Tript Kaur’s poem, ‘Grandmothers’, tenderly depicts the relationship between a granddaughter and her grandmother; between past pain and the hopes and fears of the next generation.
“Can you make my hair grow back?”
“I can’t, grandmother”
There is a desperate tragedy to her laugh
as if she wants to lighten the moment
but realizes that she has stopped hoping.
There is a woman in the mirage
between my conscious and subconscious
She is plunged into the soil, knee deep
in the water of paddy
planting replanting transplanting
her creaking back with every
tired swing of her arms.
It’s a race between her feet
and the water of the canal –
rice a silent spectator.
“I am a neglected haveli
Paint me child, before my crumbling walls
break me down.
You see the rooms in these wrinkles,
stories in cataracted eyes?
The massive turrets of my body
are now rusted iron pillars
uglily hanging from dull chunnis.
I will go soon
Hold my hand,
lock my gates when I leave.”
The distant memory of great grandma
tying a turban on her head, and swearing like a man
to walk safely in the fields at night,
washing her husband’s turban in the river of blood
the Beas of 1947, that witnessed the trauma of time
in the murder of innocents;
makes her slightly bent.
Her shoulders are the Atlas of our globe
but they shake sometimes,
and we live earthquakes.
She complains when I put on little foundation
“You have great skin, dadi. You don’t need–“
“I want, I want, I want” she echoes.
The chasm between the blush on her cheeks
and her withering cheek-bones
challenges her want
and she whispers how she is ‘khandar’
and asks me to wipe off the decoration
“Fast, fast, fast”
I leave before she breaks down.
They are divided by distance and time
and physics is wrong, so wrong
when it says speed=distance/time
because they stay still
like stagnant pools
ageing into the glory of havelis and paddy
that I can never speed to.
Notes to ‘Grandmothers’:
Haveli: Large Mansion
Chunni: Soft cloth worn with kurta and salwar, North Indian dress. Draped over the breasts.
Beas: A river in Punjab, northern India. During the bloody Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, the Beas flooded, taking multiple corpses with itself.
Khandar: Ruin/in ruins
Tript Kaur is a recent English graduate from Delhi University, India. She is currently pursuing an MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies at the University of Cambridge, as a student at Lucy Cavendish College. Her love for English and Punjabi literature, particularly children’s literature, has led her to compose poetry and short stories catering to young readers. She attempts to understand the effects of conflict on the most vulnerable, and writes about them academically and creatively.