Author Archives: amitapaul

Days of the Pentecost

“O Sages standing in God’s Holy Fire !
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the Holy Fire , perne in a gyre,
And be the Singing-Masters of my Soul !”

( Sailing to Byzantium by William Butler Yeats )

Days of the Pentecost
Till Rosey Easter
The Old Moveable Feast
The Joyous Feaster

The White Sunday, Whitsun
The Gold Wheat Harvest
The First Fruits of the Wheat
The Golden Bread blest

On warm Trinity Sunday
Adornments verdant
The Celebrant recalls
The Noahic Covenant

The Spirit’s Rainbow Sign
Lets Youth see Visions
As Old Men dream their dreams
Forewarned by Maidens

The Mighty Rushing Wind
The Tongues of Fire
Descent of Spirit Bird
Saints perne in Gyre

Filled with the Holy Spirit
Baptised by Fire
They speak in other tongues
Ecstatic lyre

Theotokos amidst them
Blessed Deipara
He comes , blesses and goes
The Church , His Kara

Put not away the robes
From the Sacristy
Until Faith is affirmed
In Corpus Christi

O Pray for Us on Earth
Saints and Apostles
Around us our World burns
And Satan jostles

O Heavenly Host purge us
Of stubborn evil
Strengthen us as we fight
World, Flesh and Devil

( Amita Sarjit Ahluwalia )

The Forest Feast : Dessert : Part 4 ( (final )


Dessert :
TTHETTHAYITAANGAR PAPAYAS
AND
MATURE SWEET MAHUA FLOWER WINE


Next up : Dessert , with a Forest Flavour
Without a doubt , it’s time to savour
The fabled delicacy of tribal lore
The mottled green-and -orange-skinned Tthetthayitaangar Papayas ,
lowered with ropes into deep wells to cool ,
Then cut open in the hot afternoon and sliced, never peeled ,
the black seeds nestled in moist fibre never thrown away
but kept for recycling into the Five Seed Maghaz .

She shouts with sudden delight , biting into the firm cool saffron flesh
The sweetness a sheer shock of pleasure: everyone smiles indulgently

And now to imbibe the heavy sweet soporific Mahua Flower Wine
Tomorrow to more marching : Today to celebrate.

The Thaap of the Maandar drum decrees that tribal dancing must begin.
She is no stranger , dancing with abandon in the Jhumar group,
Arms wound around waists and matching rhythmic steps :
The village hugs the newcomer, and makes her their very own .


Last Course

Digestif
BETEL LEAF AND ORAON ROUNDELAY


Chewing on Green Heart – Shaped Betel Leaf , astringent
With areca- nut folded into cones verdant
The satiated Simdegan diners reflect ,
And ruminating , pronounce to this happy effect :

No papayas as sweet as those of Tthetthayitthaangar :
No snakes more deadly

No ants redder or more sour
when ground into a chutney blazing with red chillies

No Hadiya more effervescent :
No Mahua more intoxicating

No company more invigorating ,
than that of the Oraon :

These are riches
beyond the dreams of Avarice

The Hosts are delighted :
Now isn’t that nice ?

And then the Bison -Horn-Pipe calls ,
In Simdega Forest’s Tree- pillared halls
Thrilling wandering minstrels strum
And all the tribal elders hum :

Dance till you drop , O Tall Oraon Braves !
Dance, O Maidens of the Sidelong Glances, Singing , Sloe- eyed and Satin-Skinned ,
To the beat of the Maandar Drum !

The cry rises near and far :
Johar , Jharkhand ! Hul Johar !

( ASA )

The Greatest Love


“ Greater love hath no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

John 15:13 KJV


Easter Sunday :
And we remember Him
And recall His way
Who died for our Sin

Light a white candle
For Love today
Light a white candle
And let us pray

Remember Jesus,
Who came from above
He died for us
So great was His love

“ Greater love hath no man, “
Sayeth the Book ,that Love commends
“than this, that a man , ( under God’s plan )
lay down his life for his friends.”

So come Easter Sunday :
And we remember Jesus
To Him we now pray
who once died for us

( ASA )

A Forest Feast : Part 3 : Main Course


Main Course :

MORINGA DRUMSTICK CURRY ,
SPICED RED MASOOR LENTILS ,
AND RED ANT CHUTNEY
WITH STICKY RICE
AND HADIYA RICE- BEER


The visitors are ravenous :
so in the cool shade
of the forest glade
the main course is laid
by the waiting crew
without further ado :
The aromas are marvellous !

There’s Rice , fermented into fragrant rice – beer
Light Golden Harnataand Hadiya served
in freshly folded green Sal-leaf cups
Effervescent and slightly sour like champagne
To wash down a meal of Moringa Drumstick Curry,
the Sehjan chilli – hot ,
Boiled and spiced Red Masoor Daal Lentils ,
With a tempering of coriander seed, cumminseed, turmeric ,
black pepper , mustardseed, onion , and onionseed,
Asafoetida, ginger , garlic and curry leaves
And more Rice , sticky – steamed ,
Piquant with Red Ant Chutney ground with Andhra Red Chillies
Served on fresh green thorn-pinned Sal-leaf platters.

Heaped plates and seconds are the well-known norm
Both guests and hosts are conversant with form

The marchers fall to :
Again with no ado
And in record time
Polish off all the food
Which is good , really good
But so hot- hot , Whew !
Wiping sweat off , Phew !
But the Hadiya is cooling ,
No kidding , no fooling ,
It tastes like Soda and Lime !

The effervescent Hadiya puts a spring in all steps ,
The Red Ant Chutney makes the diners antsy
The Red Chillies and assorted spices are very stimulating ,
And so , everyone is itching for the dancing to begin :
But wait : there’s more !
For dessert awaits .

Meanwhile , the forest birds have been helping the tribal minstrels
To serenade the diners , with a divertimento to rival that of Mozart .

The Red – Vented Bulbul sings its short overture
The Koel takes it up , piping a response
In piercing sweet melody
The Chirping Sparrows make up the chorus
And soon a bird-concert takes shape in the Sal- grove of Simdega Forest
Courtesy : Nature’s Ornithological Ensemble
Aided by some rhythmically chattering chipmunks
Some chittering monkeys , and black eyed lemurs
By the rustle of tree leaves in Sal Forest Groves
and the trills of the rills flowing down from the hills
And the song that Spring sings in the mountain springs
Where silver trout still glisten
And while you listen
The sunshine glisters
gold on the glassy waves

This is what refreshes the Soul of Man
And lifts the spirits of Warriors of Peace
Guardians of the Forests, the Tiger’s allies
Earth’s Army , Champions of the Rivers and Streams
Brothers of the Birds , and Keepers of Dreams

This nourishes the hearts of Tthetthayi’s guests
Encourages them to go on with their quests
And this is what inspires the tribals to dance
And puts the brightness in every glance

But first : Dessert !

( ASA )

A Forest Feast : Part 2 : Entrée

A Forest Feast : Part 2 : Entrée


Entrée : PITTHAS
( Dumpling Appetisers )


More specifically :

DAAL PITTHA and TAAL PITTHA
or
STEAMED RICE DUMPLINGS
with
Savoury Split Gram Filling
and
Sweet Sugar Palm Fruit – Kernel Filling


The hors de ouvrès are steaming away in a dark cavernous kitchen area
Lit by two large wood fire ovens topped with ample steaming cauldrons
In which are cooking soft , moist , rice-flour dumplings, with two kinds of fillings
One , a spicy , savoury wet- ground split -gram filling
And the other , a filling made of bitter-sweet sugar-palm fruit , milk , coconut , jaggery , and cardamom

Seeing how ravenous the marchers are
after their long march since the last watch of the previous night
the hors d’ œuvre are handed out at once : the all – time favourite steamed snacks
Or appetisers , called Pitthas , or Rice Flour dumplings
Two sweet, two savoury soft balls of deliciousness each
Still warm and moist from the wood – fired steamer
Served in Sal- leaf Donas or conical cups
With room for relishes as well

The savoury Daal Pitthas are filled with soaked , wet – ground kernels
of split Bengal Gram
Ghee-fried with roasted cumminseed , finely chopped ginger ,
green chillies ,salt and turmeric ,
Placed in a pocket made out of the fine flexible paste of moistened salted rice flour ,
Wrapped in tender banana leaves
and steamed in a capacious old metal steamer
Still simmering away on a woodfire
Blackened with years of absorbing thick , dark , and fragrant woodsmoke .

The Savoury Dal Pitthas come with a relish of fresh green coriander leaf and groundnut chutney .

The sweet Taal Pitthas , melting in the mouth with a gooey centre ,
of bitter- sweet sugar -palm fruit-kernel paste
mixed with dark treacly jaggery dissolved in milk
enriched with dessicated coconut and creamy-white coconut shavings ,
are redolent of delicate green cardamom pods,
bursting with flavourful clumps of shiny , chewy , waxy , black cardamom seeds.

The Taal Pitthas are served with a smear of jaggery and coconut relish .

The Pitthas taste like Manna from Heaven , and the marchers are very hungry
but nobody asks for more : it would be impolite

The guests content themselves with long draughts of cold mountain spring water
From the playful little stream rilling past the Sal Tree Grove
Scented and infused with the fragrance and goodness
Of healing herbs and leafy ferns growing along it’s banks
Enriched and fortified with micronutrients
From the trace- minerals in the rich highland rocks
and rare earths through which it passes,

This is not water : it is the elixir of life and youth and vigour .
No wonder it tastes like nectar to the hungry and weary marchers ,
Their appetites whetted even more with such exquisite starters.

What’s next ? ask their hopeful glances
Directed at the lithe young serving lads and graceful young serving girls
Busily rushing up and down from the cooking area

The hosts merely smile , for they know well
That there are many treats still in store.
The marchers have no other go
But to possess their souls in patience .

A Forest Feast : Part 1


SOUTH CHOTANAGPUR


The Revolution , when it comes , will show you stars in daylight .
It will scare the living daylights out of you .

The Long March is on ,but Joy is never precluded,
And Food is always a celebration .

In Simdega’s Forest , the Mahua trees bleed
fresh red leaves under a brazen sky,
The flowers plumping raisin- like to make Mahua Wine ,
The Sal leaves , strong, green and round ,form cups and plates to serve food on .


Aperitif
RESISTANCE MARCH


Community Resistance and Mobilisation for Revolution can be intoxicating .

A Long March to build solidarities and mobilise resistance for the Revolution
Is exhilarating – and it makes you hungry .

Marching with the comrades , uphill and down dale ,
Singing songs of the Revolution opens your heart and your mind
And sharpens your appetite for knowledge, for Victory – and for food and drink .

The Resistance March is the Aperitif of Revolutionaries.

She says : “ I live , breathe , eat , drink , sleep and dream Revolution , and nothing but Revolution . “

Feline

In a high plateau village
A woman , alone ,
Drunk on life
Lives in joy.

There is a cat
But nobody keeps anybody.
They just are.


Fulfilled in freedom
The woman sleeps , content ,
till mid – morning
After the collective burning of Holika
And the ritual gorging on deep fried fritters coated with gram-flour paste :
Aubergine , potato , courgette , onion ,gourd and green chilli :
And lazily opens her eyes to see
What woke her .

The tortoiseshell cat that slurped the pale peach cream
And drank the thick reddened milk out of the burnt sienna earthen pot
Left to cook in the embers of yesterday’s fire in the clay oven
Has rosy milk , peachy cream and grey-white ash on its quivering whiskers –
The overturned pot , broken
Its shards sticking out blackened red against the bleached cinders .
Cat’s glittering yellow eyes proclaim “not guilty“
Tail raised like a defiant banner
But it’s walk on padded feet is stealthy.

Watching
A smile spreads over the woman’s face
Spontaneous as a sunbeam
Light-hearted as the morning breeze
Lilting like the rhythm of the goatherd’s song

A giggle rises out of her chest, tickling her throat , uproariously , gloriously –
It’s a good morning , and the river beckons

Her sleep-drenched skin feels warm and satiny ,
her hair fragrant and silky –
She wants the touch of hibiscus
Leaves and flowers , here and now :
The whole forest awaits her ,
Every leaf aquiver with expectation.

She stretches,sways up and sashays out
The cat slinks close
Weaving in and out through her calves
Rubbing its arched back against the back of her knees
Confident of caresses .

Let us go out , you and I,
When morning is spread out against the sky
Like a red flag with ashen edges ….

( ASA )

Do what you will

Do what you like , you people of anger !
Do what you will , O people of hate !
Do what you will , and well we know it
That you have put the world in danger

Do what you will , poke all your pins
Go on , do your worst , and tell all your lies
Though you may believe that you’ve snatched the prize
One day you will know that truth always wins

Do what you will , the earth still spins
Do what you will , seasons still change
Do what you like, we’re out of cold’s range
And blossom by blossom the spring begins

( ASA )

Ashes

A cold hearth
The grey- white ashes contain
Clues and memories of meals cooked
many moons ago

Nobody died
Except the timid hopes
Of the simple people
Of a few dozen tribal hamlets

He was homesick
His day began with the chewing of the betel leaf
And a cup of hot tea
Though it was summer
And he was still in his greying white sleeveless hosiery vest
And a blue -grey wraparound waistcloth –
The dress that suited his leisure
And his sleep

He is gone
To wander the forests of locusts and honey
Up north by the taller mountains
To be with his loved ones

This place to him means little more
Than a cash collection centre
These people his milch cattle
He will be back
For his usual three days a month

Rejected
The mahua trees bleed fresh red leaves
The spring is in mourning

A dust storm shrouds the brazen sky
And dissolves in tears of fiery rain
Slowly turning numb with despair
And icy cold

A red flag with a white emblem
Rises defiantly among the soaked mud huts
As the thatch drips only to drown
Long sorrows in recurring puddles
Potholes in the coppery murram lane
Like sockets of bleeding eyes
Cruelly gouged , acid burnt
Grotesque

The evening glows, then deadens
Like a crimson pennant with ashen edges
Sinking into the sudden blackness
Of a tropical night .

He will repent one day
In sackcloth and ashes
Sadly , too late !

A gunshot rings
A pool of blood
Keeps spreading
Colour drains out
of pallid faces

Greyness grows
The Path to Perdition
The Royal Road to Retribution
Cut to the Crematorium
Memento Mori
An Urn of Ashes

Souviens- toi
que t’es poussière

Dust thou art ….

Ash Wednesday: Mahuadaanr

It’s Lent
In the 150 year old bijou church
with Belgian stained glass windows
Deep inside the green sal forest of the land
called Scrubland of the Plateau
Where Australian priests play football
And tribal children love hockey :
Honey and banana pancakes ,
Sackcloth and ashes

Close to the arched avenue
Of Arjun trees leading to the chapel
A gramophone is playing whereon
Jim Reeves sings
“ My Cathedral “

An old woman wakes up in her mud hut
And stirs the bottom of her clay oven
To see if there are still half some burnt coals in the ashes
To light for cooking her day’s rice
Or if she must look out for fresh firewood
To start her day

A wimpled Sister
Of the Holy Cross
Is chasing chickens
In the convent garden
And carrying vegetable peels
To the piggery
Where pink and white piglets
Tumble over one another to greet her

Morning has broken
Ash- coloured
Over the Chechaari Valley

( ASA )