Sunday, 15 August 2021

Preetha Vasan, Poetry 2021 Shortlist

Shivaratri

 

On Shivaratri we did

Many things at home, 

In our different spaces. 

Like Amma who would

Make some payasam, vadai or chakrapongal, 

Appa who would endlessly unseeingly

Chant rudram, chamakam 

And me cyclically

Learning my lessons

For exams that 

Never rewarded my endless

Efforts. 

 

Unlike 

My father who was

Amply rewarded 

When he quickly

Died two days before

Shiva ratri. 

Leaving behind

The saligramam, spatika lingam

 

Now our rudrams come

From wynks, you tubes 

Even an old CD 

That struts and stammers in

My father's laptop. 

 

This shiva ratri

I bought mangoes 

Raw like a wound 

That won't heal. 

To make pickles

Multiply flavored 

Like the ones 

Appa would pompously

Make and

Flamboyantly strut 

Under our upturned noses. 

The many miniscule pieces of

Mango I cannot see 

sans my reading glasses

I shift and shuffle

Them 

With sharp red chilly powder

Asfoetida, turmeric, and bitter 

Fenugreek like a bad afterthought, then

The copious gingly oil. 

And after soaking in the spices

Like two years of loss

I add the brilliant salt

Always to be added in the end 

Like my father used to say

Else it will release water 

Like tears interminable. 

Salt 

Like appa

Taut with its wit

Whose availability

I took for granted

Impossible to be absent

But nevertheless mortal.


Payasam: sweetened watery rice pudding; Vadai: a savoury made out of lentils and fries; Chakrapongal: a rice and jiggery dish made on special occassions
Rudram and Chamakam: sacred verses for Shiva, supposed to be sung only by upper caste Hindu men.
Saligramam: sacred stone of Vishnu ; spatika lingam: lingam made out of crystal or quartz.

 

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