Culture & Society

The Last Ride

Boudhayan Mukherjee writes two poems for Outlook.

Photo: Getty Images
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The Last Ride

Before riding the car
He wore dark glasses to hide his frosty eyes
Probably he was playing with his thoughts
About those dodges and deceits
Those that poured blemishes and scandals from abaft
Those who sent him off  from his dream Bolpur
to the prison of Jorashako
Ensnared him within the soothing balm of lies
For once he raised his head to gaze at the moor of Bhubandanga
The eastern sky was then donning the first blush of the dawn
When the last play was staged

It seemed that lines ensuing are so close to his heart:

The first sun asked him, “Who are you?” That waited unreplied

Leaving behind those flakes of memories so tender and nostalgic
Santiniketan “The mellow abode of peace”
The cool shade of mango groves, the solitude of tree-canopied Bakulbithi,
Barshamangal — The invocation of monsoon,
Halakarshan, the day of first sowing
Uttarayan its tree-rimmed avenues
Shyamoli and Deholi...The twin mud huts
The lingering fragrance of tuberose, beli, and jasmine 
Pampasagar pool and Sonajhuri planted by Rathi
Sriniketan, The bungalow of Surul
The Mrinalini primary school and the musical mellow
Passionate memories in myriads and the future....Time stills there
The black chariot is carrying the God on its last ride.

(Tagore departed at dawn of July 28, 1941 from Santiniketan ashram.He was reluctant , as he did not rely on allopathic medicines or surgical strikes on his body. But the well-heeled doctors from Calcutta coaxed him to come along. After the surgery at Jorashako, he succumbed on August 7, 1941.)

Her Absence 

I'm totally fragmented, fragments of tears
run down my cheeks, stopped by bristle beards
I stare at her photo looking at me
Is there a wry smile? You couldn't save me
from the claws of death, she laments
That took me away so early like Toru Dutt
I could write poems better than you 
I could paint better than Amrita Sher Gill 
Neighbours called me Florence Nightingale
I saved so many children of Dover Lane
I carried stray dogs home bruised by kicks
I asked for coins for beggars you gave gladly
I was so pretty, a flirt, you must’ve thought
Before you married me and thought me a wimp
But I was far better than a man’s mind
Never seeking wealth, power or fame
I never plucked my eyebrows, waxed hirsute
I gave away lipsticks, nail polish, mascaras
To our maidservants for their overjoy, to them
I secretly gave away the perfumes you gifted me
I had my own divine scent of the body 
That I could inhale like our pet dogs, cats
I wept when you met with near-fatal accident
I cried for everyone in distress trying to help
I’m not Kalpataru, you chided me once
Help me save something for our son and old age
You gave me the bank locker key smiling —
You looked like an angel from the other world;

And so you went away suddenly so early 
Possibly, you had lost hope of this existence
But you were sans hatred or gloom
Unto your last breath, you believed in love. 
I clean surface of your photo glass every day 
And Tagore, your life’s solace looks at us amazed.

** Kalpataru is a limitless donor of bounties.

(Boudhayan Mukherjee is an author and poet. He taught creative writing at Indira Gandhi National Open University and has been recently nominated for America’s Pushcart Prize 2023 for poetry.)

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