the tamarind tree
nostalgia is sentimental
nothing but soppy memories dripping off washed out photos –
yet that’s what my mind seeks. to slip down memory lane
to that old tamarind tree in Madras. to the
molten summer, sweltering heat, sticky sweet,
playing hide and seek, hopscotch under the tree,
secrets kept among cousins, scraped knees
climbing rugged branches, racing squirrels
and collecting baskets of ripe tamarind pods.
in the polished lull of late afternoons,
we split those hard brown pods, out by the pillared porches
where my grandmother dried the puḷi.
we got to keep the seeds – like jasper, like tiger’s eye.
puli is also tiger in Tamil: a tangy homophone.
tamarind, tiger, தமிழ் on my tongue;
language that leaves an aftertaste.
acquired taste: spicy, acidic, sour, bitter, tart.
the porch pungent – tamarind drying in the sun,
all stringy bits and seeds,
my grandmother took the pulp
for rasam, sambar, puliyotharai, pulipu mittai.
the language of food, deeper than colonial obsessions with curry,
full of flavor and memory.
but I digress.
back to the tamarind tree.
we never went under it in the dark, for
they said ghosts slept there at night – tucked between
tiny ovular leaves; billowing in the breeze.
probably eating raw tamarind
reciting Tamil prose and poetry.
so, we made peace playing Pallankuzhi
two rows, seven columns of puḷi seeds.
tomorrow, I will write about some other tree:
guava, neem, coconut, perhaps papaya?
today’s travel down memory lane is over.
back to reality, this complexity,
the drudgery of routine.
About the poet:
Sindhu Rajasekaran has published a novel titled Kaleidoscopic Reflections (nominated for the Crossword Book Award) and a collection of short stories, So I Let It Be. Her new book of non-fiction, Smashing the Patriarchy - A Guide for the 21st Century Indian Woman, is upcoming later this year, published by Aleph Book Company. Sindhu has a master's in creative writing from the University of Edinburgh. Her poetry has appeared in the Canadian anthologies: Very Much Alive and Dance of the Peacock. Some of her work can be found here – Room Magazine,The Swaddle, Asia Literary Review, The Selkie, Kitaab, Live Wire, Condé Nast, Bella Caledonia, The Lipstick Politicoand Gaysi.
About the Illustrator: Nandita Rajasekaran is a graphic designer and illustrator. She graduated from the University of The Arts - London. Nandita enjoys researching and revisualizing pretty much everything. She has worked as a creative director and design head, and believes that design is purposeful expression. An insomniac, she works all night while binge-watching K-dramas. You can find her on Instagram at @nandita23