Three Series Of Poems By Debarun Sarkar

Debarun is currently based in Calcutta. His recent works have appeared in or are forthcoming in The Oddville Press, Cadaverine Magazine, Visitant, Ink Sweat and Tears, Dryland, among others.

On writing about Surat and Childhood

I

I had decided to write sectioned verse about my childhood. I have been trying to write about my childhood for months now with many failed attempts at verses. But the moment I laid my eyes on Richard Aldington’s piece on childhood in a rather grandly titled anthology Some Imagist Poets, I knew that very instant that I would not be able to write about my childhood, without resorting to some form of dishonesty, if I did not talk about Aldington.

II

“I hate that town;
I hate the town I lived in when I was little;
I hate to think of it.”

I wish I had written it before Aldington. In, August: Osage County, poet Beverly Weston faced a similar predicament. He wanted to say,  write, think, “Life is very long”, but the moment he utters it, the ghost of Elliot hangs                                                                                                                                                                                                                       low, as if the wisdom of that thought has forever been copyrighted, as if Elliot’s utterance was somehow more profound, than ours, when we utter it every day, not knowing Elliot wrote it down.

So,
I hate that town;
I hate the town I lived in when I was little;
I hate to think of it.

It was hot, lurid and dusty. There were no bookshops, even if there were all you would find were books of fables, textbooks, and, fairy-tales. The city was one filled with philistines. Now that we have the modernist poet’s back, we can utter the word ‘philistine’ without resorting to political correctness of the twenty-first century.

There was no music, no cinema-halls in the vicinity of the suburb, the village of Vesu, no computers to replace them. TV was then utterly boring, and the Radio, was for the grown-ups. The only interesting thing about the radio was, the SW band on which, hearing the foreign voices of distant lands, though indecipherable, seemed more interesting than familiar neighbourhood small-talk.

The roads were unpaved, hence muddy in the monsoon, with constant threats of flood. The city would drown, every other monsoon, the dam giving up, almost as if the men stocking up water at Ukai dam, turned greedy and had to finally let go, and let the city drown. With the flood came, its interaction with tides which made the city, the sea, and,   the river one giant water body, interacting.

Riot was welcomed as a ‘sabhak sikhana’, with ethnic cleansing, bodies burning inside truck tyres. Footages of bodies burning inside truck tyres were telecasted live on a local TV channel called My TV, which after a day or two of broadcasting live footage of riots was banned. The footages are more vivid in my mind than the last scene of Final Solution.

The cottage factory smoke destroyed the lungs of people, in the eastern parts of the city. One of my uncle coughed his way to death.

The trees, the gando baval, haunted the landscape like a ghostly weed, with thorny branches, which somehow always found ways to get stuck in your slippers and make your foot bleed.

There was no fresh water in the taps.
Only salty water found its way through the taps.
Romantic poets could possibly write
“We lived in the sea” and the realist add
“distributed through pipeline networks
and sometimes through tides and floods.”

III

I can describe and paint an image of my childhood where the town was different from today’s glass-cluttered high-rises, romanticizing the last millennium, small towns and their communitarian way of life. But I’d be dishonest to you, and myself if I don’t keep on refraining that

‘I hate that town’
I hated it.

IV

First I went to a government school where I learnt nothing for five years and then I attended a posh school filled with children of industrialists and businessmen who travelled in cars and visited foreign lands. I could tell you, I learnt to fool my way through them. But I can also tell you, I never told them where I lived for the longest time. I somehow managed to learn computers and the internet before them, to accumulate culture to out-do them. But even today I know and I knew then, I possibly cannot outdo their wealth.

I can tell you stories about them. But I’d dishonest not to tell you I hated them. I hated the city, the schools
and their philistine wealth. I could tell I got through intact, but I can also tell you of countless others who
dropped out because of sheer shame and inferiority.

V

Aldington’s words
are all I need.
Surat,
“I hate that town;
I hate the town I lived in when I was little;
I hate to think of it.”

.

Thane, December 2016

I

there isn’t enough money in my bag
I keep chewing on the vada-pav
for breakfast, for lunch and for dinner
because it’s the easiest meal to have
and one that makes you feel you aren’t
spending                                       a lot

Tighten the noose to grasp the words
like this
and contain it like the filling inside the pav

This is a city run on words
lies on hype
mellow summer heat through the winter
simmers the body for labor

II

I pluck silent phrases from your
notebook of totems
leaves strung with dust
and sneeze them into the fire

III

Video games bore me
after years
appear too cinematic
like the summer movies
slowly filling the winter slots

IV

“Why must your work be considered”
they kept asking
“Because its work”
I wished to answer

.

Winter Wards

The winters don’t require extra clothing anymore
of cotton and wool

Your house by the river
reeked of desolation

Plenty of words spoken in silence
of the mind

V

Betrayals of all kinds
surround us

Yet some can’t shake off
the habit of watching news
spilling toxic words of hatred
anger and anxiety
(propaganda)
from left to right

I remember clearly
the day man made machines
brought down buildings live
on CNN

The B2 bombers flying in the sky
a few weeks later, which I thought could
slice mountains in half

I slept through numerous bomb blasts in my room
and wasn’t even aware until the day later
when the newspaper headline read
“War on India”

I put down the paper

This was no war
or else I would have known yesterday

(Girls in school couldn’t help mention
how cute Ajmal Kasab was, and a few
years later Ram Gopal Varma made
a crowd in a dingy hall in Secunderabad
stand on its feet and clap for a staged hanging)

VI

Unemployed men
keep watching news
to keep themselves updated with the world
from which they believe they have been left behind

The words of distant lands
flood them with discontent
so toxic and communicable

Days spent in anger and resentment
appear to the educated as privilege
(politically incorrect)
while these men neither join
protests nor riots

VII

Your online handle of ‘dewdrop’ spelled in your language;
I learnt isn’t a very novel word. The largest selling
packaged drinking water company is named the same there

The river near your house is no river
but is as narrow as the Tolly Nullah

One thought on “Three Series Of Poems By Debarun Sarkar

  1. Pingback: Content & Contributors – May 2017 | aainanagar

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