Froth, rocks, rough cut sun,
Crematorium, half burnt body,
Me, cool sand.
A girl crosses the river.
Moon spotlights her.
The curtain of stars rises.
Her feet, ankles, shin, knee,
Resurrect inch by inch,
Sink into the current once again.
Tangerine thighs, pubis, the vermillion gash,
Reverberating belly, two globules of mercury,
Resurrect and sink.
She emerges, a walking rain.
The rainbow cloud erect above me, seeping.
An old question, I ask her.
Ka Tvam Bale? / Who are you, girl? (1)
Kanchanamala / Kanchanamala.
Kasya putri? / Whose daughter?
Kim te haste? / What’s in your hand?
Thalipatram / A palm leaf.
Ka va rekha? / What’s written there?
Ka Kha Ga Gha / Ka Kha Ga Gha.
Crematorium/ body/ me
She floats next to me
Like a rippling soul.
I begin to scrawl Ka Kha Ga Gha
On the knots of her silver spine
With a fiery finger.
(1) Beginning Ka Twam Bale and ending with Ka Kha Ga Gha, it is a rendition of a famous Sanskrit poem by Kalidasa(5th cent AD). Legend has it that King Bhoja wanted the court poets to write a poem that ended in Ka Kha Ga and Gha, the first four consonants of the Sanskrit language. Seems Kalidasa,the most gifted among them, met a girl on the street and asked her these same questions and received the same answers which he made into a poem and presented it to the King next day. To me, the poem brings out the girl’s openness, friendliness,innocence, her readiness to learn and her level of freedom in the society. Her name is Kanchanamala (a golden necklace) and her mother is Kanakalatha ( a golden vine). Note that she gives her mother’s name and not her father’s.
Using this poem was not a deliberate act. It came to me as soon as she emerged from the water.