Mandira Mitra

Old Wives' Tales - Poem by Mandira Mitra

Do not be afraid to build.
That’s what Granny said.
After three-score and ten
Years of traversing nations,
Partition and the riots
And the historic evening in 1954
Subsequently named by us:
“Transistor radio march”
When Farukh Mian brought information
Of an impending attack. Hand in hand
She and Grandpa crossed the border
With only a Transistor-radio
Their sole possession. Hand in hand
They walked towards a teeming island
Of refugees. Even then said
Granny with her inscrutable faith
Not put to test with the rest:
By all means build, like
The ant, like the wren, like the sparrow
Let there be four walls of trust,
Cat-in-waiting for the crust,
Of last morsel of fish and rice. Throw in
A nice bed embroidered with delicate threads
Where little heads
Keep popping out of blankets
For the frog-prince’s ultimate fate.
Let there be a man in the house
With his delicious sloppy ways,
Leaving his masculinity around
In vast cigarette trays.
Build, said Granny: on sand
On sea on ice on rocks on fire
On snow. Absorb the sights
And sounds, of life around.
Befriend fish monger from Bongaon, blind beggar
From Maimansingha. Beg nostalgia or bargain
As if your life is at stake,
For that fish looking like snake.
Never be afraid to build. Never wake up
Alone from a nightmare. It pays
To have a soft comforting snore
Drift towards your lonely island of sleep
And keep (however queer her ways)
You company. She understands
As even mother cannot understand
The fondness with which you retain that torn slipper
From that rain soaked walk with you-know-who
From your Varsity days. And she knows the ways
Your heart still skips a beat
(Adventure in the fashion of Granny’s radio-retreat)
When a certain smile wafts across the dinner table
At Annual Alumni meet.

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, December 24, 2009

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