Gliding on tip toes enters the breeze
Tenderly it caresses
Young shoots of nodding green rice
And waves adulate an emerald sea
Purple hills walk distant horizons
Coyly emerging now and then from veils
Of diaphanous diamante mists
Rice carpets are polka-dotted
With swaying coconut groves
That lovingly encircle
Deep dark velvet ponds
Jade ovals inlaid with the mosaic
Of pink and white lotus pearls

The stage is set…

I see
Hunched up, absorbed
An old man sits by the pool
delving the mystery of the silver dancers within
Soon he joins them
Bending backwards
With years of skilled perfection
He twists his arm in an arc
Throws out the fishing line
It falls, floats, then tautens,
Becoming a static rock
His craggy profile stills
Willing the fish to bite

Above the enclosed bushes sundrunk bees buzz
Weaving dazed musical circles
In rhythm to the silent dance below
Lethargy seeps into my limbs watching
This tableau unfold as
Man and fish move slowly
Matching mudra to mudra

Patience is a virtue,
I tell myself

Sudden staccato cracks rip the air
My head jerks up,
Bile rises choking my throat
Fear petrifies me
Overhead parrots flutter up squawking loudly
Angry complaints at the rude awakening
From their slumbering dreams

My fisherman just stares awhile
Into the greenery
At the invisible intrusion
Then returns to his meditative mudras

I relax.


Must also get used to this
Endless fear, a modern leitmotif
of Manipur

The calm stillness settles in
Prevailing on all, bird, fish, or man
I fight the sleep that weighs down my lids
Is the dance on or have the dancers tired out?
Through half-closed eyes, I crave a closer look

Then one long stutter, bullets flash
In the foliage
Wide open, my eyes can hardly follow
The quicksilver pace of the new dancer
All I see is
The hunched up figure topples over
In the final mudra

Dark and smooth the waters part
Accepting the last whirl of dance
The embrace of Death

Screams stifled in my chest
I lie flat
Damp dust clogging my nostrils
Unfeeling the sharp pricks of dry twigs
I bury myself into the undergrowth
Feigning invisibility
To the unquestioning
Shooting hot violence
Of pragmatic injustice

Shocked my gaze is pinned
To soft rustling verdant leaves
Can beauty hold so much terror?
I gasp…

Disturbed by the antithesis
Of a fisherman among his fish
Their dance sequence half-done
Disoriented shadows dart here and there
Rippling the mossy pool
Has the dance ended?

Only a moment is allowed
For Death to reign
And then it passes…

The stage returns…
Waters slip back into their jeweled silkiness
Bees continue their lazy buzz
Far away a bird tries out a trill or two
Missing not a beat
Life goes back to pursue its meandering way
Twisting , turning, performing arabesques
Gracefully, ageless Manipur dances on…

Only I, cannot return.

About Author

Sutapa Basu

Member Since: 07 Jun, 2014

I am a compulsive bookworm. I have been teaching children, publishing and designing books, writing and editing for more than 30 years now and I have loved every minute of it. Having been an Army brat, an army wife and conducted promtional events at...

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