NABINA DAS

"Nabina Das lives in Ithaca, New York, and writes fiction and poetry. Her work will be anthologised in a collection of “urban” poetry by Indian women writers to be in print by September 2008 by Frog Books. Earlier this year, She has been declared one of the winners of the 2008 Book Pitch Contest at Kala Ghoda Literary Festival in Mumbai, India. HarperCollins India is right now evaluating her novel manuscript. She is also recipient of a 2007 Joan Jakobson Fiction Scholarship from Wesleyan Writers' Conference as well as a 2007 Julio Lobo Fiction Scholarship from Lesley Writers' Conference.
Earlier she worked as Assistant Metro Editor with The Ithaca Journal, Ithaca, NY, and as a journalist in India for about 10 years in places as diverse as Tehelka.com, Down To Earth environmental magazine, Confederation of Indian Industries, National Foundation for India and The Sentinel newspaper. She has published several articles, commentaries and essays during her tenures. An M.A. in Linguistics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, her passion also lies in theater and music."


Buddha’s Children

Trusting faces, tremulous hands
The village trotted showering dust from its feet
Ashes from clay ovens, dirt from worm-eaten fields
Up, up and further up they went where

Tawang greeted them.

Their mules chomped the only dinner
Radishes from turned up soil before snow came howling
Yet they smiled and went over hill-grown stones
Wiped sweat or tears from hunger pangs, and

Trekked heavenwards.

A stout monk chaperoned them on the peak
Handed them tools to carve back beauteous Tawang
Her old glory shone in the lamps of golden butter brought
By villagers, of milk saved from yak calves,

And naturally, wailing babies.

The wise lama, round as the lunch potato offered by
A worshipper, stood watching so Buddha might come back soon
To sigh at the toiling devout who knew not prayer or remorse
I pray, you work,the priest preached as weary backs

Rested on bricks.

Torn clothes are but worry of a mortal mind
They learned while polishing bright the holy courtyard
Where romping dragon dances will predict the next cycle of crops,
Plentiful yaks and potatoes for priestly gifts that only

Salvation can bring.

Evening gone, they climbed down the mountain
From paths tortuous, twisted like jumbled scriptural blessings
Slowly shivered inside their crumbling wind-licked homes
To let sleep imagine these were warm bodies, still

Hoping, dreaming.

Buddha’s children.

Dialogues with Dilli

Night: I open e-mails from a bluegreenwhited screen
Sort happiness and despair one by one and junk some
Have to make up my mind between the stalker and the spammer
Not my lovers –

But first, Dilli do you love me?

It’s raining: a hand lathers my windowpane right at midnight
Not my lover.
A rattle on the sidewalk behind hardens my urban jaw
At a shadow or an aimless wave of hand, harsh headlights.

Morning: the hair from you thighs tickles my nostrils
Your pinch in the crowded bus last night gives me a rash
And your uncouth body rubbing me from behind makes me
Search for an unknown love letter flickering on my computer screen.

Please say you love me, Dilli.

Afternoon: Dilli, do you feel my soft bottom on you arms?
All I need is a knock on the door, a beeping mail
Shahdara to Lodhi Road is a long way to endure your stares
Peppered with comments while calloused thumbs press my breasts.

It’s dusk: Your scorching summer wind breaths embracing the day
Now fall over me like gulmohars shaking their clothes off
In a passionate frenzy, for I think they are in love
With noise and swears and glib and the moth-eaten stratospheric moon

Maybe this way you say you love me.

Dilli, it’s possible I’ll remember your torn golden gram flour skin,
Your choking sighs and catcalls behind sombre public urinals
And your green armpits of restiveness –
Although you did not own up as my lover

Perhaps you did love me.

 


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