Note: My poetic tribute to the relentless, unblemished spirit of the teenager Durga, a poetic celebration of her short, unceremonious, yet unforgettable life and the haunting reality of her untimely death in Satyajit Ray’s ‘Pather Panchali’ (Song Of The Road), the award-winning cinematic adaptation of the master storyteller of Bengal, Bibhutibhushan Banyopadhyay’s magnum opus novel of the same name.
The light that had flickered and blazed had found its humble moorings
In the moonbeams of a brother’s quiet smile.
The light, naked, unabashed, glaring, rose and fell
Between the crests and rims of an untamed want of ripe mangoes
And guavas picked up from neighbor’s orchards, her kith and kin
For whom Durga was the other name of a censuring reality.
The light, an all-pervading truth, had shone, wandering in those wistful eyes
Loosening in their shores like sea water, and she clutched the brother’s shoulders
And took in the delight of trains whizzing past the silhouetted fields, whistling,
While the kaash flowers swayed in those eyes in their ivory nakedness.
The moon of her newborn puberty ached in the dark edges of her kohl,
A dark ink that had craved for a morsel of pampering from a troubled mother,
Splotches and shades of a promise peeping by, whistling in her ears the provocation
Of a scrumptious feast of a wedding, the provocation of a sweetmeat
Of a fancy doll, a string of false pearls, which she could cling to, as her own.
The light that had cradled her lap which hid sweet nothings for her ancient, dying aunt
A strand of forbidden silver which had carved her destiny, in a dilapidated hut
Where hope was but a shallow inhale, trading her brother Apu’s porridge
With her grim, corrosive punishments, a plate of squashed rice
And a mother’s wordless tears waiting for her, in an eager dusk of her return.
The light, which had died out, in spurts, stumbling upon the dead aunt
In the lingering quiet of her way back home, chewing on rural titbits.
The light had taken in the world in the diamond drops of a torrential rain
Squandering in the open fields when she too hungered to live life
In bite-sized chunks of enduring moments, swirling, dancing around her.
The ashen sky of Nishchindipur, the nonchalant village
Where she anchored her tomfoolery, had flashed that one final grin
As she hung, loose, papery-thin in its sunless folds, taking in
Her wild breaths, hissing against the wind for one last time.
Death, her truthful, final kin had put his arm around her
While the brother listened to her last wish to storm out in the open fields
To see a stray train whizzing by….
The brother, the stoned mother, the bereaved father,
The starched cotton sari which she would never ever wear,
Waited and moved on in the bare-bone life, trudging on uncertain miles
Where her dim light, the dying vapors of her last breaths waved at them,
In a choking, molten surrender.
All Rights Reserved. Lopa Banerjee. 2017
Lopamudra Banerjee is a writer, poet, editor and translator, currently based in Dallas, USA. She has a Masters’ degree with thesis in creative nonfiction writing from the Department of English, University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is the co-editor of the bestselling anthology on women, Defiant Dreams: Tales of Everyday Divas, published in collaboration with Readomania and Incredible Women of India.
Thwarted Escape: An Immigrant’s Wayward Journey, her debut memoir/nonfiction novel, published by Authorspress, has recently received Honorable Mention at the Los Angeles Book Festival 2017. The manuscript has also been a First Place Category Winner at the Journey Awards 2014 hosted by Chanticleer Reviews and Media LLC. Her literary works have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, both in India and the US. Her poetry has been published in The Significant Anthology, Umbilical Chords: An Anthology on Parents Remembered, Kaafiyaana, and her fiction is forthcoming in Silhouette I & II anthology, to be published by Authorspress. She has received the Reuel International Award 2016 (category: Translation) for her English translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s novella Nastanirh (translated as The Broken Home) instituted by The Significant League, a renowned literature group in Facebook, and the book is available in Amazon Kindle.