The Alipore Post was the first collaborator for Good Earth India's new The Spotlight Series – a collaboration that shines a light on handpicked cultural curators who share with us their unique view of India through portraits of history, design, nature, art.
Good Earth x The Alipore Post presented six poems and artworks by artists who come from diverse professional spheres brought together by their common usage of art and poetry to share their creative impulses. Through these six portraits, we created a layered understanding of India that doesn't draw a line between historical references and modern points of view.
Here are the poems and artworks curated for the collaboration:⠀
1. Heirloom by Arundhathi Subramaniam
wise even at eight,
hid under her bed
when her first suitor came home.
Grave and serene
her features, defined
as majestically as a head
on an old coin, I realise
through photographs, clouded
by the silt of seasons, like the patina
of age on Kanjeevaram silks,
that in her day, girls of eight didn’t
have broken teeth or grazed elbows.
Now in her kitchen,
she quietly stirs ancestral
aromas of warm coconut lullabies,
her voice tracing the familiar
mosaic of family fables, chipped
in the languorous swirl
of sari, she carries the secret
of a world where nayikas still walk
with the liquid tread of those
who know their bodies as well
as they know their minds, still glide
down deserted streets -- to meet
dark forbidden paramours whose eyes
smoulder like lanterns in winter --
and return before sunset, the flowers
in their hair radiating the perfume
of an unrecorded language of romance.
The secret of a world
that she refuses to bequeath
with her recipes
and her genes.
2. Picnic by Arjun Rajendran
It's been so long
since we've had a picnic,
since we lay on a sheet
from all the gluttony,
all the laughter,
when the aftertaste of pineapple
lulled us into dreamless sleep,
when the dog chased after fairies,
to nudge us out of our laziness,
my attention divided
between a novel
and the gurgling stream of fish
springing out the water,
butterflies yellow white green
fluttered around our heads,
the scent of cake, drawing
them into temptation,
it's been so long
since we've all been together,
since we forgave each other
our distance to occasion a picnic,
at first a jigsaw puzzle
of a near complete afternoon,
then as the seasons glide,
furiously coming apart,
joining a rainy spot in the brain
until all that is left is
a solitary bugle
floating in space, calling for memories
to return while they hitchhike
in the opposite direction.
3. The Green Silk Saree by Bhawna Jaimini
My sister and I drooled
over the aluminium box
which my grandmother finally
opened last summer.
The box knows all the secrets
of my family. It has become
a legend now. before we saw it,
we often questioned its existence.
But there it was, in metal and space.
My grandmother had decided that
the secrets were not important
So she would distribute
them all equally. I was asked
to choose first. If allowed, I would
have taken the whole box
but I settled on her green silk saree.
It was the first silk he bought me
when we both went to a South India tour in 1976.
Bangalore or Madras.
I don’t remember anymore.
My grandmother said, in a dry,
matter of fact tone.
The green silk saree is
a symbol of love, that could not be.
Now I know why she didn’t want
to keep it anymore.
The pallu tells me the story of
the first time she wore it
anticipating a compliment.
Instead she was handed over,
‘you look so fat’ and ‘stop eating all the time’.
The fall tells the story of the time
when she accidentally tipped over
but no hand came to rescue.
The hand was busy stroking
someone else. The oil stain
on it tells the story of the night
when he didn’t come back home
on her birthday. She ate alone,
finding comfort and love
in deep fried pakoras.
As I examine the oil stain
She tells me I can get it dry-cleaned
I decide not to.
When I wore it that night, she told me
That I looked beautiful.
I told her she too would have.
She smiled and her face lit up.
I am dry-cleaning the stains,
one yard at a time.
4. Poems inspired by Urdu words by Suhasini Barman
Perhaps letting go was
never an option?
Perhaps the closest I've ever
been to you was when we
were the farthest in proximity.
You leave each time,
leaving behind traces of you
on overflowing galleries, songs,
places, unhurried corners of coffee
mugs, wrinkled bedsheets, aching
limbs and a reckless heart that
never quite feels the same again.
You and I meet again.
As strangers, or maybe
as long forgotten
entwined in hers;
how our eyes still
tell a story,
our lips deny.
The way your kohl laden eyes,
unravels my soul, gliding through my heart, making a home out of nowhere.
The way they reinstill my faith in the make believe world of ours, time and again.
5. Pickling Season by Anju Makhija
Every summer, we laze under the mango tree
discussing unpatented recipes. When raw mangoes
drop on our head, we pause
to appreciate nature's bounty.
Then on to peeling, chopping, salting,
boiling, spicing, bottling…
Will the sorcery work?
By year's end, we hope, when
the pungent brine matures to its prime.
The zing depends on turmeric balancing the tamarind,
the chili complementing the amchur,
and if the asafetida poured in candle light
late one night works for pickles
as if seldom does for couples, apart
since the first pickling season.
The alchemy has rarely bewitched,
Jaggery sours, vinegar sears the tongue.
To change the recipe we've tried
with old ladies' advice,
but nature moves inexorably,
and life proceeds predictably
beneath the mango tree.
6. To a flower-bloom in the garden by Sourabha Rao
a slow, soft independence, this blooming
grace that smiles in the face of a withering so certain, so prescribed
immense. unscheming. quiet. extraordinary
immortal in the memory of you
always flowering. always describing. always affecting
like a thought from naught journeying to its fullness of clarity
like musty old books, like poems, like songs
like all things that rouse you, that make you come alive
then you see. you see that there is so much you haven’t yet experienced.
and that is enough to want a life of gratitude and hope
to hold on
to be quietly adamant and full before that final fall