April 30 2020

Lockdown reflections from Amit Chaudhuri

Amit Chaudhuri shares a poem with Indian Express for its series "Lockdown verse."

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My mother in law’s arrived in lockdown.
Having had an extra fritter
made from katla’s fat
– ‘I’ve had teler bada before
but not this teler bada’ –
she could not sleep all afternoon.
‘I shouldn’t have had the second
teler bada. It was so good.
Amit would no doubt have taken it
if I hadn’t.’ I’m not sure
if she’s saying her subconscious
instinct was to be protective.

We give her jowan. It soothes her.
The next second, the plastic jar’s
flown from her hand. Open mouthed
she surveys the outcome –
the bed of jowan on marble.
‘The ones on the top can be salvaged,’ she promises.
‘Those are, believe me, fit for consumption.’
‘There’s no top or bottom here,’ I say,
examining the seeds from far away.
‘They must be disposed of.’
Even the maid’s
sceptical that something
so pure can be worthless.
‘How much is left in the bottle?’
my wife enquires. ‘Half.’
My mother-in-law makes a rattling sound.
‘That will last us the year,’
my wife says. Does anyone
need more than a pinch of caraway,
that too, more than once a day?
Add up what constitutes
half a jar, and you see
a measure of eternity.

I find the lid
was defective.
My mother in law has no cause for shame.
She has a habit of rushing to take blame.
The seeds have been poured,
as in an hourglass,
into a jar of Gold Blend.

— Amit Chaudhuri

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