My Distant Aunt…and I
Jayshree Misra Tripathi
MY DISTANT AUNT…
She squats, frieze figurine,
On the sun-drenched verandah,
Glances at the dancing women
Splayed across the mud wall,
In gay abandon, rice-flour etchings
Safely frozen in time.
She stretches her legs, feline, unwinds,
Grasps the navy blue bottle, twirls the cork
Watches the spill…scarlet, aflame,
The blood of her ancestors
Quell her aching heart,
As she fingers the purple of her cheek
Flicks away the weeping salt,
The twig, the cotton, suddenly conjoined.
She dips into the sacrificial red
Icy cold alta liquid,
Fills in the cracks of her weathered heels
Parched recesses, painful monuments,
The history of her misshapen feet.
She stretches her toes in abandonment
Smiles, admires her primal artistry
Unknots the twisted corner of her pallu
Slips the evergreen paan
Into the caverns of her toothless mouth.
Now desirable, ornamental,
Ambrosia sucked greedily.
Descendant of contented servitude
Beautifying self before the altar
Of truth, insensitive to
The poverty of Life.
He saunters out, belly swaying
His dohti tied loose
To digest his meal.
Pakhal Bhatha, onions, lime pickle,
Some fried brinjal, frugal repast
In this land of ancestors,
In the village of his youth .
He lowers himself
Into the solitary chair
Mesmerized by the familiar landscape
Pre-siesta, afternoon heat.
Glances at her, his chattel
Touchstone for unbridled fury
Is not lost, no dearth
Of undying admiration in her gaze,
Bondage, seven lifetimes, so Blessed.
She stares at me rudely, discontented,
I stare back, relax the corners of my mouth
Fashion a sultry smile, nod
To the sullen stranger in the mirrored wall.
She stuffs wads of cotton between my weathered fingers
Splayed for dissection.
Bored, begins to spread the viscous liquid
In straight, soft lines.
With weary soul.
Rigor mortis, I declare…
She shakes her coiffure’ d hair
Unclench, she dictates, eyes narrowed,
I fear her strokes will ruin
She scoffs at the purple patch on my cheek
Foundation skillfully applied
Cannot deny my unloved state.
De-stress, no wrinkling, I admonish myself,
Future Mistress tonight
Of painted talons, clutching wine-stems,
Stave off the apprehension,
Of icy veins, parched souls
Sipping my Life’s blood.
Alta is a red liquid used by Hindu women to decorate soles of feet; auspicious
Pallu is the end of the sari draped over the left shoulder; often draped over head in deference to elders.
Paan is betelnuts in a leaf, usually chewed after meals
Dohti is belt-like sash
Pahkhal Bhatha is cooked rice with salt and yogurt; a staple food in the eastern state of Orissa
Brinjal means aubergine (eggplant)
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN Vol.8. No.3 March 2002 pp 399-402
© 2002 Sage Publications
Reproduced by permission of the author