My Mother Revisited on December 27, 2021

On her birthday, looking through the mountains of neatly organized papers my mother, Sudha Ghosh, left in my charge, I found a cluster of poems. She wrote:

These poems were written for my pleasure in the summers of 1959 to 1969. I just jotted down the words and the lines on paper as the thoughts came to my mind. I did not think twice, nor did I care to revise the writing afterwards.

Writing … is just like painting a thought on canvas… The meaning behind, of course, has to be grasped by the reader according to his or her own idea of the subject.

When I read this, I was amazed that I have often invited the viewers to tell their stories behind my paintings, no matter how diverse, contrary or fantastical they may be. Could it be I had once read the lines above and buried them in my crowded mind? The following poems by my mother must have an abode in my home page:

To my daughter

by Sudha Ghosh

When I beheld thee in my arms
All my woes did I forget
My daughter, sweet! Oh my little charm
What might didst thou from the heavens get?

To love thee and caress thee has been my pleasure
Thy beauty and grace are they treasure
Oh, sweet and loving daughter mine
In my dark world thou dost shine.

When in trouble or in pain
I looked at thee and not in vain
For that was how I cast away
All my grief of the day.

Ne’er in heaven was a child born
Nor in this dark and dismal world
With such gifts that are never shorn
Of nature’s beauty so well adorned.

My sweet, my pretty and loving one
How thou longed for a companion
And when thy little brother came
Thou hath a mate in all thy game.

When thou learnt to write and read
My heart’s desire was truly fulfilled
Shining both in art and play
Thou filled with joy all my day.

But as I watched thee grow and grow
To a beautiful woman whose thoughts did flow
Away from her mother’s heart’s nigh
A fearful fear came creeping by.

Oh! In this selfish world of ours
We all do love to feel and cling
To the little ones who have other cares
And keep away from their elder’s ring.

But I guess that’s e’er the rule
Of this world and heaven too
That all things from the mountain top
Must flow down to the ocean blue.

Thus I’ve seen in my own life
So vain it is to complain
About my own two little dears
If their love for me is in the wane.

– June 1959

To my son

by Sudha Ghosh

When we were left lonely your sister and I
With father away on his mission afar-
Oh! how we longed to fill that gap
By having you in our lap.

I prayed and dreamt night and day
That a son to me may come and say
‘Oh! mother dear don’t weep and fear
When father is away I’m here’.

Brave and sweet – a treasure born
You are a blessing – my little son
It’s ’cause of you that I find life
Worth the living tho’ full off strife.

When in trouble or in pain
I look for you to lessen my strain
Oh sweet and dear little son of mine
With you away I really pine.

But hopes always for a future day
Cheer me up and I pray
That my little son may one day grow
A great big man the world will know.

The Pilot light
(After you left)

By Suparna Ghosh

the pilot light

is still burning
igniting decades of dormant elements

I was borne by you

my mind inscribed
with words you whispered
flesh imprinted
with waves of your caress
skin engraved
by the ripples of a warm lake

I floated
lulled and rocked by the music
of your joy and pain

you longed for the one life

to fill your alien nights
and lonely days
to protect you
from the ravages of silence

as you would protect me fiercely

from the fires which raged outside
the walls of our hutment
none could cross to burn me
from the dust storms which turned skin
into parchment
and hair into rope strands
from the sheets of rain which tried
to penetrate but could not
your life force

my heart pressed against yours
mine on the right yours on the left
once beat in tandem
pounded as one

you taught me to breathe

today I cannot be the breath
to fuel your roar
be the carriage
of your one-woman caravan
jaunting in fierce rhythm

I cannot wrap you

in the snow mountains
of the Himalayas
roll you in the fall of river Ganges
clad you in the green waters of the Arabian sea
fold you in the red sands of Rajasthan
hide you in the foliage and forests
of rabbits and parrots

and drape you in the sky

I would if I could
inhale you into my belly
just as you conceived me in yours

your pilot light

said my daughter borne by me
of you who bore me
will burn in me
keep me alive

 

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