A Morning in Virinchipuram & Other Poems

by Sindhuja Ramasubramanian

A Morning in Virinchipuram*

I wake to the call of parakeets,

And take lazy steps to the front yard.

The smell of burning cow dung,

sweetened with pumpkin flowers,

and water

cleanses me.

I don’t need another bath.

 

Stainless steel pots,

water tipping out,

are carried

into the house.

 

Plastic caskets,

overflow with flowers,

some picked from the

trees in the yard

and some

furtively, from

the neighbor’s.

It’s not stealing

if it’s for divine causes.

 

The day has started to grow,

sunlight condenses on

my shirt.

I must go in now.

 

Breakfast of dosas**

and milagai podi***

leaves me thirsting

for more.

 

Electric clangs

sound everywhere-

it’s time for

deepa aradhanai****

in the temple.

 

the village wakes

in my stride,

as I make my way

to the river side.

Easy chairs are laid out,

rustle of newspapers,

rendered richer

by the cackle

of hens and crows.

 

Scattered pails of water,

among sandy weeds-

the river had seen better times,

when the sky wasn’t as hungry,

and had some water to spare.

 

The cracked ground,

is thirstier than ever-

wrapping it’s arms

around my feet.

 

The heat form

a swamp around me-

I trudge home,

panting with

the effort.

And suddenly,

all the tranquility

makes sense.

Maybe the cooked greens,

I’ll eat at lunch

and the nap after,

will cool me down.

 

* A village in the state of Tamil Nadu, India
** A type of Indian pancake
*** A mixture of dried ground spices, usually eaten as a condiment with dosas or idlis.
**** A daily ceremony in temples involving lamps and bells.

A Coracle Ride

I squat on one side
of the basket – boat,
ready to be propelled across
the green river’s girth.
Unequally balanced,
by the weights of
those aboard,
it threatens to tip over –
and I feel a heat rise up my legs.

Soon they are soaked
in a cocktail of sweat –
my own thanks to the heat,
that from the taut arms
of the oarsman,
that from the frame
of woven reed underneath –
enmeshed with the fruit of toil,
of a long forgotten artisan.

 

Prayer (a sonnet)

Sandalwood fumes form a half curtain,

lamps and incense cast an orange glow,

Multi coloured flowers, tulsi* garlands,

compete with each other as they cling

to the perfectly chiselled dainty form.

The toll of bells – electric, deafening,

drowns out the hastily whispered prayers.

Traces of milk, turmeric

on the floor of the sanctum santorum-

remnants of the holy abishekam,**

performed earlier, with due diligence

by the priest, clad in his pure white dothi.***

 

She stands still, hoping to bury the pain

within the pleats of the goddess’sari.

 

*Holy basil
**A temple ritual, involving giving the gods a bath.
*** A white garment, popular in India

Afternoon Tea

I always dream

of a cup of tea

in the afternoons.

More so, after

I saw tea

being poured out

of an exquisite

tea pot

in a British TV show.

A golden brown

stream of liquid

issued from the

white spout,

finding it’s way

into the dainty

gold – rimmed tea cup.

Milk was added,

lightening it,

giving it

a light chocolaty color.

The clinking

of the tiny spoon

against the tea cup,

as the sugar

was stirred,

and the tiny

wisps of smoke,

issuing from it,

seemed to add to

the flavor.

 

The tea I sip

every afternoon,

out of a paper cup,

never quite

takes me there.

Maybe some

fancy china

would help.

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