Goirick Brahmachari is a writer based in New Delhi. His poems and articles have appeared in North East Review, Nether, TFQM, Coldnoon: Travel Poetics, Raedleaf Poetry, The Reading Hour, The Hindu, and Economic and Political Weekly among others.
নীল পাগলের পুজো (Neel Pagoler Pujo) / Worshipping the Blue Mad Man
They who grew up in filthy puddles
of water hyacinth and black snakes
hang together under the blue চৈত্র skies,
with a hook in their tongue, through a rope tied in a pole,
oscillating between two bamboo frames
just like a Russian gymnast
bleeding in perfect rhyme
with খোল, করতাল and মন্দিরা
হর গৌরী প্রাণনাথ
মাথার উপরে জগন্নাথ
এই বার উদ্ধার কর শিব!
Kali tries to hide his chest hair with black paint,
tugs in his artificial breasts inside his blouse
and gets ready for the show.
While Shib stands doped with her dreadlocks smoking charas.
She tries her moustache in the mirror.
Charaks stich their bodies with hooks,
they dance together, free
in a wild love trance
O lover of গৌরী , প্রাণনাথ.
You who carry জগন্নাথ
on your head,
please save us now.
এই বার উদ্ধার করো শিব!
The poem is about Charak Puja, a folk festival celebrated in parts of Assam, West Bengal and Bangladesh. It is also known as Neel Puja. The believers celebrate it on the last day of month Chaitra, the last month in Bengali Calendar.
When the Tata Sumo broke down at Masimpur,
I got down to board a drunk mini bus
It snailed across Panchgram
bringing a nostalgic, yet
nasty smell, (of waste
from the paper mill),
that traveled with us for some time.
I remember- a lady covered in burqa,
her husband, much older than her,
wrapped in white; goats, ranchers,
fish, fishermen, students, LIC agents, all
nodding in unison, as the bus swang from left to right
and I did try, to match their motion, with Abida Parveen in my ears.
As Barak snaked away in varied colours on my right,
those bamboo houses flew, water hyacinth played hide and seek with snakes- farmers sowed seeds over vast paddy fields that melted onto the blue sky,
crows hallucinated, cows fought flies with their tails,
and another drowsy summer afternoon without rain
drowned itself between borders,
Losing memory, away
There are few things we all forget
as we change spaces –
think of a fruit like bubi
which is nether exciting nor unpleasant
but remains deeply imbibed in our memory
only through RothoJatras at Bilpar;
or, for that matter, those spring headed
old men of mud – those that nod
to everything you ask, too,
are stored in covered shelves
to be featured later, among steamboats,
and other broken toys,
when Jhulan arrives.
Interpreting Grandma’s last words
My grandmother was convinced
that I would come back to Silchar
and take her somewhere.
Where? We did not know.
But, that is what
I remember, Ma sharing with me,
few days after Didibhai died.
For weeks she waited,
before truth began to suffocate her
and ants ate up her memory.
I wondered, if she wanted to travel
back in time- where we would still be fishing
with our fishing rods at a pond by the Grandpa’s
for her to fry them later, one by one, in mustard oil
and get us ready, one by one after shower, for lunch.
Or, was she longing for Habiganj?
– through those misty boat rides on silver nights over a river
that overflowed onto a vast pond in her mother’s house?
Many years later, I figured out
probably she was just longing for some Panta Bhat
Growing up in Silchar, it was rather stupid
to romanticise an over cast sky
for, in Silchar,
rain, the word, was almost a week long.
The only remorse however,
was the absent hill over the horizon
that overlooked the paddy fields-
now copied in memory through years of
onlooking, through the window,
without thinking much.
Rain usually brought leeches
that sucked our memory
and caterpillar-like keras
that many feared, could prick your ear holes.
Snails sliding in slow motion over moss and moulds,
flying snakes by the pond, ants that signal more rain,
insects that commit suicide in flames
and all of that.
The fish market would be flooded of course-
sellers, each hanging on those bamboo racks
while buyers would choose their steps carefully across bricks
over water and mud; pebbles inside shoes,
rickshaws covered in plastic sheet;
children out of school, in rain
coated uniforms, their parents under
long, black grandfather’s umbrellas; vegetables
now fuming in colours, dancing fishes in water
about to be cut and packed, and a strange smell
from the chicken counters.
And then, the chain of my bicycle
would always fall off when it’s raining hard,
when I would have probably just carried on.
But when you decide to get back home,
cold and damp in rain
there would be Khichuri
if not Aloo Bhaja,
enough to survive weeks in rain.