“Passing on the Torch”
I held the orange sun in the palm of my hands
as one last time I absorbed its light and strength –
It was finally setting in my life in my fiftieth year
as I bent at Nimtala Ghat to immerse Ma’s ashes.
Sun and Ma, gushed full throttle a last time –
I’d dressed her in tangerine – silk kurta goldlined:
after bathing her last night I now bathed my heart
in warm orange colour that will guide my path.
An An earthen saucer I clutched in both my hands –
another covered her eighty years – now mere ash
that had taken a mere hour and half to consume,
yet Ma in my soul’s clay cup was a powerhouse.
The river Ganges magnetically beckoned to me,
it’s ripples assuring me like Ma’s sturdy hands –
when I was ill, scared and withdrawn from life
or just not willing to take that redeeming chance.
I stepped to the water’s edge in Sun’s embrace –
making a spiritual connection with this Sunset,
that was especially bestowed in time and place:
Pass on the baton of Ma’s poetic soul I inherited.
With all my might, I shoved remnants of Ma’s life
that has anchored, coached, run my life’s races –
into the safe embrace of eternal mother Ganges,
who took over from her my lifelong guardianship.
The Sun, as if in signing my spiritual adoption –
took three vivid river dips in short succession,
as witness to Ma’s handing her baton to Ganges
before a court judge – a gallant assuring Sunset.
“Letting Go: forming an Eternal Connection.”
Open your eyes Ma, just one more time,
look at me with those concerned filled eyes –
that knew precisely what was in my mind,
whether or not I discerned I was wrong or right.
Call me ‘Mamoni’ aloud, just once more Ma,
let me feel your soul’s connection to mine,
just let me soak in the warmth of your embrace
to strengthen my long weary, curtailed strides.
I’ve shared you, your teachings with the world –
as role model you’ve inspired so many lifelong,
yet your acute loss I’m not yet ready to share
till I’ve grieved you and then opened up my heart.
I let you go physically as I immersed your ashes,
after sitting beside your form for fourteen hours –
so I could bring myself to turn you to the cinders,
that would forever cut a fifty year umbilical cord.
Your essence is strong though you’re gone, Ma
as I’m still trying to release my heart’s taut clutch:
After thirteen days I’ll share my loss with a world
that’s loved Maya of my novel ‘Across Borders’.
PS: A pictorial biography of Ma – Mahamaya Chowdhury is in this photo link: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152479099639974&type=3
Details of my novel Across Borders, first released in October, 2013 are here: https://shuvashreechowdhury.com/2019/05/01/across-borders-media-reviews-and-coverage-of-my-debut-novel-across-borders/
“My Guiding Star”
Mom, you’re the Best, because…
Whenever I needed you, you were there,
Whether or not I asked for your hand.
You have always been the Guiding Star,
Shining on me from wherever you are.
You always urged me to go that extra mile,
To ensure my future is wrapped in a smile.
Who I’m today, is because you were there –
Nudging me, when my mind wasn’t made up.
After often prodding me right over the top,
You ensured you were there to cushion my fall.
If it was not for your firm, propelling hand –
An Oyster, I might have remained in my shell.
“One’s work is what counts,” you always said,
“Beauty and fashion can well be done without.”
You’d say to me, “Never ever neglect your duty –
“Good things will come to you automatically.”
Whenever in life’s race I could not carry on –
Holding my hand – alongside you ran along.
Whenever the baton in exertion I dropped –
Picking it up, you ensured I just did not stop.
Bravery, strength, are values you inculcated,
A sense of duty, confidence and self-discipline.
Whenever in life’s journey I may begin to slip –
Your teachings once again mentally I will flip.
All your efforts Mother, may they not go in vain –
My success in life, is what then will be your gain.
Truly fortunate I have always been through life,
Excellent coach, and role model in you to find.
for my Mother, Dr. Mahamaya Chowdhury.
PS: several short stories in my book ‘Existences’ depict Ma as coach and role model. This poem is from my first poetry collection ‘Fragments’.
Ma (Mahamaya Chowdhury) retired at the age of 60, twenty years ago at the end of Sept 2000, as Principal of a teachers training college in Kolkata – after a long career as lecturer in Gwalior – Jiwaji University, and then Delhi University for about 8 years each.
Incidentally, just a couple of days back, while looking up her personal documents on Ma’s desk, I found the handwritten rough draft of a very pertinent speech now — Ma had made on the passing away of someone, as a college student in Gwalior — at the same institution that she went on to be a lecturer in the next year. The profound thoughts here reflect her spiritual perspectives even as a young woman. And ironically, perhaps what she would have wanted to say to me just now from the other world. I wrote the above poem in 2007…Even in her absence she doesn’t stop taking responsibility for my development …why didn’t she show me this speech nor did I find it till I needed it the most, and would grow from it.
Good evening, my honourable teachers, affectionate brothers and sisters. I take the privilege on behalf of my class M.P.E (final) to speak a few words to you.
Every one of you seems to be thinking that it’s a sad occasion, but let us not mind. If one does not create the place, the others cannot fill in. If every one of us is to be existing forever, this world would have been a horrible place to live in. Nothing is lost as the scientists believe, so do I. I am an optimist, why should we sit and cry.
As Shakespeare said, “This world is a stage and we all are actors and actresses.” So we must act our role well.
I do not know whether we have acted our part well or not, that judgement is not in our hands – it’s unto your audience to decide. And as what standard of finished product are we going to be – the outer world will judge by seeing our work.
One advice to you, it’s not a bookish idea – it’s what I have learnt in my life. This world is a two way process, we cannot demand from our fellow human beings when we do not give anything to them.
This world is what we make and it is upto us to live to the standard.
…it’s continued in more pages
by Mahamaya Chowdhury – 1965/66 LNCPE, Jiwaji University, Gwalior
“Wrapped in your Presence”
I’m sitting out on your Rattan chair in our balcony,
viewing over a dozen earthen potted plants –
ceramic ones have now lost their colourful charm
yet regaled by intermittent chirps of varied birds.
A wind chime on which sits a metal bumble bee –
has gone silent now in the still, early May air,
but the crows, pigeons and varied feathers chirp
aggressively – questioning why you’re not there!
I listen to distinct voices now – of mynas, pigeons
and god knows who else among your friends –
as one by one they come in view then fly away,
marking attendance – as in essence you’re there.
Always a teacher and principal till the end of life,
students loved you – plants, birds, the househelp:
who you tended to with a gardener’s vigilant air –
in it an airplane passes low – bearing your soul.
A black pedestal fan, I’d ordered for this balcony
as April brought in gusts of warm Calcutta air,
also give you company as you sat here daylong:
he now stoically awaits you – fifth day you left.
There’s a light, cool and soothing breeze now,
but not enough to tingle a mourning wind chime –
who’s watching me with the clock reading 8am,
knowing I can sit here in your presence till night.
I’ve uploaded several video clippings on YouTube of my mom’s last couple of years in the link below…
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