ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Blogging Competition Shortlisted Entry
Freedom to Dream: India at 70
Seemita Sanulekha Das, 34 years, Chennai
All of fifteen, gave a gentle tug to the cradle and swirled the large spoon,
And fleetingly wondered if the three-year old free India was any boon.
It was time for the men to return home, and dinner must be ready, wholesome.
The lights went off, the moon was up and despite a day, fatally tiresome,
She sneaked into the courtyard, and beneath the silken shadows,
Retrieved a book from her dress’ seams and settled to compose.
When no soul chirped in the thin air, she breathed her dream
Of scribbling a few words of meaning, if only in requiem.
To the inevitable kingdom of marriage that declared the land of school, illegal,
She was sent permanently the following year, robbing her of her meagre wherewithal.
Her clandestine dreams though had gifted her tiny slivers of strength,
Which she, with a manic fit, poured all over her five children.
The three boys grew, making good degrees of the taught word,
But respectable matrimony, was only what the girls could afford.
She, my grandmother.
Who just turned twenty-two and tripped over the dusty, red carpet,
But scampered her clumsy, delightful run, all the way to the parapet,
Where she hoisted the golden cup, with the inscription of ‘Best Dancer, 1978’,
Clutched her heart to lull the palpitations, at the prospect of reaching home late.
All it took was a deep, baritone voice, to bring her rhythm to a stop,
And even as her father nodded, she offered her mark-sheet instead of the cup.
Gingerly, she caressed her ankle bells, which seemed to have contracted to her sorrow,
And, in a moment of emboldened reflection, decided to change tomorrow.
At the strike of morning sun, she heard a knock at her room’s door,
‘Baba is calling you, immediately’, not a word less or more.
As she stood beneath the painfully dragging blades of the fan,
She was informed of the visit of an ‘important boy’ and his clan.
A life begun anew, with a man who was quite certainly, an ‘important boy’,
For he opened the gates of choices, with the most sincerity he could deploy.
But she discovered, after years of control, that her feet were frozen and sore,
Which, of course, didn’t stop her from letting the dreams of her children soar.
She, my mother.
Riding high on her board marks, when extended her application for signature,
He raised his eyebrows in a sudden jerk, as if she had rejigged his conjecture.
Why do you intend to pursue this discipline, when somewhere else your dreams belong?
Don’t you fall prey to the herd; create your own music and lyrics for your life’s song.
A smile wafted on her face, like it had happened multiple times in the past,
Every time the ship of her being quivered, he and she held firmly the mast.
They held her dreams in a cocoon of love, one that had weathered all storms,
One that bore the marks of patriarchy and yet survived to challenge the norms;
With courage that found new vitality with every passing year of independence,
And turned into a sharp weapon with which they vanquished every hindrance.
She dreamt, she followed, she leapt, she flew; she overcame many a tempest,
And what part of theirs was lost in the past, was to find redemption in her quests.
We, reflections of a pulsing, evolving nation, holding amidst our roles,
Seven decades of dreams and their gradually unfolding, diaphanous souls.