By Srividya Sivakumar
In Coonoor, childhood tumbles
down a hill to find its way home.
The cobra lily has made a comeback.
The gardens are bursting with crowds and
the commotion hurts delicate
The varki is especially good
with a tumbler of cardamom tea.
The churches see more charlatans
than the courthouse.
The temples clamour for
your sleep on a cold morning.
The cold is
a man with a mind of his own.
lives in the castle behind your house.
These hills call out to you.
And the kurunji is a perfect
It appears so rarely, almost reluctantly,
in a burst of Crayola blue.
You are a pigment of my imagination
My earliest memories of you are loud music and your dancing and singing.
I love loud music, can sing, and try to dance.
I’m often asked what my family values are and I say — a sense of humour in adversity.
Where do you think I learnt that from, ma?
The afternoon when I was born was a cold one. The military hospital had a handsome gynaecologist and you told me that
it helped you a lot.
From cooking experiments-cabbage transformed into rasmalai-– to mad fashion sense–including bright orange sleeveless t shirts to greet stiff-upper-lip nephews–I’ve learnt that laughter is therapy.
I laughed when a day before emergency surgery, you asked: are you sure?
I love all your deliberate malapropisms.
Your,’ present continues tense,’ and ‘juvenile delicacy.’
How draining for you is a combination of drizzling and raining.
And how you say ‘loitering and poetering.‘
Ah ma, but I know.
I know you wonder sometimes why I am the way I am.
When you struggled to drape a sari on me, I cried at the hideousness that looked back at me.
Did you wonder ma, how could someone you created be so unkind?
When I told you about what I had done, you looked at me, askance. How could the child created by many degrees be this stupid?
When you learnt of my illness, you cried because you thought it was in my genes.
Some of what I write and say worries you.
I know, ma.
But haven’t you taught me that choices are mine to make?
People say I look like dad.
Maybe true, but I hope that I am less him, more you.
Dr. Srividya Sivakumar, a poet, columnist and speaker, has been a teacher-trainer for twenty-one years, and has two collections of verse- The Heart is an Attic and The Blue Note. Her work appears in various journals and anthologies, including the Red River Book of Haibun VOL 1, Quesadilla and Other Adventures: Food Poems, and the Best Indian Poetry 2018. Her poem, Bamboo, was nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology in 2018. Srividya wrote a weekly column, Running on Poetry, for The Hindu’s Metroplus, for eighteen months. Her column currently appears in the journal, Narrow Road.
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