To Rajini, in Memoriam: How do I Remember thee?

"…When lofty thought
Lifts a young heart above its mortal lair,
And love and life contend in it, for what
Shall be its earthly doom, the dead live there
And move like winds of light on dark and stormy air."

[From P.B.Shelly's ADONAIS, An Elegy on the Death of John Keats.]

Come ye Autumnal showers
And wash if ye may the stain
On the street where she was slain
Whence the renewed land may wear
Green shoots invigorated by her
Whose life untimely was taken

No more her smile shall gladden
Where grief, oppression and pain
Have banished courage and hope
Nor her reasoned counsel embolden
Where the wicked seek to thrive
On cowardice, fear and ruin

No more her impassioned voice
Shall be heard among the wise
Pleading justice for the wretched,
The nation's soul in a vice
And its children to murder enslaved,
For this she paid the price

How many barren springs must pass
before this land finds release
from the evil whose sleepless legions
conspired to snare thee, young and helpless,
a mother, pitilessly thy beauty to lacerate
and parch all springs of hope?

Sprinkled by early rains in September
betokening sowing time, the cortege,
led by grieving husband and daughters
retraced happy childhood scenes,
The mahogany-lined route and church,
which re-echoed to her youthful strains

The drooping sun smiled upon her grave
through silvery tufts fleeing and clefts among palms
To the mourners a moment of awe
A death unfathomable, savage, yet sublime
The words of committal the toll of doom bore
For all that was decent and human, selfless and brave

Thou hadst faith in ordinary folk
for they suffered most
And knew it their lot
Here thou sawest the seeds
of honesty, valour and sacrifice
And where these were in evidence,
thy presence made them nobler still
Those who called thee 'Madam'
knew this well.

When troubles assailed,
Thou wert in the fore
for thine own good, having scant regard
Even thy trust and confidence
the cowardly fiends did use
to the foulest purpose
and left thee a lump on the street,
thou who bloomed so fair, now lifeless, alone,
while thy daughters eagerly awaited
their mother's return

Writ on the faces of many
who thronged to see thee pass
solemnly on thy final journey,
there was the sixth sense
of the coming calamity
- a Karmic menace

Why was thy life so cruelly quenched
- a life so symbolic of a people's hope?
The good die young, it is said
Is it the way of providence
to preserve from being marred and maimed
its most priceless gems?

Justice thou cherished, and Freedom,
which lifteth a young heart to new visions,
soaring above the decrees of moribund wisdom
- a joy, and burden nonetheless,
when conflicting demands keenly contend
more than a mortal heart can bind

How do I remember thee?
A strong woman wert thou,
but also a girl,
finding happiness in things simple,
sometimes perplexed,
seeking a hand to guide,
knowing not where to find

Upon thy last Christmas Eve,
we brought thee a tree for thy girls
from Ariyalai's casuarina grove
and treasure the memory of happiness
occasioned by a thing so naïve

Eve's shadows lengthen,
through the dewy air stealing
while aerial minstrels hasten
haply homeward flying

The long night descendeth
on the lost soul of a country
The sheep, the noxious air breathe
and rot inwardly

Many lying shepherds there'll be
'midst ravening injustice
and festering villainy,
promising oases of peace

Yet, to the bolder spirits who dare,
to hope and cast away fear
thou shalt remain
through long wilderness years
a flame, a pillar of fire,
that shall burn amain.

- Rajan Hoole



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