Do You See?

>Finding Foremothers


So, the “2nd National Poetry Festival” took place in Guntur, India, on July 2. And although I am one of the participants — my work features in the festival anthology as does poet-blogger friend Tikuli Dogra’s ( — I couldn’t go down there. I am in Delhi, but down with what one calls here “Delhi belly”! A friend said, America’s softened me, six years of stay… To be frank, we came back to Delhi for the first time in summer in all these years. Well!

So at Guntur, according to the organizers Suseela and Gopichand (both of them English teachers and literature enthusiasts), 100-plus poets were invited from all over India. Must’ve been a fabulous experience for all who went there.

Here is one of the poems, a personal favorite of mine.

“Finding Foremothers”

This is a day the family sits down
to a dinner for a festival remembering
ancestors they say hover disguised as
birds and animals – on the lawn, on garden boughs.

Is my grandma among the cows?
I knew she was feisty! Maybe
a crow then. And her own mother
was she there too with her broken
teeth and sad robes yellowed with
age in a photograph some gora had
clicked at her rich spouse’s gracious permission?

The sweetened tomato chutney on
my banana leaf plate seeps away like blood
dark dark red, blood of aunts, wives
who cooked and cleaned, sucked
blood from cuts, bore kids and bled till
they stopped; bled in their hearts when widowed and denied.

A few grains of paddy, holy water, forefathers still
flocked outside; on the television a woman wails.

I flip through an old photo album. Sepia, forgotten clutter.

In other news, I am out of the contest. Stuck around for about three rounds I think. But of course, the worthy would carry on the battle whereas I am hoping to hop on to more scintillating stuff! Thanks Kristen McHenry for leaving a comment on my blog, it encourages me a lot! Do keep visiting.
Image from the Internet: women gathered for a party in Bombay, 1910

12 comments on “>Finding Foremothers

  1. tikulicious
    July 3, 2009

    >Hi Nabina Congratulations sweetheart you deserved it. The poem is beautiful It is so visual and I could see the whole family and the birds .. loved the last line "I flip through an old photo album. Sepia, forgotten clutter.":)very apt. Yay!! march on and hugs

  2. priti aisola
    July 4, 2009

    >Nabina, this is so beautiful, so heartwarming, as Tikuli rightly said, and the subjects you choose are so different from the routine. And the last line – poignant and says so much. The very best for all present and future writing. I have a lot to learn from people like you.

  3. Bhaskar Pitla
    July 4, 2009

    >Hi,I liked this one..deserved it place in the anthology. Liked the way u bought out this indian myth playfully without making it too Emo"..its very fresh too.Thought it was a bit longer..enjoyed it though 🙂

  4. fleuve-souterrain
    July 4, 2009

    >Tiku, the last line is really the 'beginning' of this poem although I like it the way I placed it! Thanks for the lovely words. I loved ur work to and put a link on this post soon…Priti, we are lucky to know you and share our work together! thanks!Bhaskar, so kind of you to drop in. Your comment means a lot here 🙂

  5. The Wizard
    July 5, 2009

    >Good one!The poem is beautiful 🙂

  6. The Wizard
    July 5, 2009

    >Good one!The poem is beautiful 🙂

  7. anu
    July 5, 2009

    >Lovely! get better soon.

  8. Tim Buck
    July 7, 2009

    >Hi, Nabina.Having read this poem several more times, I must report a strange phenomenon. The first time, as I commented on your Facebook page, I was caught up in the imagery and rhythm…and that delicious sense of something alien, of a different culture.But this evening, each reading of “Finding Foremothers” was like an emotional “photographic negative” coming gradually into sharper focus. Each time, the art receded somewhat into a background layer. And the psychological elements came more into view. I feel that I failed as a reader, not to have been more sensitive to this passionate, soulful aspect, when I first took in the poem. Now, an understated bitterness moves amid the rhythmic and the picturesque processes driving the lines. A bitterness subtly fused with melancholy. The weight of patriarchal centuries presses down on the speaker, and she must push through the entropy and must resist acquiescing in fatalism. She attacks the unjust past with irony. And irony occasionally turns to sarcasm, when confronted with angering waste. Two metaphors surge at just the right spacing to keep the poem charged and pulsing with artistic energy: “sad robe yellowed with / age” and “seeps away like blood /dark dark red”. Thank you for making this poem.Tim

  9. jayshri
    July 13, 2009

    >i just loved the humorous imagery.. can u edit this very poe fo r my nagaland audience needs?helpp i need humour coming from NE not grim stuff..

  10. tanuj solanki
    July 19, 2009

    >extremely well written… I am delighted upon reading this…the gora taking the photograph and the ending with the Sepia quip are priceless!

  11. Rhett
    August 29, 2009

    >I like the idea of the poem which is age-old and fabulous. But the execution I didn't like… somehow… I think the poem should have been better… longer may be.

  12. santre
    September 4, 2009

    >Nabina, loved some of your poems. Would request you to visit to see some of my poems. Would really appreciate your feedback. Thanks.

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