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Submission for April Issue, 2023 (Vol. 4, No. 1) is going on. Last date for submission is 31 March, 2023.

RICE

 


RICE

-       Tapan Kumar Pradhan (India)

 

This steamed rice with country ghee you are spreading now

on my plate, its paddy must have come from the hard sun

baked soil of Boden, or Komna, from Ramhari’s half acre

 

field of hope, in village Manglapur. He’d have doubly bent

his sunburnt backbone, under a canopy of dry palm leaves

held at an angle by Saria. She would have carried to the field

 

rice pakhal with a boiled potato, and half an onion crushed

with green chillies. While old mother, frail like a scarecrow

would have stood guarding the paddy from crows, as it lay

 

drying on the cowdung polished ground. Doe eyed Sukanti

with yellow nimble fingers, would have sifted the brown husk

from the moon white raw rice, for which I paid exactly three

 

ten rupee notes to Lachhu Lal. Bhima Sahu sells at twenty

Shukru, the agent, won’t pay more than ten to Ramhari.

Take away the seed, manure, pesticide – and what you get?

 

Two rupees for each kilo of moon white rice squeezed

out of the hard soil. Bholu’s school. Chinnu Lal's grocery.

Father’s TB medicine. So – no silver bangle this year also.

 

Sarian ever reminded – not even once in last twenty years.

But Ramhari will need reminder? He will get those bangles

with a thousand rupees from Chinnu, at monthly interest

 

of fifty - with Mangla Dei’s blessing, monsoon will be good.

If it remains good for two years, he will repay the bangle,

Then take fresh five thousand for Sukanti’s marriage. End.

 

                          ***     ***     ***

 

Last year sky was empty, except a single white feather cloud

which came sailing, then floated away, taking away the breath

of five farmers in Kishangad, their earthen dreams dangling

 

from twisted branches of a tamarind tree. And year before

country boats plied on teary paddy fields. Nothing was left

not even oil and salt. What could they offer to Mangla Dei?

 

Hope everything is fine in Manglapur. I don’t mind if Saria

still goes without her silver bangles, but I do hope old father

is getting his daily medicines, and I hope Sukanti next year

 

gets yoked to a young lad from the dark soil, who will love her

for the sweet scent of summers between her eyebrows. Or else,

how shall I eat this steaming rice with hot dal, papad, sabzi

 

and country ghee, you are serving now on my silver plate?

 

****