• Antara Basu

THE PETUNIA THAT LOVED CAMELLIAS

The little girl who grew up, in her father’s mornings with Tagore;

On the armchair of the mahogany wood;

reminiscent of her mother’s memories.

With a customary bowl of puffed rice crisps.

The finely chopped green chilies, and onions

All doused in oil, the way her Maa used to make.

Sun rays that failed to reach her eyes,

Hiding behind the thin veil of long black hair.

Loosely braided, with a white petunia;

from her Maa’s garden.

And she sat wrapped in her handloom shawl,

Sewn with portraits of goddess Kali.

And she, perched atop her Baba’s knees,

As he told her stories of Tagore’s literary swords;

The swords he wielded into patriarchal walls.

Walls similar that she had seen, her mother within.

Who had lived, forgotten, beneath traditions of marriage,

In subservience, to moral duties of the woman.

Baba was a man, who spoke of Tagore’s Mrinal,

Yet, never questioned her Maa’s suffocation.

Mrinal with the letter; Tagore’s blade, to wound sins of prejudice.

The little girl thought of the woman; that left for her freedom.

Who left not as her husband’s wife, nor his family’s bride,

But as her, simply Mrinal.

And she called on a truth, wherein,

Perhaps her Maa too, could read,

About bold Mrinal.

For her mother; she lived as baba’s wife,

She died as Bapi’s daughter-in-law.

Never simply, Aparajita.

Aparajita lay buried, inside silences deafening.

Trapped beneath crumbling walls of domestic anguish.

Defeated, dismantled by thoughts reflecting

The inferiority of her being, to that of the man.

She remained, inside unspoken desires, unknown intents.

Hidden from people who only spoke of a woman’s disgrace.

The little who grew up with a tombstone for a mother,

Walked down the path with her tiny hand clasped within one bigger.

Laid down a white petunia every year, her baba by her side.

A man who loved a wife, for all the time she lived.

He loved petunias, yet he never knew;

Aparajita loved Camellias.

Years later, the little girl who grew up, a woman,

Far different from her mother.

She walked down the same path, a bigger hand

Clasped around her daughter’s tiny one.

She stood alongside, as the granddaughter,

Laid down the beautiful white Camellia.

It was ironic really,

For Aparajita meant undefeated.