Nuggehalli Pankaja, INDIA

(Epistle from Mumtaz Mahal to Shahjahan)

“MUSEUM   PIECE”, have you made   me -
ME!   Your   cherished   wife Oh! JAHANPANAH!
Jealous of   even   sun and moon,
Buried me while still alive,
With   the silken tassels of    purdah
Denying      even      a      vestige     of      the     visage
That   inspired   famed TAJMAHAL
To curious populace-posterity!
And now?

Now shackled my spirit,
With your   fascination for architecture!
Privacy rent by suffocative breath
Of visitors endless,
Prey to their comments various,
I writhe in distress…………
Feel you it not, my Lord,
Wherever you   be?

Aye, with sorrow intense and love   immense,
Did you the monument commence,
Till vanity for ‘IMMORTALITY’
Took over …

Love? Disillusioned am I,
Viewing couples swearing devotion eternal,
And partners on honeymoon blissful-                                                                                                       
But separated . . . emanating hatred,
When seen next!

Ha! Cold beauty of marble laughs with derision
Casting its shadows with stealth
Over hearts   soft as   roses……….
Molded by the   tears
Of   families suffering while carving-
Your tears in marble---jeweled   marble.            

Stands adulated, the ‘MONUMENT’ unique - 
Testimony of your praised esthetic sense,

Hear you not   its cry of anguish,
Wherever you be, JAHANPANAH,


Many a time have I heard
That call - her call;
Once I remember,
Ran I, amidst a heavy storm
Hearing that call - pathetic wail!

During moon-shine and car drive,
Memory of that lovely time
Kills me
With longing - regret.

Can’t the breeze
Which travels far and wide,
Give news of her - my girl
Who trusted me heart and soul -
That trust. . ....  I betrayed!

Then, one day, all of a sudden,
Saw her
Yes, her and the child
My child …... Playing
With a broken cricket bat.

I looked
At the tattered garment of her
With whom I had played so,
And given a tattered life. . . . . ..

At her, once draped in silk and pearls,
Haughty and proud,
 Now clothed with shame and hardship!

Looked -
At the eyes once aglow with poetry,
Now hard and cold!
Hands once so artistic,
Now stretched out humbly
To passers-by -
Turned away sick.

Next day when she was away,
Lured the child to come with me;
Frightened, long he stood
Looking at the car-his father’s car. . ..

Then she came —
Not a word of reproach -
Wail or tear,
From the girl
I had made into a beggar……

Drawing herself straight,
One proud look flung,
Tossed down the sweet given to the kid,

My kid - our kid,
And was gone. . .. GONE!

Making me feel like a dwarf. . . . . .


She stooped near the shrubs,
Covering her visage with the shawl half-torn,
Peering through it with bated breath …...

At last the couple came out joyous-kissing,
The bundle covered with the other half
Of the shawl that once was its father’s. . ..

Sucking thumb as taught by that mother of few hours,
It smiled-the angelic smile, but gave a sob
As they neared the shrubs, yearning for that nipple?

She receded further, away into darkness, praying -
Praying as only a mother could -
DRENCHED . . . ... WITH. . .... TEARS PROFUSE. . ..

Nuggehalli Pankaja, senior poet and bilingual writer, is a recipient of several prestigious awards, the most recent being one of the highest - from the Karnataka Sahitya Akademi for Literature in 2017 and Karnataka State Women Achievers Award for Literature-2018. She has to her credit, many Kannada books in all fields, and English poems, humour, short stories etc., published in various leading newspapers, and anthologies. Two popular Kannada films, have been made based on her novels. She has also translated 'The Karnataka Part' from Kannada language to English for the English Encyclopedia brought out by the prestigious KU VEM PU University of Manasagangotri, Mysore.    

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