Sunday, July 07, 2019

Ba in Old Age

Here is Ba in old age. Time had worn her down, but she still read her prayers every morning. My father was still alive when I took the picture; she never wore jewelry, except for a sacred tulsi mala, after he died.

When Ba died, in 1992, my wife, Nancy, wrote several poems about her. Here is one of them:

     Sorting Ba's Things

Sorting through cupboards in Ba's old room, 
I tugged a stuck drawer open, 
pulled the string of a small cloth bag, to find 
pink and white grins of outgrown false teeth; 
in another, spectacles, blinking in the light. 

And there were her gods and puja implements - 
incense sticks, oil lamps with wicks she rolled 
out of cotton and ghee, small statues of Krishna, 
elephant-headed Ganesh, Lakshmi the wealth-giver, 
the book of slokas she chanted every day. 

Sunday mornings she watched Mahabharat on TV - 
a miracle in every episode - gods' stately progress 
through the air, seated on lotus flowers; 
towering demons with big bellies and walrus fangs 
who laughed "Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!" just before 
a hurled fire-discus struck them between the eyes 
and they toppled like trees. 
Sometimes I sat to watch with her, 
and she would say, "Did you see that?!" 

Dear Ba, by the end all the sets of teeth hurt you, 
you wore them only for photographs, 
and the glasses could not make the slokas clear. 

May Lakshmi keep you beside her 
on the silky petals of her pink lotus. 
May Ganesh feed you the sweet ladoo he holds. 
And when you are sated and sleepy, 
may Krishna soothe you with the song of his flute.

-- Nancy Gandhi

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Ba, Reading the Gita

Ba ('mother' in Gujarati) reading the Bhagavad Gita, as she did every morning, with or without comprehenshion. I think of her as I knew her at the end of her life, ailing and grey, living with me, widowed, lost in a city where she did not know the language, had few friends, was cut off from her daily routines and rituals. Seeing this picture, I remember when she was the mother of three children, competent, humorous, respected by women, who sought her advice, the best cook in the world.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Playing Holi

These are my friends, or boys living downstairs from our terrace barsaati, in Calcutta. The little boy on the left, longing to join in the fun, is my brother Bhupen, seven years younger than I am. I am using a borrowed camera, as usual, and trying to keep it, and me, well away from the water and mess.

Friday, June 21, 2019


behind the veil
a glimpse of red
a cover-up
by a white cloth

Anonymous wrote:

My heart sinks at the sight of the shroud and its text. It reminds me of the red frock of the child in Schindler's List. The sharpness of the creases holds such a rigid finality... it is chilling rigor mortis.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Father and Child

Another very old picture, taken in Eden Gardens with a box camera. 

My own father wore a kurta, dhoti and Gujarati topi, and I certainly never had such swanky clothes. Still, the child's trust and pleasure at looking far, far up into his father's face must be familiar to everyone.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Gateway to Oblivion

for a man who did not want to be born
and having been born
wanted life to end early
and who continues to shout
about these or at least one of these

to unceasingly pry
into the origin of all possible life
in all possible parts of the vacuum
in which on a piece of a minor star
mostly called the earth
I am still alive

the path is alluring
the gate is blindingly illuminating
enough is enough
has been already forever
time to go

Monday, June 03, 2019

A Painting in a Palette

Note the subtle use of colour in the upper right hand corner, suggestive of a pale sunset.  Is the figure on the right wearing a jester’s cap and bells? It is reminiscent of Poe’s story, A Cask of Amontillado, with the vengeful killer on the left, and the sad tinkle of bells as his walled in friend calls out faintly, « For the love of God, Montresor! »

Read A Cask of Amontillado