Friday, June 17, 2016

The Rain Maiden - a tribute to Satyajit Ray

The dark lords black, burdened
Heave a sigh of relief 
  Droplets flung all over 
  Stir the lake from her sleep
Concentric circles abound 
  Their lives mystical but brief

The rain maiden's soaked 
  Drops slide down her hair
  Unoiled yet fragrant, 
  Setting off ripples a few
Outnumbered  though
By the dark lords' own.

A pair of little eyes watch
Her antics from afar 
  Part thrilled part terrified 
  Join didi? um no!
Petrified or amused- Apu stands still 
  And so does the tree beside.

  The rain maiden's delirious,
Unmindful of the the dark lords' cry
She spins her fragile figure around
Weaving magic like fine silk.
If the sky, the lake, the rain make the canvas,
Our rain maiden's the art 

  The rain maiden's finished 
  She runs towards the frail thing 
And holds the child close. 
  Apu, eyes wide, seeks refuge 
  In didi's outstretched sari
Wrapped safe, fear lapses to joy 


  The dark lords filled with rage 
  For some reason unknown
Perhaps taken aback by her audacity
Cast a spell so fierce!
The rain maiden's no longer fiesty;
Gold has a melting point and so had she. 

  The rain maiden's sick 
  Bedridden, numb with cold 
  Her playfulness knows no illness.
She beckons the worried child
And promises a spectacle soon,
"We'll run alongside the chugging train!"

The dark lords still relentless
Storm her room at night.
The rickety doors, the open window
Only hasten her woes. The rain maiden-
Scared, clings onto her mother 
  And onto her dear life.

The kind neighbour relents 
  To poor Apu's plea
What awaits her is pure misery.
The mother and her young
One alive one dead; 
Eyes as lifeless as the rain maiden.    

The rain maiden's gone
And so is his smile 
  He's bereft of her fingers-
The fingers that caressed,groomed
His unkempt hair. A void, left behind,
As big as their bond.

The picture of the desolate child
Staring at the vacant sky
Evokes something inexplicable 
And soon we find ourselves say,
"Take heart little Apu, 
  Durga's only asleep, till it rains again"

The 1955 Bengali movie Pather Panchali (song of the little road) is a poignant tale laced with love and warmth.  Satyajit Ray was an unconventional story teller with an eye for detail.  His repertoire includes an assortment of genres- ranging from the highly intellectual to the deeply spiritual. Pather Panchali, his best known piece of art, was incidentally his debut movie. Watching the movie was indeed a surreal experience for me. The grandmother who gleefully relishes stolen fruits, the aspiring playwright who finds it hard as a priest to make ends meet,  his wife who is the ultimate embodiment of sacrifice, our hero Apu who is the picture of innocence and gaiety,  the child maiden Durga who wins our hearts with her sprightliness and makes us cry inconsolably at the very end are earthy characters who tug at our heart strings and claim all our love. I have tried to pen these verses as a devout fan drawn to the inimitable genius of Ray as well as the lyrical realism of his debut work.  
  To Ray, with love. 

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