Ronita Chattopadhyay (Voices Within 2023)

Ronita Chattopadhyay finds refuge in words. She also makes a living out of it while supporting not for profit organisations in India. Her poems have appeared in The Hooghly Review, Roi Fainéant Press and Howard University's Power: An Ode to BIPOC Excellence, Mystic Owl, Streetcake Magazine, The Afterpast Review and Akéwì Magazine. A mountain person at heart, she lives closer to the waters in West Bengal, India.


An Unexpected Archive of an Itinerant Self

She has been with me
through a decade of travel, maybe more
and the finding and making of homes in multiple cities.
She has not escaped unscathed herself.
There are bits that have chipped off.
In our Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses,
she is the only one who can lay any claim
to my affection and regard.
Saraswati -
the goddess of learning and the arts
and one who has very few temples to her name.
I am not exactly sure why.
Is it because she had a mind of her own
and could never be domesticated fully?
That she was no sufferer of fools?
Anyways, this one small clay figurine
is material and memory and inspiration
for me.

A List of Kindnesses Experienced in Childhood

Children in the neighbourhood
letting me use their lucky stones
for our childhood games.

Friends keeping a place for me
when our families got together in someone’s house
to watch hit Bollywood films on a video cassette player.
(And did I just give away my age?)

An aunty calling me home
to make an intricate mehendi design on my hand
because she saw me trying to do that
with an orange sketch pen
(and knowing that my mother knew nothing about mehendi).

The PT teacher in class II
allowing a friend and me to hold hands and run
to share the ignominy of coming last in a race.

The English teacher in class VIII
telling a friend and me
that we had written the same story in the exam
and that she knew we hadn’t cheated.
(Basically, both of us had fallen
while walking in a forest,
tumbled through tunnels
and found ourselves in underground caves.)
And that our stories were good.
But it was also ok
if both of us read different authors
and had different adventures in the future.

Note

PT: Physical training

Living and Grieving

Can you schedule grieving
to a more convenient time?
Next Sunday…maybe afternoon.
Meanwhile,
I will get some deadlines out of the way
and household chores and
doctors’ appointments and tests
and the regulators need fixing
(the heat has been unbearable this year).
The demands of the living…
do they outweigh those of the dead?

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