Time Go Slow / The Violence Raga

 

Time Go Slow

After the painting Day and Night by Arpana Caur
and for my aunt

 

You

Marry at 16, emigrate at 17

You

Nurse your baby, your in-laws, your husband

You

Clean toilets, wash dishes, bag groceries, ferry geriatrics

You

Fly Toronto—New Delhi—Toronto once in two years

You

Gift chocolates, sweaters, money to relatives back home

You

Call the same relatives who don’t answer any longer

You

Trail sentences like emptying packets

You

Can’t speak or walk straight

You

Worry about being alone

You

Don’t remember home any longer

 
 

The Learned Pig

 
 

The Violence Raga

In the beginning there was the taal

The thump of fours, the base of the palm

flat at each quartet, signaling the next.

She learnt to moderate her voice to the rhythm,

synchronizing with the beginning

of the taal Dha dhin dhin dhaa—dhaa

She was a suitable girl—studious and shy,

equally skilled in acing exams, singing, and making chai.

He wasn’t good-looking but his narrow eyes gleamed

with the intelligence proclaimed by his Ivy League degrees.

Like all fairy tales, they had a destination wedding.

Followed by a dream destination—Ca-na-da.

She worked for the best companies rising through the ranks

designing magical codes that enabled people to try new things.

He was the crème-de-la-crème—forming companies that sold for millions,

praised by everyone that mattered for his entrepreneurship and zeal to succeed.

They bought a large house, filled with collectibles and their children spoke with the right twang.

They hosted parties and were celebrated for their wit and humor

 

~

 

Upon returning home, the walls reverberated with the same songs

—the questions about her intelligence, her abilities, her vying for attention,

—interweaved with the thwacks of slaps and kicks.

Of course, it was all right to hit her when she couldn’t breast-feed right.

Or slap her till she answered properly. What else was one supposed to do?

She took so long to reach the right conclusion—that she was worthless.

And the blows followed the same old taal

Dha dhin dhin dhaa—dhaa …

Until one day she realized she deserved better

Used her codes and gadgets to record him

Trapped him with his own rhythm

And walked away…

Krandha krandha krandha

 
 

Note:
Taal: A traditional rhythmic pattern in classical Indian music. It is either counted out by clapping or on the tabla. The most common one is Teen taal, that has four measures of four beats, summing up to sixteen.

Image credit:
Ismail Gulgee, Untitled, oil on canvas, 2006, via AstaGuru

 
 

This is part of RHYTHM, a section of The Learned Pig devoted to exploring rhythm as individual and collective, as poetic and biological, and the ways that rhythm dictates life. RHYTHM is conceived and edited by Rachel Goldblatt.

 
 

The Learned Pig

 
 

Jonaki Ray

Jonaki Ray was educated in India (Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur) and the USA (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign). After a short stint as a software engineer, she decided to return to her first love, writing, and is now a poet, writer, and editor. Honors for her work include the Pushcart Prize as well as Forward Prize for Best Single Poem nominations, as well as critical acclaim in India and abroad. Her work has been published in The Rumpus, Southword Journal, Cha, Lunch Ticket, Indian Literature, Wire India, Hindustan Times, Indian Express, and elsewhere.