Dr. Kundan Lal Chowdhury

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An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

Milchar

Symbol of Unity

 
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I am my own company

by Dr. K. L. Chowdhury

I am my own company,

my own friend and confidante.

Who has the time to sit by my side

and share a thought or two with me?

With my hearing handicap

who would like to shout into my ear,

a blessing or a blasphemy?

 

With my sight impaired  

I would not even recognize people

except by their voices.

But, even voices have changed nowadays,

tinged as they are

with bitterness and bile.

 

With my unstable gait, I avoid moving out

lest I stumble and sustain a fall

or tread on others’ feet

and be taken for a demented or drunk.

 

I prefer to eat alone

even as I would love to join the family

for I have to be helped to the dining table,

and it is an effort to keep the hand steady

as I negotiate food from the plate to my mouth

as others watch curiously

the terrible mess I often make.

 

There are other demons too

that I have to wrestle with –

the pains and aches, the restless legs

the irritable bladder, the eerie posture,

the sleepless nights, the nightmares -

well, one could go on and on

for the list is endless, you know.

 

But it is the obstinate itch that distresses me most

 

making me scratch the whole day long with little relief whatever

from allergy pills or moisturizing creams

that the doctors  prescribe one after another.

When the itch is right in the back

where my hands do not reach,

the long armed backscratcher

is a real marvel, a blessing;

yet, a far cry

from the gentle  scratch of a loving hand,

alas, now only a memory.

 

There are things going on in the house,

mundane stuff  you would say,

a guest dropping by,

the maid washing the utensils,

the gardener tending the lawn,

a neighbor coming with a prasad,

a postman with the mail,

the grocer’s boy with the milk bags,

the kid next door retrieving his ball,

a chatterbox with a bagful of gossip,  

and much else that I would like to share

but, sadly, passes  me by,

for what more  do they think of me

than an old hag, a  non-entity?

 

I lay back in my bed,

wondering who is doing what

at that particular moment

for I would love to be a party

to the here and now of daily life

but, do I count,

does anyone care?

 

I keep count and record

of the phone calls from my daughters and sons

for I want to hear their voices,

and to know about their welfare

and about my grandchildren -   

who is due for a degree,  

who has changed a job,

who is delaying to get married, 

who is  late for an  offspring,

even as I crave to fondle another grandchild!

I want to bless them all

in all they endeavor,

but, I wonder,

have they a thought or two to spare.

 

Yet, I cannot help being concerned

for they are my flesh and blood

and I worry about them a lot

even as I am gently reminded  

that I have done my worrying bit

and I should now try to meditate,

chant mantras, sing hymns,

count beads and pray.

 

Yes, prayer used to be my strength,

my only purpose in life for long,

but the  hymns and mantras

that used to be on my tongue

have given me a slip.

The rosaries, well,

not only have I have lost count,

my finger tips are too numb

and the mind too hazy

to perceive the thrill of rolling the beads.  

 

I forget even the love songs

that I sang in duet with my spouse.

The vaakhs of Lalla, and Krishan leela,

that I would recite from memory

have proved liars and parted company;

when I need them most in my solitude.

I have lost the idea of God,

He suddenly seems so unearthly,

so false;

my belief in Him all my life,

was it only a magnificent delusion?

 

With all the pain and the medication

and the handicaps and the seclusion

I still have to live,

and lumber to the journey’s very end,

even as I would love to call it a day

and go to my final abode.

 

Alas, going there is neither a picnic,

nor like going to one’s matamal,

nor to the heaven  of malyun

where one could  just walk in anytime

and be received with open arms.

One cannot go there until summoned,

for, entry is by merit only,

no favors,

no seniority!

K.L. Chowdhury's Index Page

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