Jayanthi Manoj: Poetry (Voices Within 2021)

Jayanthi Manoj is an Indian English Poet, articulate and deeply intuitive. She is the Vice-Principal, Assistant Professor of English, teacher-mentor and life-skills trainer from Holy Cross College, Tiruchirappalli, Tamilnadu, India. She reads poems at literary festivals and conducts Creative Writing workshops. She loves colours, words, silence and speaks the voices of whispers. She has a youtube channel ‘Voices and Whispers’. She has an anthology of poems to her credit and has her individual poems published in National and International Journals and anthologies, the recent ones include 'Select Indian Poets' (Bangalore 2017) and 'Hibiscus-poems that heal and empower' (Kolkata 2020).


One *Teppakulam afternoon

Right in from the *Rockfort temple towards the *Main guard gate
Once a citadel of the war-sagacious Nayaks and other troops
Is now the forte of the city’s bazaars and hagglers.

Elbowing the crowd one walks past the wispy whiff of *chandan
Gathered in small plates for sacred rituals to reach atop.
Fragrance of threaded jasmines wet with freshness wisp past nostrils.

Caterwauling children dragged along with market bags
Of heavy purchases from *aadi-sale from Cauvery-long clothing stores
While the river-bed waits for dams to open streaks of water to quench the arid lands.

Horns vying for spaces screech incessantly
Drown the belches of road-side eateries and Hakkim’s *Biryani.

Simple girls mimic fashion stars with their latest street-walk buys
Some dab a little more of powder which sweats like a pan-cake
A few extra coat their lips with aloe-vera balms and eyes with *kajal.

College boys and girls unmindful of the raucous crowd
Saunter coolly with buoyant looks and laughter
A few triumphantly giggle over their bunked classes
A handful slip into Higginbothams for a quiet rummage of books and letters.

The thirsty eyes, wait in crowded files, watching the glass tumblers-
half-filled with crushed ice, quickly dripping with honey-coloured *nannari sarbath, punched with a squeezed lemon in a jiffy.

Glasses stirred and gulped down, endless like the perennial queue.
Another horde await to grab cups of sugarcane juice
with a dash of ginger to quench the sweltering sun.

Come, breathe in the city’s scents,
Sojourn and feel the pulsating tempo of the town
amidst clamouring crowd and tessellated bazaars
And drink its flavours and goodness, just once, in one’s time.

A note on Glossary used in the poem

*Teppakulam - It is a locality near the centre of the Indian city of Tiruchirappalli. Roughly translated from Tamil it means ‘Temple Tank’
*Rockfort temple - Tiruchirappalli Rockfort is a historic fortification and temple complex built on an ancient rock. It is the most prominent landmark of the city
*Main Guard Gate - It is one of the main entrances for the fort complex
*Chandan - Sandalwood powder
*Vibhuti - Sacred ash
*Biriyani - Flavoured mixed rice made with Indian spices, meat, vegetables or eggs
*Kajal - A black powder used in South Asia as a cosmetic around the eyes
*Nannari Sarbath - One of the refreshing summer drink made from nannari. It is a wonder herb from nature which cools the body heat

Go on...


Some days can be arid, scorched and cracked, it's passable-
Plod on.

It could be miles of nothingness, drudgery as baggage, it's traversable-
Move on.

It could be endless expanse of emptiness, torrid days, tired nights, it isn’t impassable-
Hang in there.

It may be this, that or whatever...

Just focus on the rhythm of one foot forward, the next and the next...
Walk on...
Till you outgrow the parched grounds and step on to greener covers of your aligned terrain.
Where owls watch you by night and larks sing by day.
Where wisps of gentler breeze mix with those rain drops of courage that never fear heights nor depths
That is where you learn to go and let go,
Go on as seasons cannot always be just dry.


Uncooked lines

Like an unused ladle hanging on the kitchen hook, 
She was caught in the monotony within the shelved walls of her kitchen. 
Like a new-born lamb lost on a grimy junction
She stood muddled between the dividing lanes of chores and creation. 

Sheepishly she writes her new story between grocery lists and monthly bills
A misfit in the kitchen, preoccupied with her storylines,

she steams the onions and fries the rice.

Feverishly she tries out of the quintillion possibilities 
to make the right *sambar
like solving a Rubik cube with a guide, 
while still fascinatingly preoccupied with her redeemed MAYA,

her literate heroine's first day out for work…

The cooker whines, she opens to see steamed onions and rummages for the missing rice. 
Unattended the grains splutter and grow fussy on the pan
readied for sautéing onions

Quizzically she stands over with vacant eyes, 
watching the translucent onions, caramelized rice, puzzling sambhar, 
while the school bell rings for MAYA, in her mind.

The stove sears for attention while her story runs into many lines.

*Sambar- A lentil-based vegetable stew cooked with pigeon pea and tamarind broth. An everyday popular in South Indian cuisine


Motifs and Rhizome

She embraces her scars
‌Heals herself through tough love.

‌She draws the lines of her circle,
‌Voices, whispers, tears and laughs from within.

‌When disparaged she has the courage to laugh it aloud as a joke
‌And can run her fingers through the fine threads of failure
‌To learn the patterns of life.
‌Seamlessly she sews her triumphant motifs
‌With perseverance, grace and poise.

‌When squashed, tramped and walked over
Deep beneath, she routes down
With her frail threads, she roots further
Grows into a rhizome
Ingrained, grows up into a rootstock
An empowered provenance
Shoots up as the finer self.

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