Poetry: Moinak Dutta

Moinak Dutta
Durbin (The telescope)

It has been my favourite toy for long,
That durbin of my grandfather,
Made of copper with bronze rims,
Heavy and magical,
One night of Indian summer,
When our mufassil town after a long drawn loadshedding
Bearing the darkness and mosquito bites,
Thought of finally going to sleep,
My granddad took me to the open terrace of our house,
And showed me the wonders of the night sky,
Celestial things which I always thought them to be
Faraway and completely out of reach,
They came down like guests,
One after another,
As my grandfather introduced them to me,
That's Cassiopaeia,
That's Pole Star,
He told me,
'Do they glitter all day and night?
Do they not get tired?'
I had asked.
'They do get spent too'
He had told me
And recited two different poems,
One of Tagore and the other of Octavio Paz,
Two different poems,
But somehow they rang like two brothers
Or sisters,
Like twins almost,
'keep this durbin with you'
That had been his words,
I found a speck of sudden light in his eyes,
Were they glistening?

The next morning,
I woke up
My grandfather did not,
He went to meet those celestial beings.

(word note : mufassil: small town, a town in the countryside commonly found in India)

My laxmi is a little girl
She runs all around the house,
In her red bordered white saree
With big dots of alta on her feet
She looks more like a girl
Who has all of a sudden grown up
Going beyond her age,

My laxmi is a little girl
She giggles and plays all day
After coming home from school,
If I ask her to sit for a while
And do those sums,
She will try to find a pretext,
One or other
Of not doing them,
 I do not like sums...I like something else'
She will declare,
If I ever ask her that
She will go to the kitchen
And bring a dough of flour
And knead it and give it a shape of a doll
Or an abstract tiny sculpture,

My Laxmi is a little girl
And I call her ma
For only a mother can be a Laxmi.

(alta: red colored liquid used by bengali women to decorate their hands and feet on auspicious days)

Poush parban
Patisapta, pithey pullies,
Notun gur,
Without them there is no way
To think of Poush Parban,
And some memories
They also conjure up
Magical things,
Mother and aunts making them,
All day long,
The mellowed light of prewinter days
Filtered through curtain
Falling on the verandah,
My grandmother sitting nearby
Watching over the proceedings
With keenness and commenting
On how she had learnt to make
Patisaptas, pitheys,
From her mother in law
That very year when she came to this home
As a girl knowing nothing about art of cooking;
Poush Parban,
It always brought sweetness.

(patisapta, pithey pullies, pitheys : different food items made with jaggery and rice paste.
notun gur: common bengali parlance used to describe  jaggery first available in the market at the onset of Poush, a month of bengali calender.
Poush parban: the celebration of the arrival of the month of Poush, a month of bengali calender / almanac)

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