Grandmother, tell me another story

Passing between lips, an ancestry reminiscent of
the chewed betel-nut grandmother transmitted
from recesses of her stained teeth onto palm of an
unlettered hand And again to my mouth.

Many years later I found myself teaching tradition
handed down by word of mouth. A cane basket we
put our socks in was stuffed with her stories.

It suddenly became a nest and
I flew with unknown birds, giddy and half asleep
seeking blankets of cloud in the maize field of the
mythical cat who sometimes ploughed the sky.



The cane basket disappeared when
a wooden cabinet took up residence
in our three-room house. Socks found a nest
and I began writing
the first few letters of the alphabet.

Myiem, where my ancestors prayed for their
deliverance from bitter winter,
where they wrestled with earth and stone
to script remembrances.

Today, lost and approaching fifty,
surrounded and imprisoned by books,
I sometimes murmur a prayer:
“Grandmother, tell me another story”



– I read this poem in the village of Nongriat, Meghalaya. These words took me back to my village of Ghazipur. The days when stories were an integral part of our life. Why did we stop telling stories?I could not find this poem online. I am looking for this book – Do let me know if you know this book. Thanks.

Of Trains & Tracks

I have always been fascinated by trains. The image of the red serpent rushing across the fields, in my village in Ghazipur, is still very much ingrained in my memories. I never quite understood what captured my interest more – The Train or The Track? While I explored the whereabouts of the track, chasing birds and rodents around, the train was the last thing on my mind. And when it did arrive, it was the only thing I cared about.

The blurred vision of the carriages rushing along, while I kept count of the number of cars attached to engine. I used to always lose count. Thinking about the same, I cannot help asking this question – Why did I count the number of cars? Why did this exercise still pops up in mind when I see a train?

I believe it has to do with the time and culture of our times. The internet had not shortened the world and there were so many things we knew so little about. Things to do were limited but interesting. It was the time when you didn’t lose interest in a toy after playing with it just once. We had few needs and fewer wants. Train ride was one of those interesting things I used to look forward to all the time. And getting through to the window seat was one of the featured ambitions.

I think the pure joy that I experienced in those train rides has become a part of me. This interest was coupled with another important aspect of our life – Mathematics. I used to count everything – it was one of my favorite past-time. Have you noticed the numerical codes that you sometime see on television. Whenever that used to flash on TV, my mind used to rush off to another tangent altogether – I would add all the digits and check if it is a multiple of 3. I believe it was just practicing the computational capability of the brain. Anyways, this also stuck in and before I realized, I was checking if the trains have number of cars which are a multiple of 3 or not.

So, this is the story. Try thinking back yourself. And see if one of your childhood activities has been hitchhiking along with you, all this time, in your subconscious.