Time Go Slow
After the painting Day and Night by Arpana Caur
and for my aunt
Marry at 16, emigrate at 17
Nurse your baby, your in-laws, your husband
Clean toilets, wash dishes, bag groceries, ferry geriatrics
Fly Toronto—New Delhi—Toronto once in two years
Gift chocolates, sweaters, money to relatives back home
Call the same relatives who don’t answer any longer
Trail sentences like emptying packets
Can’t speak or walk straight
Worry about being alone
Don’t remember home any longer
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
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.
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.