A poetic tribute to Nandini, the heroine of Tagore’s drama Rakta Karabi (Red Oleander) for the occasion of the National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo), April 2020.
Where are you, my Rakta Karabi,
my beautiful, fierce red oleander?
In the boughs of my ever-yearning body,
Here, I cocoon the want, the throb
Of the blood of your cruelly pierced breast.
I am Nandini, remember me?
The woman who crumbled in the quest
Of my Rakta Karabi as all my words lay writhing,
Imprisoned in small heaps of nothingness.
Our Raja, the mighty King smothered with his cycle of abuse
My love for Ranjan, as darkness encircled my silent night,
Each note of my unsung hymns rising out of the unruly wind,
Out of the uncaring earth, out of the invincible depths of the sea.
Each note emerging out of the bloody pain of your red breast
Like an insatiable hunger as the mad world of the king
Hummed around me, consuming my burnt edges?
Red oleander, my Rakta Karabi, my lips had a tremor
That delighted me when Ranjan’s love hid in the folds
Of my yellow sari. The soft grass of the meadow looked greener
The pastures swirled around my madness, no greed or power
Could touch me there, where I hid you in my flesh and bones.
Rakta Karabi, they seized me, weighing my madness
Against Bishu, the mad man’s lunatic songs.
But then, I flung myself down
In an abyss of no return, my sorrow
Floating over the heavy monsoon sky.
In me, I hold you still, your crushed red breast
The flesh of your sacrifice, unleashed
In the dark King’s world.
I am Nandini,
The sun-drenched golden maid,
Hiding you between indiscriminate desire
And irrevocable faith.
More to read in Poems by Lopa
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