Sukamaa - Nandini Sahu

‘Sukamaa’ is Nandini’s folklore—it’s the lyrical tale of the Kondh tribal woman, Sukamaa, narrated by the poet with music and nostalgia. This is the title poem of Nandini’s poetry collection, Sukamaa and Other Poems. www.kavinandini.blogspot.in
Nandini Sahu
She passed away. Suka-maa
Suka’s mother. Suka’s--Sakunta’s--
Shakuntala’s mother.
She was the mother earth,
the virtual mother of we six sisters.
In our love, perhaps she loved less her
Suka, Shailaand Koili, her own daughters.

One day, we flew the nest
making her grope
 and forever brood.
Today, Sukamaa
(had she any other name? ) died.

When a poor taps my car window
at the red lights of Connaught Place
I have a shudder of relief that
I am not on the opposite side.
The leitmotif of time – has it
made me such esoteric?
Then who reminds me time and again
of Sukamaa, our childhood
domestic-help, our foster-mother,
the rural poor tribal
the Kondh old woman
illiterate, deprived, downtrodden
the subaltern
one among the crores
that constitute real India?

Sukamaa, the real homemaker
in our suburban household,
she would fight with our
school-teacher-disciplinarian-mother
for being strict with us, would
not mind if my younger sisters would
urinate or shit on her lap.
Shy about the criss-cross tattoos
on her rather pretty face (which,
her mother had etched to
make her less-beautiful, thus, less-desirable!),
she would swear about tales from
her youth, when many a men
were engrossed to have
just a glance of her!
We were a foil set against her
to depict her ugliness
her tattooed face.
We felt so purified after
we had disbursed our dirt on her.
We felt so pretty when
we hoisted straight across her ugliness.
Her ease adorned her.
Her culpability consecrated us.
Her feebleness made us glimmer with health
her inelegance made us
reason we had wisdom.
Her inarticulateness made us trust
we were persuasive.
Her poverty kept us lavish.
We sharpened our personality on her
propelled our charms
with her fragility.
And nodded in the imaginary world
of our power.

Today
we are sophisticated, articulate.
We confront life with ease
like we did for years
without knowing that it was she
in her ugly, sordid, squalid
haunt, who prayed for us
day and night.
Today we pretend
with decent planning for intelligence.
Reschedule deceptions
and call them a point.
We are coping with the tough
business called life, facing the
predicament of survival
tearing apart the bonding
between her and us.
Villages have given way to cities
we have moved
from innocence to experience.

Her story is an incredible mosaic
about a generation, our generation
of the metropolis, the NRIs--
ashamed of Sukamaa’s poverty amid
our chaotic urbanization.
Forgetting that
Sukamaa had created a symphony
of time and place.
Eating a proper meal was an indulgence
not meant for her, she felt.
Interposed
between two worlds – her poor
thatched house and our luxurious
apartment – contradicting,
empathizing, appalling, opposing each other.
Her dedication had no master plan
her dream was only to watch
we rising stars, in
a galaxy where the privileged
disdain the sprawling slum.

Sukamaa’s silent death inquests.
Would human goodness
silently triumph someday?
Would we ever get over the fascination
to our feigning melancholy and
be like her?

Isn’t it the conscientiousness of
an unwitting bystander like me
to tell her untold tale amid
all these sagas of quick-fix
T.V channels on yoga, beauty care,
weight loss and wealth-gain?
Isn’t it my moral obligation
to an unmindful posterity
to tell Sukamaa’s slum-dog tale?

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