Saturday, 22 December 2007

JESSE, A stranger

I'm having this conversation with this stranger
And somehow it’s easier
To open up to her,
To know that she'll never be close enough
To see me,
To judge me.
She'll never know everything I do or say
So I don’t have to be careful about what I share with her.
Yet, I tread with caution
To avoid a bad first impression.

I’m having this conversation with this absolute stranger.
In a weird way I trust her
The way we trust a stranger while crossing the road,
For those 15 seconds of the day,
When life is at highest risk
We place our trust in the handle bar mustache
Or the Planet M t-shirt
Or the gaudy blue sari
Rushing across tar, weaving through honks,
I don't even hold her hand
I know not what colour it is
And yet, I trust its capacity
To take me safely across the road.

I'm having this conversation with this actual stranger
Through this amazing network called the virtual web.
No one knows where the spiders are
Or how they constructed it
But all of us depend on it,
Each of us are caught in it,
Eaten by it
And yet, I trust its capacity
To connect me to the whole world.

I'm having this conversation with a stranger in Africa
She loves her country
I boast of mine
The rot I wrote in my eight grade GK book flows flawlessly.
She is surprised at the diversity
She thought existed only in her motherland.
I realize I’m secretly patriotic towards mine as well.
We get sentimental.
I talk of my country’s faults-
Poverty, Corruption, Illiteracy
To name a few
But I’d never wish to grow up in a better place.
And yet, I live in denial
Of Indias true potential

I’m having this conversation with this black woman in Nigeria
She's Christian.
She's philosophical.
She's from the Igbo tribe.
The same one which produced the literary genius,
The post colonial writer, Chinua Achebe.
I know his name.
I know his work.
We are made to study ‘Arrow Of God’ this semester.
I can’t believe my luck!
I seize the night!
I question
What gods, what festivals?
What rites, what rituals?
She says they have no such Gods as Ulu any more
"I live in the city where rituals are seen as Satanic"
They’re grown out of it, I guess.
Anyone following rituals is seen as “an ancient person”
Yet, She will go to church
To attend midnight mass every Christmas.

I’m having this conversation with a Christian—an African, Christian woman
She promises to enlighten me about the mmanwu
“Whats that?” I ask twice.
Mmanwu means masquerade.
“Like a feast?”
In this season they all will be out to entertain people at the village square.
I din’t ask who ‘they all’ were.
She asks instead
“Do you celebrate Diwali?
What is it like?
Are you mobile?
Would you like to call me?
We could talk about how our countries share the same differences.
Hello, you still there?”
But I have found fellow flies on other webs.
“Here’s my no…
Being a patriotic Indian I refuse!
Excuse: too expensive, too late at night, too sleepy
Before I know it
It’s Saturday and Jesse is gone.
Yet, I’ve spilt my two-minute mind
To a woman no longer a stranger.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Parnika

    Liked the poem. You use an Internet era metaphor, the chat, to say we're losing our ability to relate.

    We believe the world's now a "global village", that it is no longer round but flat, but in all this excitement, you suggest, we forget we are becoming lonelier.

    Your poem also hints that Africa (represented by Jesse) still believes real, flesh-and-blood relationships are possible, while India has seen it all, and knows cynically where to draw the line.

    The poem flows easily, and has the cadence of a slightly dramatised and rhetorical but at the same time truthful conversation with a friend.