Tapati Bharadwaj

Loyola University, Chicago IL

Copyright © 2001 by Tapati Baradwaj, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. Copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the editors are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.

[Author's Note: I have lived most of my life in Calcutta, except for the last few years. Though I constantly move across geographical spaces, wherever I go, Calcutta is home. Despite participating in the social and cultural lives of the "new" spaces, I somehow remain quite firm on what I consider as "going home." The storehouse of images and memories that I carry within me enables me to create "home" whever I go.]

Visions of unknown others flicker constantly,
a miracle of my mind, of crossing tangible borders --
Is this a new century phenomenon?
And is this why I am critically aware of you and of them?
You look at me, putting me under a gaze -- while I recreate every part,
Don a mask when I speak.

Has this happened before, my readers not sharing what I am?
May not even categorize me within fixed, known parameters?
And yet I use English and am within a domain of this-ness.
You touch me if you want, you read me, as you may,
But can you shove me away?
That I who write am a woman
with a body -- colored
in brown, colored in a consciousness.
Though, does it matter?

As I write, I think of you seeing me.
When I see me, I see a body -- not in relation to any other,
But to make you understand, I use words you know --
This is the power your words have on me.
So if I say, Indian --
You say brown,
Though, does it matter what I say?

Who are you? You who read.
Can you who read forget,
that you are also colored white, yellow and all the others --
reading words on a white page,
that I who write in English think in languages other than English and that I write about
myself and me and you and the world there in English.

I do not always like the feel of metal while I eat and so I use fingers at home.
Have you tried tea with Tagore?
And also maybe Bhimsen Joshi in Raag Vibhas, sometimes,
if the morning red globe over the lake reminds me of my mother's face.
Two hours later, transfixed, I gaze at Oprah, Jerry Springer, the Judges,
transient images creating and distorting meaning out of life.

2001: is this a point beyond the post-modern?

I see Calcutta: I was there last summer --
The woman waited with me at the bus stop,
The duppatta fashionably tossed baring her taut breasts.
The heat unbearable,
She enjoyed it, like a skin which is itchy.
The poise and arrogant stare awe-inspiring.
She does not think much when she speaks Hindi, Bengali and English -- all at once,
new subject of a fifty-four year old state.
And new identities, unknown to her, attach themselves when she moves away from home.

Attempting to write, I define these moments within a large whole --
Bush and Vajpayee too Right, too Shiv-Sena-like.
And I visualize a map,
and the journey to far away.
4250 North Marine Drive is miles away from EC 101 Salt Lake.
Seven seas and oceans and
mountains divide me.

Number 146 drives through Lake Shore Drive and onto South Michigan Avenue
Bvlgari, Chanel, Tiffany's, Victoria's Secret, Baby Gap and Gap, and Marshall Fields . . .
Ethereal beauty in the world of clothes and mannequins
Ethereal city, where buildings peer into lives,
scrutinizing, examining, cajoling us to mutate, seducing us.

I dream of alternate pictures --
A bus to College Street and Presidency College and then to the ghaat
The boatman takes me across the Ganges.
A thin, dark man in a dirty dhoti,
body glistening in sweat and he paddles the waters.
The waters are brown, dirty, rich in silt and across I see the unmutable flat shoreline.

I juggle, incessantly, with pictures,
How do I move from one to another?

Glossary of terms:

College Street: a street in Calcutta, well-known for its colleges and book-shops.
Tagore, Bhimsen Joshi: musicians.
Raag Vibhaas: a morning raaga/ tune.

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