Voices Within: Basudhara Roy

Basudhara Roy (b.1986) has been teaching English for the last eight years as Assistant Professor at Karim City College, Jamshedpur, Jharkhand. She has been an alumnus of St. Xavier’s School, Bokaro, and of Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. She holds a doctorate in Diaspora Women’s Writing, her areas of academic interest being postmodern criticism, gender and cultural studies. As a poet she has been published in magazines like Cerebration, Rupkatha, The Challenge, The Volcano, Gnosis, Death Voyage, Das Literarisch, Reviews, Triveni, Setu, and Hans India. Her first collection of poems Moon in My Teacup is due to appear this year from Writers Workshop, Kolkata.

To Banaras
(for Meena Sodhi mam)

I sift the city
for anagrams of my past;
for words I left behind
for lovers to inhabit, find, alter.

The throbbing pulse of its lanes,
I recall on finger-tips of nostalgia
as feet tap wildly against
pavement – intimate, native, sure,

and there is a reckless run
of innocent, thoughtless abandon
past new signboards into geographies lost,
to be found now only in the telling.

 ***

Life makes and unmakes itself
here on these intangible shores;
shatters into a hundred bits
and is reborn as light, wind, song.

It buttresses hopes of resurrection;
of reclaiming meaning
from a debris of doubt, grief, loss.
Promises better shores, finer silt,

and wisdom, chaste within the
sanctum of its seeking. Poised
between yesterday and tomorrow,
between life and death, man and god,

 the city has no weariness to questions;
only no answers to offer. For response
it throws up the paradox of life itself
and the stillness within its restless core.

 ***

Through capitols, calendars and
unyielding miles, the city keeps
faith, has remained a friend. Stops by
for a chat as I alight and depart.

Unweaves itself sometimes
to allow me a glimpse of the past.
Its habits I know, and it, the
overwhelming weakness of my soul.

We both must move on, this city and I,
for what is there to hold us back. As
dawns break and as nights descend, we both
realize the necessity of our course.

It wouldn’t do at all to give up, to cup
palmfuls of damp sand in uncertain clasps
and feel the good-bye of it, or worse still,
to find the sea gone out of it all. Better

to keep moving. And when sometimes
the heart loses faith in progress, I shut my
eyes and think of a city in eddies, dots, waves,
flows - royally making meaning on the march.

Lost

Some things that I lose,
I never recover.

Buttons, beads, needles, safety-pins,
pen-lids, bookmarks, socks, kerchiefs;

scribbles, promises, dreams, friends, love.
I have come across them later in life,

in new autumns under new roofs
in new lands under the same sun;

but not the ones I lost;
never the ones I lost.

Off/Duty

We trade in aches,
in missed words,
misplaced affections,
squandered moments.

We spill mirth sometimes
when our cups are generously filled,
only to rue, to rush, to mop
and regret what we dropped, lost.

Inducted into waiting,
we know to wait for rice,
milk, tea leaves to come to boil;
for husbands and children to return;

for henna, papad [to dry in the sun.
We wait for seasons to pass,
for children to be born,
and when they are grown and gone,

for reasons to bring their mothballed
childhood out of boxes and albums.
We lie awake at nights with bated breath
listening to the footfalls of death
benedictively passing us by, as
mothers-in-law lie sick, answering
voices of their own, as eclipses
threaten the awaited unborn.

We wait for dawns to break,
for fogs to lift, for our elderly
to part chapped lips and place
morsels on drug-numbed tongues,

excavating buried memories
of flavours, touch, promises, song.
We anoint petals with turmeric,
vermillion, coconut water;

pray for domestic prosperity,
for blue skies, stocked granaries,
loyal husbands, faithful progeny,
and a pinch of peace.

We will leave all this behind
someday; break free of tradition,
of want, of love; sprout third eyes
like danger on foreheads;

untie unwashed hair and step out,
rejoicing in the musk of our sweat,
in the lust of our breath, knowing
no conches can ever call us back.

Renunciation

Silence was mine to touch today;
vineyards of it buried under
the staunch indifference of your roof.

Knowing it wouldn’t matter to you,
I gathered up a handful and carried it
home to place in an urn on the mantel,

between clock and the promise
you made me once, virgin still,
resplendent in glass and gold.

The urn draws me. I finger the dust;
soft, companionable to the touch; a
little damp at places, freshly watered.

I raise a handful to inhale loss
and surprisingly catch the fragrance
of words once sown in your yard.

Restless with the affirmation
that the past still breathes, I want
to darn, weave, knit, embroider

to you all my waiting. But you have
long given up adornments
to become a saint.
Voices Within - Complete List of Poets :: Setu, January 2019

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