Volume 4 Issue 2, June 2020
Special Issue for Indian Poetry

Gouranga P. Chattopadhyay

The No Time Zone

 

Time passes without any pause, causing

Non-existence driving my existence

With the door to the No-Time Zone

Carefully camouflaged essentially in a series of

Empty vessels that feign to possess the mantra of

Salvation from existence

Ever since time was invented and

Let loose to grow with no end in sight

Damaging all beings randomly strewn en route.

 

Paradox somehow manages to quietly continue

To stand in the background, perhaps with a

Scornful smile directed at the infants in most adults –

As the seekers of salvation follow

One garden path after another to get to the door

Through which they can pass into the timeless zone –

Simultaneously also queuing up for lotions and potions

Powders and pellets, advertised in newspapers

As also dished out at a price by those who

Profess to possess the alternate brand of mantra

To delay entry through the familiar

Exit into perhaps the No-Time Zone

That seems to hold as much offer of pleasure eternal

As the probability of endless variety of unending griefs

Invented by fertile brains to capture the minds

Of the majority in the unconscious grip of

The fear of death creeping behind like Nemesis!

 

The great search for the whereabouts of the door

That maybe made of some kind of heavy hard wood

With large brass bolts elegantly embedded agelessly

Forever waiting to be pushed,

Perhaps invented at the beginning of time to imprison it

Yet mysteriously it is also said that the door shall swing open

Yielding to the gentlest, effortless, loving touch

As if for all its sturdy looks it is virtually featherweight,

And beyond it lies an arduous climb.

 

What continues is an elegant picture of a double rainbow

In the azure sky presiding over a vista

Threatened by rocks made shiny from tons of rain

Falling and seeping into otherwise stony hearts,

Steep slopes protected by giant trees

That stand in the way of weary travellers till the snowline starts

And somewhere beyond it awaits Shangri La –

Waiting for the nameless what or who

With eternity as its companion

In the Shadow of COVID19

 

With the nemesis-like shadow of COVID 19 crowding

The mind at all times that I am awake or even asleep

With dreams threatening to turn into multiple layers of serialized

Nightmares, shifting gears to move from canter to gallop,

While I am fortunate enough to be in a place perhaps safest

On the globe against transmission of the virus, and looked after

In every way, affording me to safely indulge in guilt

On behalf of those who are alive

And living with no immediate threat to life and liberty.

 

The cold and cloudy morning in this land of long white clouds

Turns into one with drizzles to drive people indoors as I pass into

A state of inward wondering about what is happening to not just

 My near and dear ones, but to many more people, some of whom

 I love and admire, some I like, some I just about tolerate for selfish

Reasons like for avoiding addition to the existing complications to life 

 And some I barely accommodate within my capacity to hold in the mind:

Pictures varying from happily laughing to perpetually scowling at life,

And of people reduced to even mere mug shots

As though they have voluntarily chosen to abscond

Carrying the can on behalf of the many who are getting away with

Not just harbouring evil thoughts, but living lives of luxury

Built on the interest extracted from the capital invested on the misery

Of billions who have failed to take charge of themselves in a world

Already over burdened with social distancing of one kind or the other.   

 

 

 

 

  

 

Tell Me if You Will

 

Tell me if you will:

 

The darkness all around the man made

Bondage for which I spend so much money:

To keep it from crumbling,

To keep it as my property by paying so much money

To the government instead of spending it

For my pleasure,

Or even to help someone eat a roasted corn on the cob

That every day a man sells beside the VIP guest house

Where only once in a while VIPs turn up,

Or even once in a while buy a

New t-shirt that I don’t need.

 

Tell me if you will:

 

I am not hungry for food tonight.

The pleasant feeing of hunger often

Deserts me

Perhaps because it is better for me to

Understand why my body refuses the idea of

Nourishment.

 

Tell me if you will:

 

Is it because like the eternally neglected child in me

Once more wakes up to my need for you to

Hold me as closely as two bodies can be

Without breaking skin or bones,

Yet hoping to be one, merging in an

Absurd fantasy of one-ness.

 

Tell me if you will:

 

Is the thing called intuition in working order

Does it tell her about the depths of pathos

To which an octogenarian can sink

In the hope of a life giving embrace

From youth incarnate

Serenity mixed with compassion

Imagined and bestowed.

 

Tell me if you will:

 

My knocks on the door of her heart

Albeit silently with velvet gloves covering imagined knuckles

Lest in any way the old carcass damages

The pristine purity of her existence!

 

 

The Turtle

 

The painful reality of becoming

A copycat of turtle in old age

Is not a sign of Bunyan’s pilgrim shedding loads

To progress but probably a sign of ignominious retreat

From the field of incessant battle

Known as living life to the full.

 

My broken heart from the passing away

Of my life’s partner who was my one and only true love

Leaving a huge gap like the Black Hole

That sucks in a whole lot of energy

Cannot also be the reason

But be a mere excuse for not

Gathering reinforcements to replenish

Lost ground after a temporary retreat

Since in the name of mourning I have

For too long indulged in self-pity.

 

 

 

 

It’s Partly Insanity

 

Combination of INSEAD and Eruditus

As represented by P and U respectively

Is enough to make my simple life

Highly complicated for reasons that appear as

Putting the primary task on the back burner and

Riding on the high horse of arrogance based

Perhaps on new money and no sustaining values

To fall back on, to which is added a dollop of

Pure insanity as I experience void just beyond the cage

Of the elevator as I step out on the 29th floor

With its comparatively flimsy glass boundaries,

Hard to experience as much of a detarrent to falling off

Into infinity and be done with.

 

It all blends well with Abu Dhabi that appears as a

Completely manicured old woman after plastic surgery

To restore her appearance as a somewhat palatable dish

With the mind captured by the dazzle of money,

Perhaps in the shape of petro-dollars in evidence

In most of the places on land and in the off-shore

Little islands that also look rather artificial,

Man-made, bits of land manufactured in factories

And later floated in the gulf here and there.

 

   

 

Am I Deskilling Myself?

 

One of my shirt buttons came off and fell somewhere

On the carpet after which try as I might I failed to

Thread the needle in the sewing kit as the eye of the needle

Would defeat the efforts of the poorest Biblical man’s

Thinnest camel, let alone the thread provided in the kit,

To pass through the eye of the needle, despite looking through

My newly acquired artificial lenses implanted in both eyes

 For a total rounded sum of sixty thousand bucks,

Against which Mediclaim, the medical insurance provided by our caring

Government that knocked out all competition, duly paid me

The grand sum of forty two thousand, and expects me

To stop being a modern day Oliver

 

Rudely making it obvious that my childhood, youth and

Even middle-age capacities to breezily walk four kilometres

In about thirty two minutes and get mildly rebuked by

Companions for “running” that left them somewhat gasping

Are also lost somewhere in time called PAST

With the PRESENT all too quietly slipping into the unfathomable

Void of the past leaving me hobbling around using my

Forty eight year old Andamanese cane walking stick

Acquired for the grand sum of two rupees in the Poush fair ground

Of Santiniktan where year after year from the days of our

Courtship onward Arati and I went about hand in hand, often

Dropping in at Kalor Dokan to sip the milky brew served as tea

Accompanied by cauliflower shingaras actually stuffed with

Boiled potatos, but never mind, as Arati would often sweetly say

By way of pointing out other compensating factors including our

Continued togetherness, every time I felt low in spirit.

And now the only spirit restorative is what I firmly believe to be the

Measure of two normal pegs to keep me afloat through lonely evenings

In the confines of three walls and a balcony with potted flowering plants

As time crawls past at its set speed as if leaving me stranded

In the descending darkness of the late evening of my life

 

 

 

 

   

Empty Space

 

I seem to be surrounded by acres of empty space

Empty of people most of the time.

The double bed each night when I go to bed

And each morning when I wake up

Turns into acres of sandy desert with particles

Blowing into my eyes, the grit causing tears

To spring out to wash them clean.

 

Tonight shortly after dinner

The empty spaces on the sofas and the

Low single bed converted into seats for

Four persons with a mattress and a colourful rug on top

Started goading me to people them

With the aid of fantasy that I desist,

Seeking relief in switching off the brain

And begin to live in a world of

Toxic imagination.

 

Mobilising enough energy I decide to reject

This escape from the tug of insanity

And firmly decide that I can do better with my mind

For now and hopefully for as long as I breath and survive.

 

                                                                                   

 

 

   

 

Old Soldiers Are Supposed to Fade Away

 

One need not join the armed forces to be

A soldier if one recognizes life as a field

Where there is the need to join the battle

For survival and growth almost every instant of living.

 

Every time that I have submitted to indolence

As opposed to discipline, I have received wounds

Rather than battle scars. Wounds received for

Cowardice through acts of opting for turning

My back to the field of the here and now.

 

Thought of the battle that is life itself,

Or for careless steps taken leading to temporary loss

Of liberty and entering the prison of shame and guilt.

 

Battle scars are landmark experiences which have humbled

And helped me redirect my way of life to offer more of me

Than gather from others, reinventing myself time and again.

 

It is high time now for me to enter the process of fading away.

It is a process of working at rebuilding, not edifices but seeking

Newer avenues of pouring love and compassion,

Putting self interest in the back burner that keeps the flame of life

Just bright enough to see where I am needed rather than what I need.

 

 

 

About the poet

Gouranga P. Chattopadhyay (b.1931) worked with a doctorate degree in social anthropology as a teacher, researcher, and organizational consultant from 1954 in five continents and retired in 1991 at the statutory age of 60 as a professor of organization behaviour in Indian Institute of Management Calcutta. Professionally, he had reinvented himself as a sociologist, a behavioural scientist and a socio-analyst. As a social activist he was jailed twice as undertrial prisoner, without conviction. His publications include 5 books (including English translation of Sulekha Sannyal’s novel Nobankur), 1 kindle publication at amazon.com, 115 articles, 8 volumes of English poems and an English translation of Tagore’s songs and poems. His hobbies include hiking, translating Bengali literature into English and making walking sticks. As a yoga practitioner he was inducted as a Karma Sannyasin of Bihar School of Yoga by Paramahamsa Niranjanananda Saraswati and given the spiritual name of Tattwaratna. 

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Published by The Alternative.