Kitchen Refrains: In Memory of My Mother


The oil splutters, the glittering bodies
Of paanch phoron, cumin seeds and bay leaves
Emanate a moist, fragrant breath.
The gourd and the potatoes, dancing in the
Indolent pan, with crisp coconut,
The way you always wanted
Culinary things, in their rhythmic crescendo.

Learning and unlearning a lot today,
Vacillating, flickering, in between
Recycled pots and pans, my stained fingers
Scratch in the dust, search for
My girly mouth, stuffed with morsels and juices
Of your presence in steamed rice and runny fish curries.

I have learnt your recipes well, Ma,
Drawing in the dust a diagram of
All the meals that we had shared, talking to me
Through the long sent emails, the stings,
The scrapes, the missed steps of my childhood days.


I park my eyes in the mossy courtyard,
Your foamy fingers soaking in the detergent,
My dream, a broadened highway leading me
All the way to the creek, the dirt road, the clothesline
The terrace where our evenings hunkered,
Your domestic chores stretched across
The ribs, the hemlines, the loops and curls of the house.

My eyes have taken in the ice and fog
Of all our spoken words, the lines
Curved towards hope, while I chop onions,
Peel potatoes, slice tomatoes,
Rice boiling over, gasping over the smell
Of turmeric, a chained melody that bleeds.
In the kitchen, our silences grow louder every day.

In the kitchen, my childhood photo with you
Fresh, pulpy and sweet, hovers in cinnamon breath.
I hold you between the undone folds of your silk saris
The vermilion dots of your quiet, steadfast longings,
One morning till the next, let me burn until
Your ashes become glistening silver.

I move imperfect, your daughter,
In littered, crumbling surf and sands,
Hungering for your womb, for one last time.

Notes:- ( Written in the loving memory of my dear mother on the auspicious occasion of her birthday on February 26, 2015. A tribute to her unceremonious kitchen chores, her relentless housework and our long-distance phone calls, over which we have bonded in the course of all these years. Hope she is in ultimate bliss, wherever she is now, knowing that I have learnt all the recipes she has taught me. )

(* Paanch Phoron is a medley of five whole Indian spices, consisting of fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, nigella seeds and black mustard seeds, famously used in authentic Bengali delicacies of Banglaadesh, Eastern India and Southern Nepal, also in Assam and Orissa.)

9 thoughts on “Kitchen Refrains: In Memory of My Mother

  1. Lopa Banerjee Post author

    Thank you very much for your remarkable and edifying comments, Louis Kasatkin sir, as always!



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