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
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.
|Copyright © 2005 - Makarand Paranjape|