Long Shadows of Reminiscence

Long Shadows of Reminiscence

(1)

First showers of the Monsoon, and the earth and sky washed, awash. Green, I am Green.
And green is my world. My people too are green.

Who am I ? And who are we ? Do you, can you, recognize me?
I come from the crafted roots of tea plants. Green tea plants, greener still
And in their roots and soil do our lives and our souls lie coded, enfolded.

The forest, faraway, and I wonder that my roots there got uprooted – where was it?
And how was it that the dry earth, the bald hills
Those trees and river and stream got left behind long ago
My beloved – left behind
The forest and the forest songs that echoed through it – left behind – long lost in time.

The Karam[1] night, it was when it had happened. Our everything – left behind
The joyous drumming of the Madol[2], it then became the rhythms of sorrow, of loss
And the dawn that the night broke into, it let us see one last time – our river, our home.

Our home, it slipped out of my grandfather’s old shrunk arms, his shriveled embrace
Alas ! Fate and its games – his resigned voice then floated in the air, unto me.

Reminiscence, utter reminiscence!
Long and deep shadows of reminiscence!

(2)

My roots, and house and home and forest, my village –
All that I had left behind, in the folds of lost time.

Where was it that my traces were once alive –?
Medinipur or Bankura or was it Kalahandi?

Where else?

How were the wind, the rain and the dazzle of sunshine?
And the trees and birds and hills – left behind?

The colour of our earth
The colour of our trees and its clinging creepers
The colour of our skin,
Of our clouds and the sky
The colour of our swimming fish and fluttering butterflies

How were those colours of my past?

These colours of my reminiscence –
And the trees
The lovely loving birds of my reminiscence
And the green, green leaves

Can you return them to me?

The life throbbing in my reminiscence, I wish it true, true unto me.
My deep long shadows of reminiscence.

(3)

Green gardens of green tea plants and fragrance of their fresh leaves
– Reminiscence of those days
Swirls and curves of the rivers and the scatter of pebbles along the shores
– Reminiscence of those nights
Tree, every tree and the lovely loving birds
– Reminiscence of glitter of days lit in sunshine
Human bodies bloodied and soiled, and the weeping of the deathly owls
– Reminiscence of sheer nights lost in darkness

Every page in my book of reminiscence
Give it back to me
I wish it back.

My deep long shadows of reminiscence.

 

Grow Deeper Your Roots, O’ Moon

A flight of crows cawed aloud
Grow deeper your roots, O’ Moon
Grow them deeper

How come, from where, this stillness breaks
Where do trees crash in the depth of the night?

Today’s Sunday
And on Tuesday, the beel[3] would
Sink in sand

The fallen leaves find their way to me
And whispers softly into my ears
Can you see your inching demise?

The waters of the Diroi[4]
There’s sport there of hungry hunger

And can you see drawn in the sands of the river
The vermillion line along the parting of the hair

The children playing in the waters of the Diroi
Alas, they see not their ignorant childhood

A flight of crows cawed aloud
Grow deeper your roots, O’ Moon
Grow them deeper

 

translated from Assamese by Dr. Manjeet Baruah

 

NOTES

[1] Karam: Karam is a festival of the ‘tea tribes’ of Assam, its history dating back to their life in central India prior to being imported into Assam by the British planters. It is still celebrated by the plantation people in Assam.

[2] Madol: Madol is a musical drum. Men and women dance to its rhythmic beats.

[3] Beel: ‘Beel’ is the traditional word for Pond in low lying lands. It becomes a small rivulet in lean season. But during rainy season the entire low lying area becomes inundated and takes the shape of a Beel.

[4] Diroi: ‘Diroi’ is a river in the Sivasagar District of Assam.

 

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Kamal Kumar Tanti Written by:

KAMAL KUMAR TANTI (b. 1982) is a bilingual poet and writer, writes both in English and Assamese languages. He belongs to Adivasi Tea-garden Labourer Community of Assam. His first collection of Assamese poetry Marangburu Amar Pita (Our Father Marangburu), published in 2007, won him the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar for 2012, for Assamese language and Munin Barkotoki Literary Award in 2008. Kamal has a PhD in Astronomy & Astrophysics and teaches Physics at University of Technology and Management, Meghalaya and lives in Shillong.

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