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House and other poems – Bharti Bansal

Jul 3, 2022 | Poetry | 0 comments

House

Sometimes my aunts sit around the stove
And talk about their husbands in shy whispers
While they talk about countries and their fall in another room
This is how it has been ever since I was a child
The demarcation visible to me even as I sit with them
My grandmother prepares chicken curry
And I hear the laughter of my aunts, a testimony to their happiness perhaps
The house is chirping like a bird today
Almost a celebration before a goodbye
The women here don’t need much, but to sit together as their husbands have dinner
Asking if they need another serving
Their nodding heads, smiling in appreciation are enough for my old grandmother
Who stands like a drooping tree,
Her knees don’t take her weight anymore
The folds of her wrinkled skin still have the same old lustre, a reminder that she once was young too
That she was a girl who rebelled against her father by climbing trees or plucking ripe mangoes
She knows that her daughters will carry the years she lived as secrets to womanhood
My grandmother, with a countenance as still as water in a pond, have tears in her eyes
She has seen time slipping by
Or how the conversations with her daughters changed from being good children to good women
My grandmother never wished for more
Her daughters too
But as I stand here between the kitchen and the room
I think about women and silence the same
I notice men with pride in their eyes, their laughter a bit too loud, their legs spread like roots of a tree wanting to claim soil
There is stillness in air, an unsaid promise that women should keep
The promise my mother has kept all these years and I should too
The promise passed from one woman to other as they confide in each other,
This house is silent now, with everybody asleep, I look forward to morning like a bride. I submit to night with heavy sigh, I know tomorrow will not be same.

__

Womanhood

In one corner of our home, is a little kitchen where my aging mother sings old songs,
Often missing the beat
Sometimes she tries to keep up with new ones
Singing them in the same nostalgic tone
As if wishing for the memories to become tangible
The burning oil in the cauldron
Crackles as she puts cumin seeds
“Just enough brown” she says as she teaches me this art
A mother is a conduit, her daughter the receiver
Of old tales of precautions,
When women were called witches
Of turning on the gas, the same fire making round rotis
Of scars of hot oil on her wrists
Of knowing how much heat is enough to make kheer
Of suppressed dreams
And unheard desires
A mother is more past than present
Her daughter basking in the knowledge of womanhood
Maa doesn’t complain
Says every woman needs to fit in
Like a door dwindling, trying to keep everything inside,
I ask my mother for freedom
And she answers back with warnings, of all the wrongs in the world, of flowers under footstep, or cold harsh winters
I wonder if mothers are the infinite possibilities, their daughters, the mere enactment of them
Maa sometimes forgets to add enough salt,
Or two spoon of sugar while making tea, just enough sweetness
Says too much sugar can kill
Has Maa been saving us all this time?
On the days I yell at her
For not bridging this gap between us
She jokes casually, sometimes dances on the latest new album, or speaks with me in the language I pretend I know better than her(English)
But Maa and me aren’t different
We are somehow the same young daughters rebelling with our mothers to sing loudly
We are the women wanting to be heard
Or just have a voice (there is nothing just about it)
Or maybe move around in house with loose fitting t-shirts without a bra
Or sometimes sit like men, without fearing what happens to women who dares too much
Maa is the same old song that has now stuck in my mind
I keep humming it unknowingly
As little smile dances on my lips
Without ever turning into laughter
We have always known how to stifle the loudness
Or dissect the silence
I don’t realize this until I look in the mirror
The laugh lines around my eyes same as her
I am turning into my mother
And I am happy about it
As much as I am sad.

__

Grandmother

My mother and grandmother
Sit in the old verandah
And talk about old times
By old times I mean
When Nanu was still alive
And brought sweets for my mother and her sisters every single day
For he believed in the act of giving

There is a garden where roses bloom like first sunrise
Sugarcane grows like little boys
Playing and jostling each other
Nani has planted an apple tree
In her field where she rarely goes now
And very proudly tells about the first apple borne by it
Though the wild peacocks were the first to taste it
Maa and grandmother still laugh along
And I remember the times when Nani was not so old
When she held me in her arms for the first time
When mithoo came in our lives
An injured parrot who couldn’t fly
But that’s the thing with my grandmother
She has been saving everyone from the cold
Growing trees where they are not meant to be
Holding funeral for dead parrot
And living life as if she is in war with time
Trying to take revenge
For the love that was taken away too soon
My grandmother often tells me stories of her budding youth
And sings to me at least five different local songs which talk about Radha or her cows grazing, peacock and the quest of a daughter to save it from being killed
Her distant eyes look at me with hope that comes only with aging
Yet all I see is how my mother and grandmother still wear each other’s suits
And now I am growing to fit in theirs
Yet what remains questionable is
If I can sit along with them
If I can take someone else’s place
Be a parrot
Or that apple tree
If I can, one day, sit together on the old charpai
And laugh like women do when they share the same secret of womanhood

__

Bharti Bansal is a poet from Shimla, India. Her works have appeared in magazines like aaduna,, the sunflowers collective, two drops of ink, Live wire India, Feminism in India, Indian Periodical, and is a part of the anthology The Yearbook of Indian poetry.

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