Poetry: Banhi Sarkar

Banhi Sarkar
A World Beyond Plain Water Lilies 

The water stands calm, 
as a witness to the lover's quarrel 
on a drenched afternoon.

I was standing in a corner,
oblivious to the couple's conundrums 
reaching my ears
and filling my heart with loneliness;
 
I haven't seen you for months now 
and I haven't even thought of you for days...

But everytime someone mentions Victor Hugo 
and how he hid his artwork 
in fear of overshadowing his literary art,
I'm reminded of how you introduced me to Hilma af Klint
and her circle of five;
she believed she was commissioned by the afterlife to
draw, paint, and design with ink and paper into
what we now call abstract art.

You told me how she was not crazy, but 
a mystic, a misfit yet a glorious mind that dared,

you told me how you, too, believe 
in a world beyond plain water lilies...

A world of doppleganger, deja vu and ectoplasm,
simply because the mainstream was too rundown for you. 

Because kissing under the pines
means more than just two thirsty souls
yearning for touch.

Because holding hands intertwines 
two beating hearts.

Because lying on bed with
one eye closed and one eye open,
looking at the person next to you,
means more than an idle afternoon
amidst slow reverie and slower clock hands.

Because the couple who fought by the water,
did so not by sheer happenstance
but by choice, with despair.

Because there's nothing like a calm water
and green mosses by its banks
to make you slip and hold on to your partner,
look at each other,
sprinkle water drops
on their faces and laugh out loud,
drowning those sorrows and griefs 
in the water itself.

For the water has stood witness for far too long
to not ripple, 
but carry away every lover's melancholy
from the shore,
off the current and
into the deep blue;
the water today 
reminded me of a world beyond 
that of plain water lilies,
the water today
reminded me of you.
***


Do You Know Where The Earth Ends And The Moon Bends

Do you know where the Earth ends and the Moon bends?
We'll go there someday,
Beyond all those years of glistening sunshine,
We'll climb the flight of infinite stairs
And hear our heart beats under the porcupine.

I wish I was there to soothe you the day
You came out, to one and many among strangers
Under the halogen;
You held my face in your cupped hands and gazed,
You said you were glad I wasn't there or then
Under the halogen.
I can only imagine what took you so long,
It was a weekend in when we smoked bong;
That's where the Earth ended and the Moon bent that day,
We locked our gaze
And cupped each other's faces,
I remember how you smiled
Through the smoke and under the halogen,
Kissing my knuckles
And shivering all through!
I wanted to take us further,
Bring all of you with me,
Closer than you already were,
Further than the moon bends
And beyond than where the Earth ends.

Do you know where the Earth ends and the Moon bends?
We'll run away there someday,
Away from the dark alleys and shady bars,
Where you don't need to come out,
To me or I to you,
Or us to others and others to us,
We'll be in unison,
Under one flag, one norm.
I wish I could take you back to those days,
When we were kids  and young and free and wild,
To all and for all,
You nuzzled your nose against mine and said,
You were glad that we were still all those
And more, between the two of us, and not
To all and for all.
I can only imagine more endless days before meeting you,
I was a weak whimpering kid that longed for love;
That's when the Earth ended and the Moon bent that day,
When you brought me my first pint
And insisted in calling me by a name
That I didn't even know I could have.
We shook hands and nuzzled each other's noses,
I knew we disappeared right then and there,
To all and for all, around that bend.
Over the smell of coffee,
As you took my breath away,
I wanted to call your name
With the same warmth that you had bestowed to me
Again and again, over mine,
Long after the Moon bends around that corner
And forever after the Earth ends beyond that line.

Do you know where the Earth ends and the Moon bends?
We'll take our own Sun there,
We'll take the rivers and the trees.
We'll carry the Earth and build the Moon its home;
The Earth will be free to dance beyond its axis and a Sun,
The Moon will finally shine just for its own.
You can sit on the Earth
And I on the Moon,
We'll wave to each other
From where your Earth ends and my Moon bends,
The Sun will shine just enough in that corner,
Enough for us to see each other's shadows in the light
And for the world to see two blinking dots in the dark.

We can be the trees and the rivers there
Or we can be their traces on the Earth's face.
But what if all we come down to
Are those craters on the Moon,
That carry signs of dried up water
Which show past signs of life?
Does that mean we're dead in that corner where the Moon bends?
Or that one day we were alive
Around that same corner where the Earth ends?
Does Earth still remain Earth
If it doesn't go round the Sun?
Does Moon still remain Moon
If it doesn't go round the Earth?
Do I still wave
Even if you don't,
Will you still wait
Even when I won't?
Or do we go to a different planet altogether
With a different soil and a revered soul.
Mars is called the Red Planet
Where they say life existed...
Were all those lives straight
Who lived and then bled to death
Or were all those lives gay
Who only bled, and bled to death?
Did love paint its soil red
Or did red give its soul love?
Can the Sun shine on Mars,
Where I'll sit on its earth and you on its moon
And we'll walk the bend together,
Hand in hand
Hip to hip
Lips to lips
Kiss to kiss
And into the halogen
Under the norm,
Carrying the one flag
As brothers in arm.
We'll walk around that bend and look upon
Where the Earth ends and the Moon bends
And wonder at those blinking dots from far away,
Each thumping to someone's beat
Each craving for someone to love
Each waving to someone's hand
Each cooling in someone's heat;
Wonder, if they too,
Want to find a corner safe enough,
Where the Earth CAN end and the Moon CAN bend
And where they, too, CAN love.
***


Paper People 

The day my Ma lost her second baby
I had stepped into a pool of blood in the bathroom
And had to call Abba over the phone;
I kept asking Ma for weeks,
Where did the baby go? Did it vanish?
Was it, too, afraid of blood, like me?
“The blood was the baby, Noor, 
The baby got lost in the blood.”

The day our neighbour Shaheen Aapa was thrown out of her house
My Abba said nothing could be done to claim her rights. 
He explained to me, that there were no papers to her name
Papers to prove it was her house too,
That she was married to Nawaz Chacha for 20 years
Papers to prove that she existed as Shaheen Khatun.  
My 12 year old heart let out a cry
Thinking all these years,
I must have enjoyed the biriyani cooked by her ghost.
For if there were no papers to prove that Aapa existed
Did it mean she never really existed?
My Ma said that these papers were called documents,
“Without which people don’t exist
(On paper).”

There are towns that exist on map but not in the world
They’re called Paper Towns.
There are people who exist in the world but not on paper
They must be called Paper People.
I finally understood why there was no baby that day 
When I stepped into my Ma’s pool of blood in the bathroom.
The baby was in the blood
But not on paper.
The baby didn’t exist.
The baby was one of the Paper People.
***


Bio: Banhi Sarkar is currently pursuing her Master’s in Media and Cultural Studies at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Mumbai). She has completed her Bachelor’s in Chemistry from Lady Brabourne Collge (University of Calcutta). Her interests lie in research, writing, filmmaking, public policy, and social work. She has previously worked as a freelance content writer at HookedUpon, TrippinTraveller and GreEdge, and as a translation coordinator for organisations like Calcutta Research Group and StoryWeaver. An introvert by nature, a film buff and an avid reader by choice, she finds writing as the most instrumental medium for her to express herself. Most of her poetry covers an intimate and personal exploration of topics both temporal and political. She wishes to work in the fields of media and research in the future and create awareness about different social issues through her work. 

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