Thursday, July 31, 2014

Old Park and Playground on an Anniversary

(a picture-poem)

We arrived early at the old park on a Monday
Scuttled from a visit to a horse farm by heavy traffic, no, by my misgivings
About such a day being about a busy road
When anything can’t match the collective happiness that once was
Bottled in a day. Hey, we can find a quiet space to get a whiff again, I said
To the disappointment of two out of three of us

Past the cement rink where we sometimes scooter
Past the long lawns now empty of ball kicking school children
Past the hushed trees in summer respite 
And wandered into the empty playground at far end
If you notice you’ll see the park is old, made by minds and hands of the 60’s, 70’s
Where in the low swing set, two out of three of us found a rhythm

A 20-something backpacked boy found his way to the picnic tables
Alone in the green, in a space of his own, opened his laptop
If you notice you’ll see the spaces are different, when more adventure was allowed
In play and scream. I ran my fingers on the metal slide, it was hot
With no rough edges, unlike the slides where I grew up
My skirt sometimes nabbing a surprised tear, always L shaped

The play structures are different, the shadows, the spaces are different
As if life then wasn't held up pedestal by pedestal
The monkey bars were set higher, the breaths were deeper
Maybe the silences were longer, yes, the silences were longer
So maybe the music was heard, it was not always all sound
That doesn't stop but steps up and up a ladder with no slide

A mom glided in with a loaded stroller, a toddler and a baby
Smiling baby on lap she sat near the sand and chatted
On speaker- We are going to hang out here and go to grandmas for lunch
An old man sauntered in and went off to the tables
Near the lone boy, the way the old need the young and the young
Don’t need the old

I rested at the arbor, found only in these old parks
I sat on the metal bench, like so many before me
Like so many before me, I walked away
A stranger to all that passed through here
Like how the boy and the old man barely saw
That I was here, we were here, on a morning of an anniversary

Maybe I’m looking at it differently
Like how my son, if asked, will recount a different way of seeing
The same. Maybe there’s music at all times
Even when I don’t get the sequences of sounds and silences
Maybe there’s always a need. Because it's the infants, the old, the different,
Who know. Who know of the space and silence that’s always in our minds and hands


Sunday, July 6, 2014


Gautamiputra Satakarni. What a nice name.

What we know of him comes from an inscription that his mother, Gautami Balashree, had composed in about 119 CE/AD.  Gautamiputra Satakarni ruled for about 24 years in the ~450 years of Satavahana rule in South India from 230 BCE/BC to 220 CE/AD. He was famous for being successful in war and righteous in peace. 

The Queen mother Gautami must have been a very remarkable person- to have had the idea of an inscription and to wield enough power and influence to have it done in honor of her son. That too in an age when preserving records for history wasn’t much of a value. Without the inscription we would not have known much about him or her.

She was queen mother and grandmother. She was ruler on the side for a while- she administered alongside her son when he was ill in his last years. There is a mention of her wisdom. Her famous son had her name (Gautamiputra = son of Gautami), which seems to be a custom in the Satavahanas.

I wonder about her life. She must have been a very remarkable person: in those days, in the thick forests of patriarchy, it seems like she drew her life on her own terms.  I wish we knew more about her. 

(This is a first in a series of posts I hope to write about remarkable women who are not famous)