Gopikrishnan Kottoor

 

Gopa's Picture

 

(India)

 

 

 

Mother’s Saree Box

 

I

 

Mother’s sari box was peacock blue.

She opened it only on special days.

Like, that evening when father came home early.

She had her bath spread with white jasmine buds he’d bought from Nur Jehan Flower Stall

By Old Delhi railway station.

The Regal Cinema near Jama Masjid was playing the new black and white talkie

Starring Dev Anand and Suraiya.

Mother liked me to sit by her side, listening to her story of each sari

Tucked closely in like an unroused peacock feather.

The jasmine fragrance had already soaked her hair, as she laid out the saris one by one,

In a semi-circle not unlike a low dipped peacock tail.

‘Which one dear?’ she asked me eagerly, ‘Which one tonight?’

My sleepy eyes dyed down on her Banarasi, Mughal-A-Azam Qawwali, Bengal Baluchari,

And Lucknow Chikankari. ‘Or, shall it be your father’s favourite Kashmiri Chinar?’

Sure, each had a story. Each one was a legend.

‘This, my son’, she whispered ‘ is the rainbow sari, a gift from your father, from Kolkata,

On Durga puja night…. Ah, he has now forgotten. And this is the Kancheevaram sari,

Studded with real gold that your father wished me to wear on our Kerala honeymoon.

He said I looked like … Shakuntala…. And this is my wedding sari.

She kept opening and closing its rummaging silk as though helping boneless wings to fly.

I saw her stare hard at the pair of diamonds pinned on it,

That had come along with her as dowry.

And I thought I saw tears that she quickly brushed aside. We did not choose that.

 

Mother wore a simple blue that night.

I watched her dress carefully before the long dusky bedroom mirror, folding the blue pleats Peacock crown like, just hovering her navel, as though she remembered the peacock dance.

I heard him call her from down below. He had already started the car engine.

 

II

 

When they came up the stairs to the terrace

The moonlight lay already unsheathed.

Mother made sure I was asleep, (or so she thought),

As father’s hand slipped over her peacock pleats, drawing her close,

Sinking the fangs of the celluloid’s black and white romance into her flesh

With his lips whorled upon her peacock crown.

Her eyes closed. She lay awake, looking through his kisses

At the full moon, thinking perhaps, of Dushyanta, and his fish gobbled ring.
 

III

 

Next morning, father took with him in his office jeep,

Mother’s tousled sari to Maharani Dry Cleaner’s close to Nur Jehan Flower Stall.

 

The blue sari would get back into the blue box in the evening,

Among the others awaiting their late night show,

When white jasmine buds would once again spread the bath floor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gopikrishnan Kottoor is an award winning poet. His prizes include the All India Poetry prize, British Council, (Special Prize, Best Theme, Second Prize, General Category, and  three times commendations) among others. He has been included in  The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poetry in English (UK),  The Golden Jubilee Anthology of Indian Poetry in English (National Book Trust), Special issue on Indian Poetry in English, Verse, Seattle, USA, and other significant  anthologies. He attended the MFA (Poetry) Southwest Texas University, USA on a McCormick scholarship. His poem ‘Father, Wake us in Passing, was translated and published into German and read across Universities in Europe on a Residency from the University of Augsburg, Germany. He has published in leading poetry magazines in India and abroad, such as The Illustrated Weekly of India, Kavya Bharati,  Orbis (UK), Kavi India, Chandrabhaga, Opinion, Quest, New Quest, Debonair,  Toronto Review (Canada). Ariel (Canada).Arabesques (Africa), Plaza (Japan), Nth position (UK), New English Review(UK)among many others. The blog version of his book of poems  Vrindavan can be accessed at gopikrishnankottoor.blogspot.com. He is the founder editor of Poetry Chain. He presently edits the ezine www.undergroundflowers.com. He has published twelve books and his oeuvre includes poetry,  novels, children’s books, plays, transcreations, poetry editions  and translations. He often reviews poetry for the Hindu literary supplement. He works as General Manager in the Reserve Bank of India, Trivandrum.

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