Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Prayer for Memory

I too dream, not like lovers, giddy, exhaustive daydreams, no
Not like ambitious fathers, not like an alley cats dreaming of
Fried fish, not like highway truck drivers dreaming of beds, no
Not eunuchs’ desire for stardust, farmers desire for water
No, I dream like rivers do. I dream of things lost, irretrievable, I
Dream of the past, what was not done, a history of time incalculable, no
These days, I mostly dream of dead turtles and crocodiles.

The future is foretold, no worries there, future is safe, the end will
Arrive whenever it does; it’s the past that’s difficult to reconcile with,
Past that glitters like thousand stars on a summer night, past that did not
Die. My past and yours, and everyone else’s, his with matted hair, his
With peacock feathers, his with the shaven head, his with the sacred
Thread, and his sons and grandsons... The past of kings and killers
And of Bhagirath’s, he without a future, and with an unclean past...

Like a rag that cleans the floor, the rag which was once my glittering attire
Woven in water, the past is lost and I am what is forgotten, like the
Beggar woman who once had a home, which could contain me, homes, I
Cannot remember and cannot forget, my abode beyond the stars, his hairy
Embrace among the glaciers, the places of silver and mud, and I am set free
To roam the earth, to collect shards of broken memories, of things which
Could have been, and to count specks of ashes of flesh and bone.

I dream like mothers do, of her offspring’s future, I forget my dream
And dream yours, I weep at your demise as I have for generations
Before you and as I will for generations after you, like a patient mother
I make you forget and I remember, I am the despair that gives you
Hope. I will remain even after you have abandoned me, for I am the
Mother of dead things, of filth and yours too, I too dream
Of dread things and of thing no one else remembers.

I am the mother of this very existence, these lines, dry ink, I am the
Mother of dead things, yours and your mother’s, I am the mother
Of drawn babies, suicidal virgins, fallen soldiers, lustful widows, I am
The mother of decrepit bodies, mango barks, sandalwood and ashes, of
Dirt and bone, of fire and the rising sun, I am the mother of everything
That decays, of the sun and the rain, I am the mother of the child who will
Be dead one day, I am the mother of the sapling which will die one day.

[Ganga, the most scared of rivers, is imagined as a goddess seated on a turtle or a crocodile. She is said to have descended on Mrityulok, the Land of the Dead, to free the ancestors of Prince Bhagirath. In the process, she was trapped in the hair-bun of Lord Shiva. She had to abandon her love for Mahadev to fulfill her destiny, the same way she had to drawn her children and leave her mortal husband King Shantanu. Yet, she is destined to remain earth-bound till the end of time, till everything is over and world ceases to spin.]

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