones,
not hollow men.
Only time has made our hearts narrow,
our spaces constrained just like this river’s bed.
In eighteen ninety-seven
it swelled like rain clouds.
Paddy fields moved like sea waves
villages sank creating lakes
And one of those first sun hills,
And Digāru flowed down like Gangā
from Śiva’s whorls.
In this way we have made spaces.
Even for new rivers and lakes.
Sometimes villages too.
Poet's Notes about The Poem
1. Earthquakes have rocked Assam and wreaked havoc almost every fifty years for
centuries. One of the biggest earthquakes was in 1897, which measured more than 8 on
the Richter scale.
2. A river in Assam.
3. According to Hindu mythology, King Bhagiratha prayed to Goddess Gangā, who lived
in heaven until then, to flow down to earth and bestow her holy waters to the mortals.
While descending from heaven to earth, she alerted King Bhagiratha that her forceful
waters might destroy the earth and hence she would need something very strong to fall
into. King Bhagiratha prayed to Śiva, and he agreed to hold Gangā in his whorls from
where she flowed down to the earth.
Comments about Encroachment by Aruni Kashyap
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