One More Post
One more post, and no bragging.
"In Harness" gives only fifty-one poems, but the one I'm going to post here is my favourite. It is so for many reasons: first, it came spontaneous. when I was revising (rewriting?) another very bad poem, this one came and replaced it, like a wayward child getting suddenly reformed to end the longstanding worry of his/her unhappy parent.
About this poem I can share one event that happened before me. A friend of mine one day visited me with her mother who was a widow. She happened to be a sensitive soul who had heard from her daughter about my writing hobby. She asked me to read a poem. I was surprised--usually I had to chase people to listen to my poems, and here was a woman who asked me to recite, with politeness and empathy that a poet would take ages to forget!
And I recited the poem. She listened to it with rapt attention and gave some nice comments about it. I was happy, but felt she had something more to tell which she probably withheld.
The next day, my friend telephoned me to say that her mother was crying the previous night. And she complained that I should have no business to write poems that could make others cry. It was a kind of appreciation, I understood it. I had no doubt the poem had spoken what it should have.
Don't tell I have bragged again. Please...
THE LAST PIECE [page 25, "In Harness" by A. N. Nanda, ISBN 81-8157-183-5]
One morbid afternoon
Her husband slept his last
Not to wake up again.
The cry calmed
After thirteen days of flurry
Of feast and fast, hymns and alms.
Thus she became a widow
And lost her right to silk and gold
In the sixty-third year of her life.
The gold she rescued
Time and again from usurers’ grips
Wouldn’t adorn her wrists any more.
Nor the wedding sari
She long preserved in naphthalene
Would ever swathe her body.
Armed with their right of inheritance
The officious daughters-in-law
Accosted the sobbing soul.
And they grabbed the gold,
All by themselves, taking her nod for granted
To the last retrievable piece.
Like an accident victim immobile
She witnessed the marauders looting,
Their qualm killed and compunction crippled.
At the end of the agonising spell
Her wedding sari was only left
Out-of-fashion and undistinguished.
The dilapidated silk
Redolent of unsung glory
Would stay alive till her final journey.
Husband lost to heaven
And sons to daughters-in-law,
She would live a life of destitute now.
Approaching fast the chilly December
A time to scrabble about the wardrobe
For a bundle of benevolent warmth.
She would grab the sari
Perforce, in those freezing nights
To wrap her body, and not to wear it.