Grandmother-of-Pearl

Mrinalini Harchandrai is a copywriter and visiting faculty at Ecole Intuit Lab, Mumbai.  She has worked for among others,  Elle, Architectural Digest, and CNNGo.com. She was commissioned to do a biography of an Indo-Tanzanian freedom fighter. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in KaviKala, The Bangalore Review and Quill Magazine. Her poems have also featured in a visual art show entitled Breaking Ranks at the Headlands Centre for the Arts, San Francisco. More recently, she was invited to recite her poetry at the Goa Arts and Literary Fest, 2016.

 


Grandmother-of-Pearl

Her sari lay wrapped
in the gauze
of her smells
the one she wore to high tea
at the Cabo Palace
a lone yardage swathe
among the sea of frocks
Luso ladies with their pinkies up
admired the rose
in her sepia hair
searching for European notions of beauty
in her Indus Valley skin
a Spanish bella, they exclaimed
about the iridescent nacre
of her acquired culture
not knowing that she sang
from the Granth Sahib at sunset.

We set her off
on her last sundown, her ashes
mixed into mool[1] mantras
and the Miramar
her regular dip
before the final roundtrip.

Today when a wave
shifts through me
I think of her salt-soaked bouquet
nautilus spiral eyes watching
for deep-end peril
with mussel memory habit
in life, from a simmering surf
bodyless, she sips from an oyster lip
now her tea is with mermaids.

 

[1] Root verses in the Granth Sahib, said to be a composition uttered by Guru Nanak Dev upon enlightenment.

Kitchen Konkani

Mom came to Bombay
like a duck
its waters surfing off her back
never sopping her true spirit.

Her tongue and palate
were out of place
in our Sindhi jawlines
she gave them to me
when she bantered
with our Karwar fingered cook
about how to make the curry
taste like her Panjim kitchen
in the pot
dried red chillies swam
like crocodiles
with territorial bite
I learnt to smack my lips
with useful words
jevom borem
bhorun di go…

Afterwards I’d dust a cowrie,
picked off Miramar beach
when seashells seasoned sand gratis,
pressed to my ear
for salty bluster
in the waves of reminiscence
the faraway Konkan air
sieved somehow into the stir
of a concrete now, and here.

 

 

 

Jevon borem - the food is delicious.
Bhorun di go - fill it up (feminine address).