MY PARENTS AND I
I never got to visit Puri with my father and mother
Nor Shimla or Ooty.
Never mind those distant places, we didn't even go to the zoo or the book fair
I only got back home, switched on the light, entered
My own room and observed
How, adding to their mutual distance every day
My father and mother made room for me to go away
On some nights the force of gravity stops working in our locality
When I'm late getting home, I start floating on the road,
Dogs, cats, rickshaws all float past me. Somehow I manage to
Open the front door and find the food strewn on the floor while
The crockery is happily floating about and among them my mother
Floats too, her head on my father's shoulder . . . no annoyance,
No squabbles or catfights . . . as though I haven't even been born yet,
The house redolent with the aroma only of peace and joy. In happiness
And embarrassment I float too in a corner of the kitchen, falling asleep
Slowly till things return to normal, till their bitter quarrel awakens me
My mother has many demands
She wants me to be a great poet, get a job
Have a happy marriage
And many other small things
My father doesn't want anything anymore.
Slower and more hunched by the day, my father's needs
Amount to three matchsticks every night.
One to light a cheap cigarette
And two, just in case my mother and I are lost
My father was once a great friend of mine
My mother, my friend's wife
Then, as is usually the case
The friend grows distant
His wife comes closer
For instance, my father now
Sits idly on the stairs
My mother and I
Chat, watch TV, go to bed together
Newspaper doors? Shut
TV channel doors? Shut
School and college doors? Shut
Only the door home is open. So I go home.
My mother is teaching music downstairs. Songs of a lifetime.
I slink into my own room and lie down.
Very late at night, when it's almost dawn, I tiptoe
Into my mother's room next to mine and sink my teeth into her sleeping throat
No songs. Warm, fresh blood.
And, incapable of sinking his teeth into anyone, my father,
Locked out of work ten years ago, sits silently at a distance on the floor holding a cup. Waiting.
My father and mother have this cat-like thing
About them. Much of the day they curl up
In corners, their eyes closed. When awake
They bicker over fish curry and milk packets,
Hurling ever louder yowls at each other
Even taking swipes with their paws
How long can one stand this? I'm tempted
To take them by the scruffs of their necks
Abandon them somewhere, that'll teach them.
But then I think, they aren't really cats,
At their age they may not be able to
Find their way back home anymore.
I believe my father ran away to Puri when he fell in love
With my mother. Because she had turned him down at first.
In Puri, sitting by the ocean
My father gobbled slices of fried fish and drank copiously
While my mother, with a high head of hair and large eyes
Mused on the way back from college, why didn't I say yes
This year in Puri I really wanted to
Locate that storm-blown father of mine
Bring him back to Calcutta to stand
By my mother, just turned twenty-five
But when I asked the locals they said
All that isn't available anymore
The sea has retreated a long way in these thirty years
Perhaps I was asleep one day and my father had gone out
When my mother's old lover came and said on seeing me
– Which class is he in now?
Perhaps I was asleep again another day and my mother had gone out
When my father's old lover came and said on seeing me
– He's just like you
Awake now after all these years
I'm looking for those two again
Did they ever meet?
Fall in love?
Did they marry and settle outside the city?
Couldn't I go and live with them?
And after all this, bearing my father and mother on my shoulders
I pass a wedding celebration, traffic signals, the Staff Selection Commission,
And news of deaths, one after another. My legs tremble, my nose
Bleeds, but I don't faint. On my left shoulder my mother sings
Semi-classical Bengali songs, on my right, my father watches TV
An action movie. And I stand with my feet planted on the heads
Of my self-absorbed father and mother, yes, I. Who cares nothing
For getting a job, disdains the poet's fame, doesn't want to fret
Over love and separation, who only wants to see the world ending at once.