Memories of you are vivid - of school days distinct, of first of the month Visiting Sundays short and sweet - when we sat on the Hoogly’s strand at Chandannagar, regaled by parrots, under canopies of Banyan trees.
Afternoons, from one to five breezed past in a haze, boats plying on soft ripples assuring us Love is lifelong - for you brought picnic packs to feed us our favourite grub that emotionally fed our hearts for the rest of the month.
Yet tempted by vendors lining our school and strand, we sought compassion - sold through ice creams, puchkas: also savouring tamarind water tossed jhalmuri, churmur - upsetting you, taking your culinary efforts for granted.
These sights vividly come to my mind with such alacrity, three weeks since you left us, Ma, on the twenty first April - sixteen years after Baba on a fifth of January morning: with my resilience crushed, after a year's Corona pandemic.
The last three months I had relied on your moral strength, even if only over daily telephone and rare video chats - to see me through a worst crisis - to save myself going mad: at eighty - a weight even your athletic heart couldn’t bear!
It was in saving me yet again from collapse, that you left - not able to withhold saying, “why is my daughter’s luck so bad!” Quoting Tennyson's “A Will” you asserted, “whose will is strong: He suffers, but he will not suffer long...cannot suffer wrong.”
Now I discover validations of your talents, remarkable strength - through letters, certificates, news clippings - from your desk that you never showed us, so we don’t buckle under comparison: I find moral strength in reserve - inspiration as my inheritance!
Among your heritage - I found three old cameras, fm radio sets, reminding me of a passion for photography, music we shared: defined by our cooking, sewing, knitting, drawing, theatre, poetry; over that sportsmanship, leadership skills with a kind, creative flair!
Your loss is slowly but surely receding from my pained psyche, as I make determined efforts to seek you in my current situations - so in healing and moving on I’ll find you alongside at every step to lead a joyous but productive life - you have always willed for me!
Eid Mubarak with an excerpt from my novel Across Borders, in the link below, which vividly depicts my mother’s life - in her voice as the narrator Maya, also including my father’s life in conjunction with hers: https://shuvashreechowdhury.com/2015/07/18/eid-mubarak-an-excerpt-from-my-novel-across-borders/
“Will” By Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)
I O WELL for him whose will is strong! He suffers, but he will not suffer long; He suffers, but he cannot suffer wrong: For him nor moves the loud world’s random mock, Nor all Calamity’s hugest waves confound Who seems a promontory of rock, That, compass’d round with turbulent sound, In middle ocean meets the surging shock, Tempest-buffeted, citadel-crowned.
II But ill for him who, bettering not with time, Corrupts the strength of heaven-descended Will, And ever weaker grows thro’ acted crime, Or seeming-genial venial fault, Recurring and suggesting still! He seems as one whose footsteps halt, Toiling in immeasurable sand, And o’er a weary sultry land, Far beneath a blazing vault, Sown in a wrinkle of the monstrous hill, The city sparkles like a grain of salt.
PS: this post is in continuation and reference to the last few posts.
The videos might play better from the Facebook link:
Sharing samples of my Inheritance: Also how I’ve passed on my mother’s legacy to the world, through the books that define her life and teachings. The first few recommendations here for a woman who was about 26-28 years at the time – when there was a lot of discrimination against women, and that too she had just come from East Pakistan a couple of years ago in 1964, heading straight to Gwalior and didn’t speak a word of Hindi – was indeed remarkable and commendable. I have tried to live up to her coaching and leadership training at my numerous and varied jobs but much more through my writing. After drama, sports, drawing, and leadership that she’s excelled at – I have been compiling Ma’s book of Bangla poetry from 5 diaries she’d written in – till 1967/68 since last year and will hopefully be published in Dacca by year end. Ma just didn’t have the patience to see it through anymore! But I’ve shared a short video clip of a sample of her verses at the end …and mine on her in the last two posts. Please click on the album link “Pictorial Biography …” below, to view more photos:
It rained heavily all last night, yet I woke up at five to bathe, adorn myself in a sari - red and white: for the thirteenth day rituals by the Ganges ghat - recreate Ma’s mortal form for rituals of the Shraddh.
Sarbamangala ghat near Kashi Mitra crematorium, in the heart of Kolkata in Bagbazar, was isolated - it’s lowest rungs submerged in the nightlong surge: The priest’s family asleep in the temple’s premises.
In the porch our pundit set stage with candle, incense, aasans; on banana leaves - raw rice, black sesame, peeled bananas; a perforated mud bed to bring her cremated form alive - so as tomorrow, to give Mother a farewell to the next life.
I’d shopped for the Shraddh, not missing a thing in the list - she would need to transit through time and space, till rebirth: including a mattress with pillow, bed sheets, mosquito net; two umbrellas, several saris, shoes; fruits and vegetables.
At the Shraddh from eight to five I repeated after the priest - with sincerity, a dedication to ensure Mother’s soul’s release from this life - undeterred by my poor Sanskrit pronunciation: for it I’d even bartered - two cows, silver and gold tokens.
On our birthdays, Ma, always insisted on traditional rituals, wore her saffron bordered Gorod sari in spiritual elevation - hand fed us payesh, out of a silver plate-spoon-glass set, blessing with pradip, mala,chandan, dhan-dubbo in god’s grace.
I’ve dressed with self discipline she inculcated - in saffron; embroidered trees, giraffes - on a ghee backdrop as witness: draping the sari just as in my youth she first demonstrated - to ensure sari, shawl aren't impediments to agility in movement.
Every mantra I uttered after the pundit towards Ma’s photo-face, seeking her blessings in upholding all her principled teachings: After Geeta-path I set out to immerse the pind modelling her form - at Subhas Sarovar, vowed to sustain her unconventional traditions.
Last rites are conducted in honour, a farewell to the departed soul, yet in effect are for emotional closure for those they leave behind - so I’ve done my spiritual duties to both my parents to satisfaction to move on with their happy memories and liberate myself lifelong.
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…
Time, is the truest elixir of Love and Life – a balm for rejection, heartbreak, illness and strife: if only you’ll allow it to percolate in your heart, to nurture every facet of life’s twists and turns.
It teaches you more than what any book can, holding your hand through toughest experiences; unmasking the untrue faces of family or friends – identifying acquaintances who you need to clasp.
Time, it helps you eliminate those from your life – who are mere shallow seekers of your good time, and give you up in failure, illness, penury, strife with an arrogance – that with money they’ll thrive!
It’s tough experiences that earns you wisdom, enhances your maturity and emotional quotient – also an ability to be sensitive to others needs, saving you foolhardy, arrogant, critical statements.
As you develop a maturity in time, to recognise arrogance sheaths – frivolity, stupidity, ignorance: in it people hide immense insecurity and lies, making them smug in shadows that never hide.
Time heals wounds – physical, mental, emotional from problems both personal and professional: If you can’t cope with life’s tumultuous situations sprinkle liberally with time – they’ll stew solutions.
— Shuvashree, the Timekeeper ☺️ – at one of India’s oldest and grandest Watch/clock shops…on Mount Road in Chennai.
To all my friends… Ramadan Mubarak or Ramadan Kareem! Also wishing you for Ugadi, Vaisakhi, Navratri, Vishu, Cheti Chand, and Gudi Padwa, Nil Shoshti and all in all an auspicious season of renewal and regeneration!
“Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. Strength comes from OVERCOMING the things you thought you couldn’t.”
Moral strength training is much like physical strength training and is enhanced through consistent and elevated resistance. This was my takeaway from the varied and numerous assignments that I took up in life, to add as much colour to my black and white understanding of it through reading – including the previous cooking show one for the very first time. ☺️ At each of these assignments in diverse industries – I perhaps arrived without any knowledge of that industry – whether an airline – Jet Airways, a SITA world travels, a Sheraton hotel, a BankAm, a pan Indian branded jewellery chain Tanishq, a bookstore chain Crossword, or be it a Mothercare, even a cafe, then skin care Kaya or as a senior executive search consulatant or head hunter in Randstad. I have elaborated these experiences with the backdrop of my reading, in my collection of short stories titled, “Existences”. But one thing I arrived with at each place was humility, the positive attitude and confidence to learn – even if my juniors and those reporting to me deemed it fit to smirk till they didn’t know what had struck them so hard and pressured them to perform. ☺️My seniors always trusted me implicitly and when they didn’t I just left – as I was not going to allow my self esteem or confidence to be seeped out of me for the marathon of life.
This was because of all the childhood reading of literary fiction that I carried into my tasks and that I wanted life lessons now to supersede my reading, if I was to have the confidence to become the kind of writer I would want to read myself. I quote while talking or writing not because I doubt myself but because I have the humility to focus more on your inspiration and learning as I have had the strength to prove myself several times over in life to be rattled by my desire to prove myself to be a worthy writer.
Sharing these quotes below to substantiate my views above …
Henry Miller // “The idea is, you know, you live from moment to moment…this moment decides the next step. You shouldn’t be five steps ahead, only the very next one. And if you can keep to that, you’re always alright. You see, but people are thinking too far ahead…you know what I mean? Think only what’s right there. Do only what’s right under your nose to do. You know? It’s such a simple thing and people can’t do it, you know.”
Elisabeth Kübler Ross // “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
Ernest Hemingway // “If a writer stops observing, he is finished. Experience is communicated by small details intimately observed.”
A very happy ‘World Poetry Day’ to all my friends and fellow poets: Sharing these lines yet again…that I’d written when I had first started to write poetry in 2007/08…to understand and then define what poetry meant to me personally. And here, depicted in this photo, in the December of 2016, I had found the most relevant audience – an entire English department of Stella Maris College – Chennai, a very reputed college, to share this and other wisdom with. ☺️ These, below were my opening lines at the poetry reading at Stella Maris College – as part of the Prakriti International Poetry Festival, Chennai.
A propelling word, and then a few lines – Spurting compelling thoughts in my mind; I first mark them down at the nick of time, Lest they involuntarily leave me behind.
These lines delve into a maze of thoughts That chase unconscious, unravelled tracks: I then let myself get lost in their troughs – They lead to my core, on to veiled grasslands.
I’m surprised by the intricacy of my soul Whose thoughts I unconsciously abhorred, Yet it was that momentous fleeing thought That has led me to myself – otherwise lost.
From deep within the fissures of my mind – A well of experience, emotions, wisdom arises: Infusing a repertoire of words I’ve imbibed – A poignant, myriad kaleidoscope I inscribe.
— Shuvashree Chowdhury
Please scroll down through the posts here or visit my Facebook author page Across Borders for details on my poetry books, novels and one of short fiction.
On Wold Poetrt Day today, sharing two of my simple poems on Darjeeling – the Queen of hill-stations, both incidentally written in April – one in 2016 and the other in 2019. And among many others on Darjeeling and Kalimpong along with Bananas, Shantiniketan and more on Bengal, they are in my latest poetry book “Trouvailles: my moments of Yugen” – details in an earlier post.
☺️As everything I write about, is sincerely and dedicatedly observed, researched and then deeply thought about, sharing just a few of the best photos from my Darjeeling Diary, after the Banaras Diary (I have one photo diary of other places in the books) in the previous posts, in this link: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10154183427069974&type=3
A thick carpet of auburn-green pines, tilting to the right as sentinels of the night – swayed ever so slight in sensual delight in serenading grey waves guiding my drive.
The ashen sea, a glinting bed of charcoal – with a midday Sun fuelling its glittering sheath: on it waves as boats on canvas, bob prominently as if in an exhibition of oil paintings of galaxies.
A smooth metal highway runs with the breeze, past coloured shrines embodying Tamil pride – with colourful deities startling from their edifices the clustered crucifixes identifying souls apart.
It’s a Chennai Saturday morning, in late February when we’ve set out on this drive to Pondicherry – a favourite weekend trip to this Union Territory retaining essences of an erstwhile French Colony.
A heritage bed-and-breakfast motel we check into with its bright yellow facade, French style woodwork – with a balustrade balcony, cane-blinds and fixtures; in White Town, near the sea and Aurobindo ashram.
This coastal town, reminiscent of my boarding school, in Chandannagar – a riverside erstwhile French enclave shapes my rootedness, cultural tastes, and attitudes – in upholding historical culture, with progressive views.
2. Saturday Night Fever: at “Rendezvous”
Red and black are the colours of the balmy night – attired as they’re in a svelte red dress and black suit: the young female vocalist alongside a male violinist, serenading us with multilingual, modern and old tunes.
It’s a breezy rooftop cafe, twinkling with fairy lights twirled around railings separating the promenade at night, from which a musky seaside smell permeates the air – aromatic flowers infused with light drizzle, a cocktail create.
There’s a charming, old fashioned gaiety in the air as young and old enthusiastically whisper their requests – to the violinist prancing table to table to fetch them, strumming with dramatic moves to amuse little children.
There are tables lining the railing, dotting the terrace – it’s top is covered, the sides allow a spectacular sea view: vases; square lanternlike candle stands adorn tables, flushing faces, fluttering hearts of several young couples.
I’ve been here twice before, both times for lunch, but this trip to Pondicherry is far from what I envisioned as we’re here in Chennai on work – that’s not fun, and this was a getaway to soothe our wreaked nerves.
The candle only on our table isn’t lit, making me panick – is this a sign from god our stiff goal won’t be achieved: but I extinguish negative thoughts, breathe from light within: Such an evening, has to be a gift of hope of new beginnings!
3. “Savouring my Solitude”
An odd time it was – I strolled the handosme promenade, four pm is too early for a cool breeze let alone sunset – but after a night and an all morning out-of-season deluge I just had to find my way outside in the sun or stifle indoors.
Watching the rain all morning batter the exquisite greenery, through cane blinds, past French doors, windows – it’s a luxury: but after noon the sun shone bright and dazzled my eyesight – I realised it was a shame to be couped indoors in Pondicherry.
I set out to fetch oranges, coconut water – near the temple gates, inspired by the guest house fetching us idlis and iddiyyapam – after I asked for breakfast in the room once they’d served coffee, though since Covid lockdown, they didn’t have provision for meals.
But the cobbled streets of White Town lured my steps beachward, on sidewalks by French architecture, blooming pink-red bougainvillea: even though my companion in the room wasn’t up to venturing out – a charming walk drawn by the smell of sea and rain I couldn’t resist.
The broad stately promenade was sunny, scorching hot now, as I walked down in the shade of the buildings, viewing the waves: a few like me had ventured out – why waste a Sunday afternoon when rains might return, wash out a sunset and evening’s pleasures .
A view I gauged from Aura cafe, made me take a seafacing seat, to order a mixed vegetable sandwich with coffee, to drink the sights in, but balloons of packeted pink candy floss riding pillion on a bicycle – drew me to groups taking selfies, their backs to jaws of dragon waves.
My troubles now came rushing up with waves spitting fire, to swallow me – yet nutritious solitude I savoured with each caramel cappuccino sip, conscious, the world is unconcerned with the whirlwind I’m caught in: thus strength I have to garner from deep within, to resuscitate my soul.
…wrote an initial hurried draft today for Women’s Day tomorrow…will add more to this and edit along the way.😌
The Sea and I, have a Spiritual connection☺️: I’ve always loved the mountains and preferred it to the sea when choosing a vacation. But it was the sea, this one precisely – that churned the depth and profundity in me and made me a poet. And most of my early poems are on the sea – between Chennai to Pondicherry, whatever the emotions I’ve woven into and around them. Little did I know that the sky at dusk yesterday – would reflect my colours back to me – ones I’d found in the grey sea. 😜