The Magic Lantern

In the darkened room,

The improvised slide show was rigged up.

One of the walls, in pale pastel,

Served as the screen.  At the other end,

Besides the bed, I was put in charge

Of the old projector.  A battered cardboard box

Overflowing with slides was dumped beside me--

"There, see whatever you like..."

The others huddled nearby, pulling up

Chairs from the dining room.


You were such a chubby baby,

A real cuteums and cuddleums

Just like those fat and contented babies

On Lactogen tins.  In your father's

Arms, you looked like a smug kitten,

And "Kaka," as you insisted on calling your father,

Himself was so handsome in his tweeds,

Almost like a film star.  He had those smooth

Appealing looks.

                   There you are, a brat of five or six

With a mad gleam in your eyes, hair dishevelled.

Both sisters, framed in their mischief, like

Two little monkeys.  No wonder, you still

Break into giggles once in a while:

You always had that lunatic fringe.


Here are a few family portraits--some common aunts

Ranged together with their babies.  There's my

Mother, behind, looking very pregnant,

Yes, it was me she was carrying--

And there you are, a baby again,

Nestling in the arms of your mom.


Our parents look marvelously young and energetic,

So confident, so full of life.

And you and your cousins look grumpy and cross

Alike, as you sit on the terrace

Of your grandmother's house in Pune.


The slide show ends abruptly:

The power's failed again.  I draw

The curtains aside and observe an altered world.

All your cousins are married now,

With children of their own.

I marvel at the passage of time and generations...

Are our lives going to be all that different?


Well, we had to stop reviewing the past

Before you reached adolescence.  Your father said,

"Anyway, there aren't many slides of the the girls

Grown up.  I lost interest, you see.

and the hobby had become too expensive..."

So are we overtaken by life at some point

That we no longer have the luxury

Of sitting back and recording the passage of time.


Sharing your childhood has been a rather spooky

Privilege:  an intimacy almost incestuous.

And rather silly thoughts arise in my mind

Unawares:  "So, all along you were growing up

For me, to be mine!"

                       Guiltily, I look around

And observe the furrowed faces

Of your parents, whose lives are now

So many framed negatives in the box.

Our parents ... they are all old now,

Their generation has moved up into

The senior citizen's slot, leaving the ambiguous

Pride of place to us.  In them I see our future

Just as in their past is our present.


We have extended our relationship back

Into childhood, before puberty and sexuality.

Romance and passion pass away:

This, our present relationship

Is therefore not the norm, but merely a phase.

Yet this is what the world calls love,

And celebrates so exhaustively.

I realize, inadvertently, that our ties are

Deeper far... and then cleverly, I begin

To create a mythology for us.  You were

Born, and then you called me down....


In your absence, you home has yielded

Its secrets to me one by one.  While

Your mom and dad sleep in their bedroom,

I lie awake in your room on your childhood bed,

Possessed in more ways than one, by you.



Back to Selected Poems from The Serene Flame

  Copyright © 2005 - Makarand Paranjape