Poetry Recitals and Nameless Grave

The street which led to my school was paved with strange looking rocks. Fiza ma’am said they were brought in from Rajasthan during the British era. 

She taught us Bengali. She was unmarried, lived in a small house just beside the school. She recited Tagore for breakfast and slept over pillow made of Nazrul’s poems. The way she explained inexplicable verses of poetry made me fall in love with Bengali.

“Bengali is the sweetest language in the world. All the sweetness is derived from the rosogollas we make” she would say. I dreamt of becoming a poet since then. I recited poems in front of her and she will ruffle my hair with her hands, fuelling hopes in my heart.

Next year, baba got transferred to Delhi. My last day in school I told her that I will be leaving everything behind. The strangely paved street, the school, my friends, and poetry. She handed me her favorite book and said I won’t be leaving poetry behind, at least.

The school in Delhi was different. They taught English and Hindi. “Where is the sweetest language in the world?” I asked myself. My classmates quoted from American TV shows rather than the poets of old. Ma’s rosogullas had also lost their charm.

Years later, when I suited up daily for my 9-5 job, Baba called me one day and told that Fiza ma’am died of prolonged illness. I went to Bengal with the next flight I could catch. 

The strangely paved street was now lost in a new highway. Her grave bore no name. As I sat near it, I could hear the ethereal reverberations of her voice, reciting Tagore and Nazrul. 

I bought marbles from the town, scribed a haiku over them in Bengali and placed it over her grave. I opened the book she gave me, recited a few poems and wrote my resignation letter there. 

I left the book near her grave, along with the 9-5 masks I wore. “Fiza ma’am, can you hear my recitals from down there?” I knocked. I wished she’d ruffle my hair, once more.

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