Tuesday, October 29, 2013

'Where Even the Present is Ancient: Benaras'

'Where Even the Present is Ancient: Benaras' is a book that tells the little stories that make us who we are. . The author believes that Benaras resides in all of us Indians, in some beautiful often unknown way. The author is the Sutradhar, in that she attempts to connect an India that many do not realize exists, in that it is everybody’s story. Radha, Krishna, Ganga, Benaras and Me are all characters in this deluge of poems.This attempt at telling the story of the ancient, of love and of faith is to instil the confidence that poetry exists in all of us, all that is needed is to smell its fragrance. To those outside India, the book does not seek to be a representation of what India is or was, but a whiff of what it also can be. It is an attempt to ask people to see the little stories that govern all of our lives, stories that we often don’t see, but those that are important. A poem from the book goes thus-

-A Fisherman’s Ganga-

I sat on a dingy boat,
Looking at the Maha Aarati
on the Dashwamedha Ghat.

Seven priests adorned their Ganga
in every human way possible…
Tourists shrieked, conch shells sounded
humanity applauded.

I lit a small lamp and let it flow
Into the unknown corridors of faith-

A fisherman sat nearby
Perched on the helm of his boat
Looked at the skies,
And spat some Benaras
Into his Ganga.

(Dashwamedha Ghat is one of the main Ghats in Benaras, where every evening the Ganga Aarati takes place. Thousands of tourists and residents flock to see the Aarati, which has become synonymous with the pomp and glory attributed to Ganga.)

*The book is also available on Infieam, Flipkart, Amazon, Bookadda and Crossword bookstores

Available athttp://www.infibeam.com/Books/where-even-present-ancient-benaras-maitreyee-b-chowdhury/9789382473848.html

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A goddess and a flower

It was raining this morning and many of these fell down from the tree close to the fence..& I decided to colour the garden red.

It isn't really a coincidence that when I picked these red Hibiscus flowers from the plant, I remembered the onset of Kali Puja. On this day the Godess Kali, the fierce avatar of Durga is worshiped. For most people the image of Kali is that of a fierce woman, with her tongue out in callous wonder, fire in her eyes and careless abandon in her stride.

For me however the humble hibiscus has always been another form of Kali. To those who don't know this plant, it is a simple, rather boring and in many ways not the most beautiful of plants you could have in your garden. But in its simplicity, soft colours and realistic look it presents a side of Kali that I have identified more with.

Kali takes form during the war between gods and the demons ( representing good over evil and a battle that even seeks to fight fear and self-doubt). The demons were difficult to destroy till Goddess Durga comes to the battle. Durga comes into being, at the most fierce time of the battle originating supposedly from Durga's brow and goes on a killing spree, where she kills everyone around her. Even as this notion of Kali is beautiful, it is something else that touches the heart more. 
Having won the battle, Kali is unstoppable in her destruction. And looses all sense while on her rampage destroying the world. Here Lord Shiva is supposed to have intervened and taken the form of a baby,even as he lies down on the battlefield. When Kali sees this child, she stops her rampage and cradles the baby and nurses it. Suddenly she is the life giver instead of life taker. Surrounded by corpses all over the battle field, she suddenly turns into a gentle woman quietly suckling a baby.

You can cut a Hibiscus plant till its smallest stem and yet it will live again, it will bring forth new life, new flowers and these lovely red flowers shall survive all odds. They survived torrential rain today.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Durga, a rear view mirror

If you happen to be passing a particularly busy street in Kolkata during the festivities, you may not really stand and stare at any thing in particular. It is of course just another busy street, with busy people..but then you look a bit deeper and there's a hassled father who has taken time out from the office to take his family out pandal hopping, there's a little boy holding a toy gun he has bee...n wanting to buy for sometime, there's a girl who drapes that saree a bit extra joyously. There are lights of every hue, durga in so many avatars and yet there is that little Durga in the small neighbourhood pujo that I stopped to see, she sits pretty and looks like a little angel in her simplicity...sans all decoration..all razmataz, she is the Ma, earthy and someone you can laugh and scold.

Durga here stands in a corner, once the Panchami pujos had been completed. Her eyes shown in beauty, this Durga is dimunitive, the asura is small too, the painter has gone scarce on the paint probably..the neigbourhood association probably has less money... There is a small stage that has been erected, some elderly gentlemen sit around and talk, there is some tea that passes around in small earthen cups, someone is still fixing the lights, the Dhaki and his son are busy playing, he dances a bit..he does not overdo it..his payment will not allow it. His son plays too..on the stage are little children..the Puja is for them..they are Durga and her joy, they are Mahishashur and his agony too, they are the celebration..their dance and their joy is what Durga puja is all about somehow.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Debi Pakkha

jao jao Giri 
anite Gowri,
Uma bodoi dukhe roeyeche..

The eyes are back
in black,
crimson too
if you please-
from rage shall we say
from numerous slayings and 
achievements few?

Durga walks a busy road
and pauses poignant
at a crossing-

Tribhubaner bhar
koreche joro
bhangete bholar tripti bodo

She turns her head at the madness of the joy
a welcome sound in Dhak
deafening at times,
the silence of resilience

She cranes her neck-
Mahishashur sits on the other side of the road,
horns and colour replete,
he sits everywhere, she notices
green and full of himself-

Childlike at times
a beard hides some poverty,
some lust too maybe?

She smiles,
hands raised befittingly.
Jao jao Giri anite Gowri..
Gowri comes
she stays.

A third eye opens,
everything else is closed.
Chandi rises
she destroys,
frees herself of promises

Uma bodo dukhe royeche
She laughs out loud now,
her trample massive
all pervasive,
She drowns.

The man with horns
folds his mat
his day and her puja over.

Uma, Ma Ma bole kandiche,
she takes a final plunge,
there is water everywhere,
and in some eyes-
some from the plunge,
some from life.

Jao Jao Giri
anite Gowri 
Uma bodo dukhe royeche.

- © 2013 Maitreyee B Chowdhury
(Intercepted by lines from song Jao Jao Giri from film Hirer Angti)
Disclaimer: Do not copy, will and can sue if necessary.