Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca's Poems

 


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Those Bombay Sundays


(Inspired by Robert Hayden’s poem ‘Those Winter Sundays.’)

 

Those Bombay Sundays

My father woke up his usual ‘early.’

‘Seize the day’, he would say.

He gave the Carpe Diem call

On other days too.

Oh, that rising reluctance

On those Bombay Sundays,

Resisting his poetic exhortations.

The crows and pigeons followed the rhythm.

Of early rising, no matter the day of the week.

Did he want me to turn into a bird?


Then the Black and White TV arrived,

A loan from the National newspaper,

Brought the entire neighborhood with it,

Mostly children, and all those related to them.

Grandmothers needed a helping hand,

to climb the old creaking, wooden staircase

But come. they must, to watch the Sunday Hindi movie.


Father watched the six o’ clock Hindi movie,

To write his TV column,

The children sat on the stone floor,

Like groundlings at a Shakespeare play,

My aunt sat on the large bed, watching intently

With a grandmother or two,

Begged the husband not to beat his wife,

‘It’s wrong,’ she would say in Marathi.

Calling out the villain to repent of his evil deeds.

Smiling widely when the hero chased the heroine

Around the tree, singing romantic songs.

Shifting her weight to the edge of the bed,

When the tension was palpable. 

Father wanted to know why the female singers had such high voices.


He had a bemused look on his face

Throughout, and with steady stoicism

Watched all three hours of the movie,

Took notes on a lined note pad,

Smiled at the children from time to time.


During the intermission

The children stood up, dusted themselves,

And sat down again to watch.


In true Shakespearean groundling style,

They called out different ‘endings’

to scenes, each according to their tastes.


Those Bombay Sundays

Of the Black and White TV,

When loneliness was unknown,

and no silent snow was falling.


I hear the voices of the children

“Thank you, Uncle, thank you, Uncle,

See you next Sunday.”

Daddy loved the children,

kept a few handkerchiefs ready,

for the ones with the runny noses.


“Please come again”, he responded to their thanks,

A true Indian-English phrase!

When I say it here, I see the surprise

on the faces of my visitors

and I have to explain, it means

they are welcome to visit

again.

We say it in India,

Even when exasperated

by some in the constant stream

Of visitors! 


Copyright Kavita 2021


Sixth Floor

Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca


Mother was the last flower

plucked from the garden

of our ground floor flat.

Transplanted to the sixth floor

of a seven-storey building,

She could no longer see the stars

or smell the sea and hear the waves,

Sitting on the chairs

with father and us children

Late into the night

under the heavens.


In a place not of her choosing,

her roots didn’t take hold.

The building sat at the top

of a steep slope.

Her flower, though watered frequently,

Began to wilt on the sixth floor,

Trapped in a jungle of concrete.

There were more flowers like her,

in the buildings

she could see from the windows.

Little consolation. 


Where once she had walked

With the cool grass beneath her feet,

Now, she held onto a chair.

Lifted one knee up to touch her waist,

then put it down.

Lifted the next knee up, then down,

‘I’ve done my exercise’, she said.

The elephants in the Yamini Roy painting

That hung above the dining table

seemed to wear a puzzled look!


Father offered a solution,

As he always did.

‘I’ll hold your hand tightly

Up and down the slope.

We’ll walk to the sea,

It will still be the same.

It hasn’t moved, like us,

We’ll go after dinner

The stars will be out.’


Mother wanted to go back

To the garden

To be a flower in that flower bed,

She promised to bloom

As she had once done

Where the soil was fertile

For her dreams.

When she talked about it

The sixth floor wore

An air of nostalgia

And smelled of the sea.

I looked out at the sky

I thought I saw

The same stars twinkling.


The elephants in the Yamini Roy painting

That hung above the dining table

Returned to their original expression.

They looked serene, just like before

When the painting hung above the red curtain

In our ground floor flat.

They seemed to know

she was talking about 

Their first home, and hers

And mine, and ours.


They had watched her

Sitting in the garden

Smelling the sea

Gazing at the stars.

Not aging and with no knee problems.

They lifted their trunks slightly

Perhaps they smelled the perfume of flowers

Filling the air.

The garden was her healer

The elephants knew the secret.


Copyright Kavita 2021


2020


(Poem to a year bound indoors)


Between bouts of hibernation

Surfacing for mouthfuls of air

I become the gills of a fish.


The year wore a crown of thorns.

The roses were still there

You just had to bend a little lower

To see them.

Remember you packed them down

With old newspaper, woodchips and burlap

To survive the winter.


If pricked by a thorn

You could choose to be Sleeping Beauty,

Wait for the kiss of a handsome prince 

Or stay awake, breathing deeply

Through it all, to live a little.


Copyright Kavita 2021







Comments

The poems portray the vignettes of city life with a lot of warmth and tenderness.