Monday, 5 November 2012

The muse of a modern genre poet

Smriti Kumar Sinha
Translated by Ramlal Sinha
Clad in a talaphuti[1], you look like a zebra.” “What!?” Kalpana questioned Amol, while unhooking her earrings in front of the dressing table.
“An African zebra, a jazzy talaphuti-clad Kalpana,” said Amol in his lilting voice of recitation.
Wham! Right on the target! Kalpana sat on the bed in a huff. She felt terribly jaded hearing only poems for three hours at a stretch in the soirée organised by the Tirash group of poets in the town. As though to cap it all, the simile he used left her nerves jangling. She couldn’t even change her dresses to breathe freely again, there’s yet another poem.
“It’s the plight in store for the wives of poets. What a simile he has chosen! African zebra! It’s the height of degradation,” a sulking Kalpana was thinking. Her blood was boiling .
“What has made your blood boil?” Amol fired another salvo.
“Psychoanalysis of any sort isn’t warranted,” Kalpana shot back, banged the door and entered the kitchen.
“I’m saying so as your face is red with rage”, Amol said, while unbuttoning his shirt. “Talaphuti and zebra — wow! What a matching combination! The idea of a beautiful poem has flashed in my mind, all of a sudden. It can be a piece for tomorrow’s edition of Tirash. The editor has requested me many a times for a poem,” Amol was thinking. Amol, chief guest of the get-together of poets, was basking in the satisfaction of his innovation. Few budding talents were very enthusiast. Away from the festoons of slogans seeking fulfillment of demands, the new genre of poets were the flag-bearers of a true literary movement. “I’ve to send the poem tomorrow. They get an inspiration. It’s like giving them a leg-up,” Amol thought to himself.
“Talaphuti… zebra…, if you purse up your lips, with whom will I talk to?” Amol said. “There isn’t a third person in this house. The count in the Census report is in decimal, just two points,” he continued.
“Be on the trail of the African zebra. The editor of Tirash will be waiting,” Kalpana shouted from the kitchen.
“Ha! Ha! Ha! Psychoanalysis! Telepathy, you live long, at least for me. Mental communication is underway,” said Amol.
“Yes, I’m a zebra, a beast.” “Hey, what do you mean?”
Amol entered the kitchen, and said: “What I mean is…”
“The brute fact is that you take a macho pride by degrading women. Though you project yourself as modern, you’re yet to rid yourself of male chauvinism,” she said.
“Is this the sum total, including compound interest, that you have evaluated in me since our wedlock?” Amol questioned.
“Maybe, you’re cracking a joke, but what I said is the stark reality of how men rate women,” she said. “I made the remark in jest, but you have taken it otherwise. See, woman is the real portrait of nature — creation, destruction, affection, cruelty, desire, worship and the like; all blended in one. It’s the woman who gives birth to the man. Which is why she is the muse of all poets, regardless of their sex…”
“It’s enough. The lectures and recitations at the poets’ meet are still to be digested. Compound interest! You could have eked out extra bucks through tuition had you been studying mathematics, instead of literature,” she took a dig at him, and rushed to the dining table to serve food. She had cooked food before going out.
They had their meal. Amol made an attempt to coax a piqued Kalpana into feeling at ease, but to no avail. Her laconic replies and disapproving words like ‘om’, ‘oh’, and the like, that Kalpana added to his words without any frills let Amol know that she was still in a bad mood. Having done all her works , she retired to bed. Amol smiled at her but she didn’t reciprocate.
“If Monalisa gives a sullen glare at Leonardo, what he will…”
She took the long pillow and kept it in the middle of the bed, parallel to her, to drive a wedge between them. She turned her back to him and made an attempt to sleep. It was enough hint for Amol that his remark of ‘zebra’ was still rankling her. Scratching his head, he made an attempt to divert the meaning of her gesture, “It’s OK. I won’t write anything about long pillows anymore, but just listen to me.”
Kalpana then closed one of her ear with her arm, while the other was pressed against the pillow. Thus, she wouldn’t hear a word that Amol would tell her.
“I was kidding,” Amol etched his head again, and murmured: “What to do?” He was in a fix —whether to write the poem or to coax Kalpana. He knew it would take hours together to coax a sulking Kalpana. On the other hand, if he missed the very mood to write a poem, it would never come to him again. In the morning, he had to race against the clock to go to office. He had to go to office as literature doesn’t help us in eking out our living; but burns a big hole in the pocket. He looked once at Kalpana, and then at the table. A white paper on the lamp-lit table was waiting for him like a patient in an operation theatre. “Let me write,” Amol got down from the bed. He took a glance at Kalpana, twisted the tip of his tongue, and said with an evil leer:,“Sweet sleep come here, here lies my dear.”
He then gave a quick raunchy kiss on her eyelids, and made a quick getaway. Kalpana, then, literally buried her face in the pillow. Kalpana had no way out but to sulk, or else she might have to pass another sleepless night. A hectic schedule was awaiting her in the morning. Writers, by nature, are insomniacs. In the past four years, she had to pass many a sleepless night. One night, while she was yawning sleepily, Amol said, “Just see this line. Does it sound well?” Another night, when drowsiness didn’t allow Kalpana to sit upright, Amol said, “Just go through this poem loudly. Let’s see how does it sound like? Wait, wait, I need to bring some changes in the metaphor.”
On yet another occasion, in the dead of night, she got up to go to the bathroom with her eyes heavily-lidded. He then picked her up, and said, “Since you have woken up just see the theme of this poem. Feeling sleepy? You sleep every night. Kamalesh has written a critique of this poem. This is the write-up. Now, the next theme…” She hadn’t kept any account of her sleepless nights — laughing, crying, sulking and sitting till morning. Not getting enough sleep, she got ratty. What did Amol say while cajoling her? She wracked her brains, trying to remember what exactly Amol had said. “Oh! Yes. I won’t write anything about the long pillows.” Kalpana had her mouth pressed against the pillow just to hold back her paroxysm of laughter but her entire be- ed on the table, near their bed.
“Take a look at it? Leave it. What’s the use? What has he written? Let me read, once. He won’t know.” Kalpana was in a dilemma. Taking a look towards the dining room, she opened the magazine. Oh! It has come out:
Zebra
Amol Sinha
Dense with erotic green is Africa,/Illuminated by a zebra lass,/At the staccato of violence./Woven in black & white keys of harmonium/Is the symphony of life./Only she can blend the seven colours./On the earth, burning like a lily,/Only she can make a heart throb./A zebra lass of Africa is in my tight hug/With the dream of a fresh life./The talaphuti-clad is in her period,/A rose blooms at night/From the hues of blood.
With the magazine in her hand, she cut short to the dining table in a huff. “Without me, can’t you write what you call poems? Why do you keep dragging me in your poems?” she said in one breath.
“Where do I?”
“What does these concluding lines mean?”
“How can you say that’s you? What proof do you have?”
“Barring me, who else could be in your tight hug? Or someone from your office?” “Squad thum. The ‘I’, ‘my’ mentioned in the poem isn’t Amol alone. It can be any male. Have you understood? Te chal…”
“Don’t you feel shy while writing all these stuff? Speak the truth.” Amol kept eating without caring to reply.
“I’ can’t believe that you can come down to this level. Instead of making it a racy one, couldn’t you make it an honest-to-goodness poem by involving a male zebra?” Kalpana hurled another question.
“Ha! Ha! Ha! You had geography as a subject in your Bachelor’s degree. You will get the reply if you search the zebras of Africa in the remit of literature, not of geography,” said Amol. He stood up and went to wash his hands in the basin. Kalpana was clueless as to why Amol mentioned geography —was it a dig at her mention of mathematics and tuition the other day. It was Sunday. The drawing room of Amol wore a warm ambience.
Two journalists from Guwahati came to interview Amol to get a glimpse of his life. Kalpana was busy in playing the perfect hostess. She was basking in the glory of her husband who had that je ne sais quoi that distinguished him from the rest of the poets. After taking the literary subjects and study life of Amol, the two scribes felt like playing devil’s advocate in order to get the discussion going. They started to quiz Kalpana too. It being a holiday, everything seemed pleasant.
What subjects Amol likes to write? What stuff he is fond of? These and a lot of their ilk kept coming from the scribes. Lastly, one of them asked Kalpana, “How do you rate the poems of Amol? Do you like them?” On the pretext of rubbing his face with the hanky, Amol closed his mouth and kept waiting to hear Kalpana’s response.
A stirring Kalpana had an eye contact with Amol, shooting him a sideways glance, and said with a jaunty smile: “If I myself rate his poems as good, the adjective ‘good’ may, I think, lose its elegance to an extent.”
A stunned Amol wanted to clap at her verbal dexterity and say ‘bravo, bravo’. A to-the-point reply from his muse! She has acquired much from him.
“Seeing you, we get an impression that a poet of repute being your Mr Right, you are an elated lady. Isn’t it?” The other journalist asked her.
“If that isn’t the case, the tea you just had wouldn’t have the right proportion of sugar,” she replied, sending everyone into peals of laughter. “Now, we can leave by taking a joint snap of you two, lifesize,” the visitors said.
“Yeah! Please wait for a while.” Kalpana went inside and Amol followed suit. Kalpana was wearing a talaphuti and an inafi in front of the dressing table. Looking at Amol in the mirror, she said: “Won’t you dress up?” “I need to go shopping,” Amol said.
“Right now! Why?” A stunned Kalpana asked .
“To buy a striped lungi,” he said. “Lungi?” She questioned.
“Yes, so as to match with your talaphuti. I will be a male zebra, or else you would accuse me of degrading you. You would be in a huff again,” he said.
Kalpana let loose a loud laugh, took a dhoti out from the almirah, gave it to Amol, and said, “Put it on. In fact, I don’t get angry with you.”
“If that is not the case, why do you keep firing salvos at me these days?” he said while putting on the dhoti. Kalpana kept staring at him, and said, “Poets need to be reminded with such salvos, from time to time, that they have their wives who too aren’t devoid of desires.”
“W..h..a..t..!? Amol recalled the kiss that he had planted on the eyelids of Kalpana the other day, and started to laugh. With a smile, they posed in front of the camera.
****The story is exclusively dedicated to the spouses of poets and other writers.
[1] Talaphuti: Formal striped lower garment of Bishnupriya Manipuri women.
Original story: “Adhunik Kavir Githanak” in Bishnupriya Manipuri

Courtesy: Seven Sisters Post
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