| Illustration by Uday Deb |
The author writes about the compilation of her verses
They are dragging the buffalo/to the altar of the ancient Goddess/ who drinks her own hot, petulant /blood from her self-severed neck
I am not a poet but whenever I have written in verse, they are more like footnotes to my fictional writings. The verses, whenever they have flowed, have been on subjects which I hold very dear and which have had an impact on my life in one way or the other.
Though I was not that keen, my poems have been published as a compilation which was a result of persistent pestering by many of my friends and well-wishers. But I am glad that the compilation was well received by readers across the country. What has made the compilation all the more worthwhile are the “visual expressions” (paintings) accompanying my poems by eminent artist Jiten Hazarika.
The reason behind writing about this compilation is not because of the poems, but the stories associated with some of them.
For instance, in My Red River, there is a reference to Queen Victoria in the lines “...A thousand miles across the sea/On the eastern bank of the Red river/the cowherds sing:/Victoria takes her birth/in the twilight/becomes a damsel, in the afternoon/she dies in the night/ to take her birth again at dawn…”
The legend about Queen Victoria is a popular tale among the villagers in the Brahmaputra Valley, going back to the time when the British monarch ruled the country.
I still remember an old lady from our village Amranga in south Kamrup. The year was around 1960, well after the country had gained Independence. The old lady had told me: “Victoria still rules our country. No one can replace her crown.”
I was fascinated by the conviction in the voice of the woman who could have been as old as my grandmother.
Another poem that I had penned down with great passion is the one on buffalo sacrifice at Kamakhya temple.
Most people know by now my aversion to this ancient ritual which I believe is a very cruel practice. But religion is something which has different meanings to different people and is a great unifying factor. So I have never made too much of a hue and cry over the issue. Instead, I have let my writings speak my mind against this form of worship.
I wrote my novel Chinnamasta in 1999, protesting against buffalo sacrifice at Kamakhya.
Chinnamasta is another incarnation of Devi Kamakhya, who severs her own head and drinks her own blood. Such a protest was unprecedented in the over 2,000-year-old history of the Shakti shrine.
No wonder I faced a serious threat to my life from many zealots.