01 January 1970

Mumbai Versified, Two Poems

#WeekendReads

Mumbai Versified, Two Poems

Poet Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca meanders amidst the monsoon and markets of Mumbai that remains Bombay in nooks and corners.

Bombay fish market.
Bombay fish market. Getty Images

Bombay Fish Market

Here the entire sea 
Comes in with the fish
Wet, Wet, Wet,
Everything is wet
The stench, indescribable!
Bell-bottoms and flipflops
Not appropriate apparel
In a Bombay fish market.
Mother scolds me for making
Poor dress choices.

The fisherwomen loaded with gold ornaments
And jasmine flowers in their hair
Call out in raucous voices,
The fish wear sad expressions
Lying on stone slabs
In salt sea-water.

Mother bargains with her usual style
The fisherwoman says
“I’ll sell you the fish cheap
if you give your daughter’s hand in marriage to my son’’

That is the last time
I will go to the fish market with mother.
Fish curry at home erases 
The fish market experience.
Still the enjoyment of the curry 
Comes tinged with a bit of guilt
Sadness for the fish
On the stone slabs, their eyes follow me.

Father takes me to the Aquarium
A once-in-a-while treat
A better place to admire fish
 
Still my preference is to go down to the sea with him
Where I dream of writing a poem
like John Masefield’s Sea Fever

The fish are at home in the ocean
That travels the shores of my city
I wish for everything Masefield desires
Unlike him, I am afraid of the sea

Bombay Monsoon

A box of old photographs
Becomes a magician with his tricks
He pulls me out of his hat as a little girl
My hair in two pony tails
The greyness of age covered in curls of gold and brown.

Time places me on the stone steps
Of the small rented family home
In pouring rain, listening for the deep-throated croaking
Of the frogs, audible but camouflaged
Behind the dripping bushes of the lush garden.
My ears fill with the laughter of the street urchins
Splashing, pushing cars in the flooded waters
Smiling gratitude for a few coins to buy peanuts,
Bananas, or any kind of cheap food.
The smell of fresh earth invades the nostrils
And the voice of father calling out
‘Come inside, you’ll get wet.’

 

Bombay fish market.
Bombay fish market. Getty Images

I am chasing my paper boat
Already sailed away to a distant shore
My hands too small to reach it.
The Bombay rain is heaven opened
God has inundated the earth with his bounty.
I am standing in the pouring rain
No grey in my rain-drenched hair

I leave the box of old photographs open,
The little girl lives inside me and in the box
Only the rain feels a little different here
I long for the rain with the frogs, urchins and paper boats.
On this distant shore where I am placed
And must call home,
Albeit by my own choice.

My one complaint, about the rain 
We don’t use the word ‘monsoon’ here.
We call it ‘wet weather.’
‘Monsoon’ sounds more romantic!