Poetry: Snigdha Agrawal

Snigdha Agrawal

ODE TO KOLKATA 


Sweet old lady sits pretty
On the banks of the Hooghly
More than four centuries
Aged, but still a striking beauty

Unmindful of criticism levelled
Her attitude one of laissez faire 
Fiercely guards her womenfolk 
In her bosom nestled

'Don't ever mess' with Her
You're in for big trouble
Sweet old lady can turn pesky
If her feathers are ruffled

She exudes warmth always
Hospitable to whosoever visits
And once on her lap have rested
Hard to leave without offering praise

She has softness unparalleled 
She's out and out traditional 
Yet amenable to modern ways 
British India's first capital 

She's an out and out foodie
Has a sweet tooth indeed
Her sweets none can resist
‘Rossogolla’, ‘Sandesh’ don’t miss

Never flaunts her riches
Humility her second name
Raised three Nobel laureates 
Few more nearly made it

And if you think her wheels 
Of progress have been stilled
No, it's moving, moving unseen
To rise and stamp her seal

So, if cynics say otherwise, 
Listen, don't argue; not worth it!
Those who flew out of her warm nest
Love and know; she’s the best!
***


THE QUIENTESSENTIAL ‘BANGALI’  

It's okay to call us lazy bones 
Coz we sleep in the afternoons 
After 'pet pujo' of "macher jhol"
"aloo posto" ending with mishti pan
Tell me who will not doze off?
‘Siesta’ as the Italians would call

It's okay to call us "anthels"
Coz on everything, have an opinion 
After so much reading, since early age
Kafka, Karl Marx, any book you name it
It's just but natural, to be labelled
As "The Argumentative Indian"

You're spot on! We love adda sessions
Leaning on the street lamp post
Sipping on ‘chai’, making smoke circles
ITC to be blamed for this 
Opening its first office at Radha Bazar Lane
Knowing sales would take off from this place
“Smoking injurious to health”

You're bang on! About our passion
For football, cricket, all sports, all seasons
Food invariably creeps into discussions 
Foodies we are, proved time and again
Most importantly, every Bengali an artist
Known unknown, at their creative best

Kolkata nurtured us, as her children 
Some born from her womb, some adopted 
Impartial has always remained to them
Giving wind under the wings to sail
On high seas of opportunities
Returning whenever emotions 
Tugged and swayed

Children of Her soil, or visiting guests
She opens the door to her boudoir
With a "namaskar", covered bowed head
Door never slammed on anyone’s face
She’s Mother; knows nothing else
"Bhadrota", in her ingrained

Stands out for her elegance and grace
"Old" and the "new" evenly spaced
Resilience to deal with the unexpected
Rising to the occasion when warranted
Changing for a better version everyday
Without compromising or tweaking 
On values long held.

Making her unique in every respect
Much loved, much hated
Nonetheless remains centre stage 
Whether praised or subject of
Critical comments
***

CRUSHED HIBISCUS (Prose/Poetry)

Why did the red hibiscus turn into a wilted white lily, left in a vase, water unchanged, sorrow eating away at her insides? This is a story that needs to be told. And the unfairness of it all!


Within a nanosecond, the redness is replaced with look of starkness. The radiant red scrubbed of her parting again and again, till the scalp bled, looking clean. Her Bangles red and white broken, with a vengeance, to declare her changed status. Red bordered sari thrown out of her closet. White doesn’t become that woman, diktat, society laid. Nor her long silken black tresses remain; cut to resemble a pixie head. A tradition, so men find her undesirable.

Fish, meat, eggs, garlic, onions, no more form part of her diet. Bulldozed into becoming vegetarian. That food doesn’t go down her gullet, taste for fish curry with mustard sauce, clings to her palate. She is given food after the rest have eaten. Alone, hidden, left to choke on mashed rice and vegetables.
Once held and worshipped as Goddess, suddenly becomes persona non grata; invisible. They, who once bowed down to touch her feet, seek her blessings; avoid her like the plague.

Her presence is evil, forbidden from participating in religious functions. No invitations to her extended for weddings, baby showers, “Annaprashan”. Her presence considered inauspicious for auspicious occasions. Canvas of life in one brush stroke whitened.

Every month she ovulates, her hormones play havoc with her emotions. Douses with buckets of cold water, rising heat of passion, white sari clinging to her youthful form, firm breasts; so many suckled on them. Recalls his gentle fondles, resting his weary head, whenever troubled. Breasts now feel like dead weight, in his absence.

She had dreams of ageing with him, taking her last breath on his chest. Being once again, dressed in the red brocade sari worn when she had wed, and parting streaked with vermilion. Hands full of bangles, feet painted with ‘alta’ red. Women surrounding her, commenting “Oh! How lucky she died ‘Suhagan’, indeed she’s blessed”. Husband lighting funeral pyre, watching her go up in flames, red and fiery red, rising upwards to heaven.

She looks in the mirror and sees her “Other Self”, radiant as the red hibiscus. Catches her husband’s look of admiration. No one is around, except her and her image. On her naked scalp pastes a red ribbon, on her naked forehead, draws water color red circle, wraps around her the red brocade sari’s edge pulled over her head, transformed in the former Goddess. Inside her madness dwells, anger and frustrations; she tries to quell, for what fate has to her dealt. Why? Why? …she asks, is she made to feel responsible for the death of her husband? She’s unable to fathom, why she has been labelled “Widow”, stripped of all colors, stark naked.

They say, she’s gone insane. They know not her pain. They know not the dichotomy of her existence, once placed on a pedestal, next brought down and trashed aside, like rubble!
***


BIO-DATA

Snigdha Agrawal (nee Banerjee) is Bengali born, raised in cosmopolitan environment, with exposure to the eastern and western cultures, imbibing the best of both worlds. With more than two decades experience of working in the corporate sector, her outlook on life is balanced which reflects on her writings. She writes all genres of poetry, prose, short stories, travelogues, hotel/restaurant reviews on Tripadvisor; essentially a versatile writer. A published writer of two books of poems, and contribution to several anthologies, she spends time writing and travelling. She lives with her husband in Bangalore, Karnataka, India.


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