Do You See?

My Father Tells a Story — poem in "Indian Literature" (Sahitya Akademi)

“MY FATHER TELLS A STORY” is another poem from the four recently published in “Indian Literature” from Sahitya Akademi, the national academy of letters in India. I thought of putting this up on my blog especially because the question of roots, origins, and nationality always interest me a great deal, and a recent rendezvous with Edouard Glissant’s talk and a documentary film about his Poétique de la Relation. (Poétique III; Paris: Gallimard, 1990) fanned some more introspection in this regard. For the strategization of language and identity to be either a linear entity or a parallel to a certain historical/atavistic notion is something all of us tend to seek. But stories are different as you inadvertently have to peel the layers, often subconsciously. For a ‘colonial to a post-colonial’ identity, a poem such as this cannot be seen as an exercise in a uni-dimensional “root” adherence. The “story” — told many times over through someone to my father to me and to others who have experienced similarly in diverse histories, not just the Subcontinent — lends itself to further re-telling, an enhancement in terms of linguistics and historicity.


The young girl in a sari

Was walking to the library

She naturally didn’t see

The truck creep up behind her

Stuffed with soldiers wearing

Leafy helmets, false implants in

The heart of that shell-shocked

Macadamized Bengal town


Her face a sorry storybook

Quite a few pages torn

When they found her by

A garbage dump, stared at

By the ancient panhandler

The poor bastard refused arrest

Shouted abuses, got suitably

Thrashed by the police


The young man whispered

Show me your palm your

Red henna peacock from

Last night’s festivities

Then she read him a poem

About crocodiles in snare

Until they fell asleep in

Each other’s arms, dreaming


There was a river, grass and

Flowers shrouding its banks

Its depth unknown, but easy

For the rebels to swim

The same night Yahya Khan

Made quick plans to strike

Universities where students

Danced to songs of Tagore


That was a night when nervous

Sirens screamed on, his

Would-be bride was picked up

And thrown. Folding up

Maps that fooled, didn’t show

A country of hearts, he left

A peacock mourned for her

And him. No country yet for them.


Image from the Internet: Jamini Roy, Untitled; gouache on paper.


6 comments on “My Father Tells a Story — poem in "Indian Literature" (Sahitya Akademi)

  1. tagskie
    May 1, 2010

    >Nice blog you got here… Just droppin' by to say hi!

  2. saawitri
    May 13, 2010

    >very nice.

  3. joven
    May 13, 2010

    >hi, you have nice blog.. u can view also mine..

  4. fleuve-souterrain
    May 15, 2010

    >Thanks all!

  5. LaVone
    July 23, 2010

    >Wow this was great, I see I have a long way to go before I can say I understand poetry! Great post.From

  6. Rhett
    November 8, 2010

    >Really nice poem or story – whichever – 'no country yet for them' is again your signature – lurved it – but can only say how much when I learn it thru writing like this –

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This entry was posted on April 29, 2010 by in Indian Literature, My Father Tells a Story, Nabina Das, poetry, Sahitya Akademi.
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