INKPOT - Post-colonial Poems : Kamal Kumar Tanti

Manjeet Baruah


We, the guards of the Water Fairy
From the depths of the river
As we reached its bank

The last ship of the remorseless merchants
Laden with all the river had
Had sailed away, tearing through the darkness

The waters of the river flowed, over the stains
That stuck to the sands, like greasy
Blood stains
Like thick clots of dry blood
Thickening and growing, over the ages

The Water Fairy became
A woman alive

And she told us and our robbed wretched people, that
‘For long have we stayed silent. Silent witness
To the suffering and suffering of justice long denied.
But today we have got back
Our mind and our strength
Our conscience
And our speech.’
We are guards of the Water Fairy
Alert guards of her water country

History is on our side now.


At dawn, one day
The Old Spirit of the old tree
In the middle of the muddy pool
Stood standing next to the lotus bloom.
His lonely mind in flight, to the
Expanse of the field of the plants of rice

From the field of the plants of rice
Had come carried then, screams of neighing
Of horses of war
And had come carried then, a loud load of music
Of their victorious masters
…and the last cry of a
Dying aged man

Famine struck the people
And famished people famished towards death
They remained no longer human
For human became inhuman

Days passed, and passed into the forgotten
Nights passed, and passed into the past

The Old Spirit of the old tree
His mind took flight, again
To the expanse of the field
Of the plants of rice

At dusk, one day, in the village
The old and the wise
Saw the lifeless corpse of the Old Spirit
In the naked field of the
Plants of rice

Nearby were footprints and hoof marks
Of men and their animals


When the birds cried in the blue hills
When the fields of paddy dripped, dripped in blood

The hills and its forests, and its birds cried
People’s hearts burst of pale blood
And the day when the termites sang in the woods
And sang and screamed –
And the ships of the merchants waded upstream

Then the tiny boats and their wounded boatmen
All sank, sank deeper, all boats, and river, and blood and men

Scared, shrunk, the poor countrymen
They lost their speech, they lost their courage
And dawned then the dawn of the eternal night
Of the war for power between those brown and white

On the last day of the war, the crows gasped –
Water, water, water, water –

The riders of the horses pushed, pushed the brown
To one end of the black iron chains
And the other end of the heavy chains were tied
To the hoofs of the horses of the fair

People crawling in front of death
Crawling in the mud of life, growing roots
And metamorphosing into ghosts of glory
Chained around necks, alive in slavery
                                                                the ghosts of glory


A gust of the Windy wind
And swept away were dust of the road, old waste of the fields

But there remained beside the ancient pond
Seated our Old Man
A windful of memory held in his restless thoughts

We too were ruminating, studying
… Of lives perished long ago
… Of time that perished long ago.

So we asked our Old Man
What is life: … ‘Momentary water slipping off yam leaf’
And what is history: … ‘Tales of rich and famous
                                      … Of people and country bought and sold’
                                           … ‘Of minds and thoughts no longer one’s own
                                                   … Of wasted shorter routes to being bought and sold’.

We asked him again
Who are we?

‘Nothing and nothing yam leaves, crushed beneath their white feet’
‘Muddy waters under stomping hoofs, left behind in the path of riders’
‘Startled souls in fear, at the very ringing of a gunshot’

Then who are you?
We asked again our Old Man

‘I am History: of two lost centuries
Of centuries lost in the time of the colonial
Of centuries lost in the time of the colonized’

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