The House of Memory by Anna Sujatha Mathai
Precious stones to build the
house of memory.
Tiruvella, a shade and sanctuary,
A memory for all my life
Magic and sustenance.
I go home to Tiruvella to roost
With beloved grandparents.
Every inch of that house
Still floodlit in my memory,
Precious, gleaming stones of memory.
Evenings on the cool verandah,
Sitting on the black marble parapet, Me pacing up and down,
Aspiring theatre actress,
Doing imitations of teachers,
And others in Delhi,
'Graany' and 'Graanpapa' drowning in
Sometimes, my sister and I would
walk over, in the cool evenings
To Kuraciethu Achachens pleasant house, just across the road.
Dodo Kochamma shone in dark
Her curly hair washed, left loose to dry.
One day she produces little Meena,
Who she's just bathed.
There stands a tiny girl,
Dark as ebony,
In a bright pink dress,
With a pearl necklace,
Her face covered with talc,
Hands behind her back,
Raisin eyes fixed on me, keen,
Her unmoving gaze, darkly pinning me
a butterfly on a page.
She is a Sphinx who gives away
Just surveys me,
An older cousin come to visit.
I'm startled by her unsmiling, inscrutable observation of me!
Do we recognize each other,
Does something flick the pages of the
Me in my teens, and she just two?
She doesn't know the story
Of how my grandmother had rescued
The orphan baby of her aunt,
And nurtured him, lavishing her love
On him, saving his spirit.
He was to become Meena's
So many years later, Meena hands me
Her first Ms Bright Ring Around the Water, and I send it to P. Lal, who
She asks me if I can introduce her to my friend, Kamala Das.
I send Kamala a lettter all about Meena, and she becomes
a friend to Meena,
Later still, I, divorced, alone
Am given shelter in the Alexander
home in Delhi, by
Meena's mother. That's when I start loving Meena's younger sisters,
Anna and Elsa, bright students, full of Simone Weil and Philosophy.
Anna's tragic death years later, a knife
Piercing our hearts,
Time washes all things away.
Only the bright gems of memory
Poet's Note: The poem is an attempt to relate the relationship between my mother's family and Meena's family.
Copyright. 2018. Anna Sujatha Mathai