Failed Functions: Aruni Kashyap
Where the Sun Rises
(Letter from an Assamese girl to her insurgent lover.)
If you come back,
There will be no sun,
like the day when we met for the last time in your room.
And there were no rains, but only thunder and stars.
ARSD hostel, wasn’t it? There was no sun,
but we spoke about tomorrow’s sun
that will gaze at its face in the mirror called the
If Brahma wouldn’t have married, and Parashuram
wouldn’t have killed his mother,
this river, the mirror of the rising sun,
would have remained tumultous, caged,
like this heart today, in the Parashuram Kunda, forever.
If you have a mother, and a father
who still earns and orders, you can’t bathe there.
If you bathe there, all sins are washed away
Like peace, after the sun rose in Assam in a green flag.
Parashuram bathed there, and like blood, his axe descended
But still, he is the mother-killer.
Parashuram, there is blood on your hands -
If you come back,
what will you bring?
the Red River is redder now.
During independence Rupkonwar sang a song,
jingoistic, nationalistic: we aren’t scared of sacrificing our lives
we will make the Brahmaputra red with our blood,
On the altar we will lay down our necks,
even if the priest runs away terrified.
What will you bring?
Those days are no more,
Those days: when young Assamese men sang so that the whites would go away
Sang, so that more young men would come and join the processions.
Green was there, even in that flag,
And if there was blood in nineteen-forty seven, there is still,
the Luit has become redder, only that’s the difference.
I don’t know what happened in Burma’s forests,
Did you bathe in the Lake of No Return?
What will you bring for me, if you come at all?
mosquitoes, malaria, wounds and jaundice?
Or hunger for flesh and food to the point
where flesh will be food and food will be flesh
Flesh will be food and food will be flesh
Flesh and food.
Nobody will cook for you,
Nor me. Flesh and food are the same now,
A redder river weeps, not for you,
But for peace and a natural sun rise,
Yearns for redness from the sun floating between clouds,
Not in a green flag.
1. The insurgent group, ULFA’s green flag has the image of a rising sun on it.
2. Parashuram Kunda is a small lake in Arunachal. According to the popular myth regarding Barhmaputra, Parashuram released the tumultous river from that lake to let it flow down into the plains of Assam. He bathed there to wash away his sins and his axe fell there which was adhered to his hand after killing his mother at his father Yamadagni’s orders.
3. Assamese nationalist poet Jyoti Prasad Agarwala was popularly known as Rupkonwar.
Trees moved along, clouds too
with the moon, the about-to-drown orange-sun
in sooty hours, slow;
they boiled down to a single feeling:
and I saw markets, old and new
where they sold, the same things—
Flesh of goats, cows, pigs,
hens or roosters,
(they wore red, like lipstick
they wore clothes that failed functions
like hides, hung
over bones and clotheslines).
Nothing has changed
like red silk-cotton flowers
on green grass,
Sometimes, I saw guns too
and brooms, that cleaned blood
like milk spilled by a cow’s hind-legs-kick
from the milk-maid’s knee-hold.
The same street, and people
and blood, guns, flesh traded
It all remained the same
like a blood red morning sun
with the newspaper, red
they still drink tea, brownish red
Once I saw a river too:
legends flowed on its simmering leaves
carried, with soil and life.
I sat on its bank
When they ended, I found myself
on its bank: not in a time beyond
when people were afraid to cross it wearing
gold bracelets, silver toe-rings—
In case, a stormy wave swallowed them
a wild wailing wind from the untamed forests
hit them hard, pushed them into the river.
I felt I was going back.
And I found myself, amidst the river winds,
and legends that its white sands reeked
like rotting fish, jasmines, cow dung,
Maybe this road, this journey
would also end in the same despair
And I would wait, stranded amidst smells
of fish, jasmine, cow-dung.
Though I was moving forward,
continually, I felt
as if I was going back.
Don’t know where—
but I knew I would end up
where I started
so I went on.
Flesh, fragrance, jasmine
fish, cow-dung, women
and then the red colour
sometimes sun, sometimes silk-cotton flowers
or the blood which I mistook
Actually, stamping our feet
should have only awakened her,
but surprisingly, her motionless, senseless body made us run around
look for water, seniors and women
as if the fifty year old lady was in labour.
So more feet stamped while they sprinted anxiously
for women, water and a pair of open eyes.
We found her lying under the bed, a machete
clutched in her hands, drawn with love
towards her breast, as if to fight the whole world
of alien Hindi words, stamping feet and a camp
of green-men near the river where women no more
bathed, after many women were stripped,
even before they shed their second skins,
who didn’t blush only before the morning sun.
She must have thought,
she would be one of them now
who were peeled to be enjoyed by many;
For hours since, she dared to speak silently to walls,
cicadas, four puppies huddled around a milk-heavy bitch,
maybe she thought, she would be one of those
who came back with crushed testicles to wail for nights
like hernia patients, while their wives burned
forever on beds fearing opinions and wobbling tongues,
though there was nothing as such to crush in her.
But perhaps only squeeze, though they were dry
And hung like weaver-birds’ nests
from coconut branches in loamy soils.
She had been sleeping, the crumpled bed said, the hot-water bag
her earning city-son brought from the concrete-jungle slept
instead of her on the bed; and when I sat on it exasperated,
after breaking the only entrance to the house,
it was still warm with fear, comfort and urine.
We were only playing military-military.
Carpet grasses had just started growing from below.
We couldn’t smoke if we wanted to, or watch films in cheap halls,
join the ULFA if we wanted, the way we can do now.
But still, those were better than days when we sneaked behind tamarind trees
and sang Bihu couplets to same-age girls, who had just learnt
to wrap a piece of cloth around their chests and giggled
poking each other in parts
we were embarrassed to utter the names of
before our elders.
We had new shoes then, the neglected Durga-idols waited
to be immersed in rivers and we thought,
one night—eating peanuts, jalibis and besan-pakodas,
to knock at aunt’s door, while she slept with
the puppies, the walls and the heavy yet trying-to-be-warm air
inside, where she was left alone, to wait for us
Who pretended to wear boots, speak Hindi
and ask about the ULFA