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Sid K

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Dark Rooms
by Sid K   

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Category: 

Poetry

Publisher:  Publish America ISBN-10:  1591295033 Type: 
Pages: 

152

Copyright:  2002
Non-Fiction

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 Synopsis:

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Gopal is the only one left in the Kachiguda house. In its dark rooms, once filled with a great family legacy, his legendary father's intellectual whispers and the cries of six children, he looks back on a generation gone wrong. Why did their litter fail? Where did they go wrong in their lives? Can a familys decadence be explained in the little things left behind in those Dark Rooms a picture of his father standing next to his Moris Minor, a broken gramophone, a deserted kitchen. Sleeping for hours under an old creaking fan, he looks back to his failed marriage to Kaveri, Kaveri who left him, remarried and moved to America. Dark Rooms is also a saga of a man seen through the eyes of a nephew, from the time when Gopal first meets Kaveri to when the news of Kaveris death comes to him, while he awaits her, sitting in one of those Dark Rooms.


Excerpt

Dark Rooms
In the study, now dark and deserted
The rusted gramophone tip
Lay stuck to the last track
Of the record, the drum to the side,
Like the head of its proud master
When death came to him,
One of those clear-blue summer
Afternoons in Hyderabad.
The music still echoed in the air,
Though it had been years
Since the voice of Shamshad Begum
Played in that room,
Lingering like a ghost that
Was determined to finish that unfinished song.
An invisible hand reached to crank the
Dead machine to life but slipped past.
The ghost of my grandfather,
Picking up his pen
The raven-colored India Ink in which
Had dried decades ago,
Tried to finish his unfinished book.
How painful it must be to die
And leave his characters unredeemed.
They were the ones who must have
Cried the most at his funeral.
They were the ones who must have
Pleaded for his resurrection,
Pledges that must have
Trapped him between worlds.
After all is said and done,
You stand and look at the walls,
The limestone-painted rooms,
The beds, with their large teak headboards,
The empty closets that a herd of lizards
Has made its home
The drama of a family unfold,
Where spiders tumble
On thin strings of silver saliva,
Where roaches scurry out at the
Sounds of the doors opening.
You try to tell yourself, like a confident shrink,
There has to be a reason.
If there has to be a cause, a reason for
Everything in this world then this is it.
These dark rooms are to blame.
This is probably where my grandfather
Hit the shivering head of his youngest son
For failing in math. Red marks were forbidden.
A place on the wall where the blue plaster
Had started to peel, revealing the fading white
Primer coat, and where still remained,
A silent reminder, a shallow dent
In the shape of a forehead.
In the middle room, full of clothes hangers
Without any clothes,
Like skeletons without bodies,
This was where my mother must have run
To get away from the wrath of her father
When his face became a marble effigy of contempt,
And his expression bordered on mockery,
His mouth straightened into a hard line,
When she earned less than full marks in Telugu class.
Her father's voice carrying over that of the mullah's,
Who screamed from the nearby Mosque,
Now where will she hide? Does she need to hide?
The object of her fright has turned into a ghost
Along with her secret hiding places.
Then, the kitchen. Where must have sat
My grandmother, her wicker rice sieve
Going "Shush! Shush!" as she prepared dinner,
The smell of cardamom and cloves in the air,
Fanning my grandfather,
While he voraciously swallowed his
Meals of oily, ghee-filled pomfret curry,
Feeding his brain than his stomach
Where his hungry characters
Could start playing their parts out.
Curry that was one day bound towards his heart
Like a pirate ship sailing to port.
From the kitchen opened the courtyard, where
My grandfather must have stood and listened
To the descent of his landlord's voice,
Words heaped in abuse,
Intermittent between sprinkles of saliva,
Showering down like mango-showers in mid-April,
About how much excess water they'd used,
How many months' rent had not been paid,
The words entering his veins, reaching his heart.
Fear, neglect and insult written in every corner,
On every wall. And pride, the worst of them,
Full of half promises, written everywhere.
Pledges that must have
Trapped him between worlds.
After all is said and done,
You stand and look at the walls,
The limestone-painted rooms,
The beds, with their large teak headboards,
The empty closets that a herd of lizards
Has made its home
The drama of a family unfold,
Where spiders tumble
On thin strings of silver saliva,
Where roaches scurry out at the
Sounds of the doors opening.
You try to tell yourself, like a confident shrink,
There has to be a reason.
If there has to be a cause, a reason for
Everything in this world then this is it.
These dark rooms are to blame.
This is probably where my grandfather
Hit the shivering head of his youngest son
For failing in math. Red marks were forbidden.
A place on the wall where the blue plaster
Had started to peel, revealing the fading white
Primer coat, and where still remained,
A silent reminder, a shallow dent
In the shape of a forehead.
In the middle room, full of clothes hangers
Without any clothes,
Like skeletons without bodies,
This was where my mother must have run
To get away from the wrath of her father
When his face became a marble effigy of contempt,
And his expression bordered on mockery,
His mouth straightened into a hard line,
When she earned less than full marks in Telugu class.
Her father's voice carrying over that of the mullah's,
Who screamed from the nearby Mosque,
Now where will she hide? Does she need to hide?
The object of her fright has turned into a ghost
Along with her secret hiding places.
Then, the kitchen. Where must have sat
My grandmother, her wicker rice sieve
Going "Shush! Shush!" as she prepared dinner,
The smell of cardamom and cloves in the air,
Fanning my grandfather,
While he voraciously swallowed his
Meals of oily, ghee-filled pomfret curry,
Feeding his brain than his stomach
Where his hungry characters
Could start playing their parts out.
Curry that was one day bound towards his heart
Like a pirate ship sailing to port.
From the kitchen opened the courtyard, where
My grandfather must have stood and listened
To the descent of his landlord's voice,
Words heaped in abuse,
Intermittent between sprinkles of saliva,
Showering down like mango-showers in mid-April,
About how much excess water they'd used,
How many months' rent had not been paid,
The words entering his veins, reaching his heart.
Fear, neglect and insult written in every corner,
On every wall. And pride, the worst of them,
Full of half promises, written everywhere.
On the front wall was a picture of grandfather,
Faded brown with age, tawny, sepia,
Standing proudly by his silver-gray Moris Minor,
One hand on the shiny hood,
The chrome glinting through his fingers,
His broad-carved face twisted in a proud smile,
And, had it not been a photo,
One could have seen a muscle flicking pompously in his jaw.
His firm mouth curled as if always on the edge of laughter,
His crooked nose giving him a kind of rugged geniality,
His hair, a cobweb of silver, light against his sun-whacked skin,
His expression darkened with an unreadable emotion,
Like a hunter who'd just skinned a man-eater alive.
Dressed in a whey silk shirt and khaki pantaloons, a sahib.
He had done his bar-at-law at Oxford.
Was the pride on his face bound to trickle
Into the minds of his young children?
Children, who, after he died, worshipped that picture
As piously as they did the many god pictures in the puja room.
Did it make them believe that pride alone
Would run their lives.
Like the Moris Minor that ran on
Petrol alone for many a year.
Chugging along, the wind in its domed windshield,
Kicking dust up in a swirl as it rattled past
Dusty village roads on the way to Gandipet Lake.
That lay smoother than snakeskin in the sun,
The fiery disc bisecting the horizon,
Dew-drenched grass glittering.
Past fields silver and green with ripening rice,
Six chattering kids sitting in the back, fighting over
Who sat near the windows, and who in the middle
So he or she could croon over their mother's head
In the front seat, and play with her sari gold-laced pallu.
And who sat on the father's lap and held the wheel.
Each piece needed to be examined,
Like the innards of a mind.
Weighed for guilt. Interrogated.
Each room needed to be turned inside out,
Like Lord Narasimha, the half-lion, half-man, did
By splitting his foe in half with his bare hands.
I stood at the doorstep, neither indoors nor outdoors,
It was dusk, neither day nor night,
I am a shrink, neither a man nor animal.
I tried to invert this house, with all its dark rooms.
The failure of a life, or lives or a family
Or an entire generation lay in the environment that gave rise to it.
These dark rooms.
Notes: Mullah: a Muslim priest. Telugu: a Dravidian language spoken mainly in south-India. puja: prayer pallu: end of sari pomfret: type of fish Lord Narasimha: A man-lion avatar of Lord Vishnu who comes to earth to kill a powerful demon who could be killed neither indoors nor outdoors, neither during the day nor at night, and neither by human nor an animal.



Professional Reviews

The Dark Rooms: Ode To A Generation
The Dark Rooms, a novel in verse by the Indo-American writer Siddharth Katragadda is an excellent example of the return of imagery that ruled the golden days of Indian English poetry. Set in the rural areas of Karnataka, India, the poem takes the reader to the age of our parents not much unfamiliar to us. If you are born and brought up in India, you will be taken back to your ancient household through the lines of imagination.

The Dark Rooms, metaphorically refers to the life of Gopal who is left alone in the ancient household. Sitting alone in the big mansion, full of dark rooms, Gopal thinks about the golden days in his life. He is a failure in his life as compared to his other brothers and sisters and his wife left him to U.S.A. Now, waiting for his wife"s return, the death of her reaches him, thus completing the darkness in his life.

Siddharth Katragadda has stated that the poem is a sketch of the generation in his own family. It was the generation of his parents and it was his uncle Gopal who inspired him to fly abroad. In that case the life of the protagonist as seen through the eyes of his nephew has more realistic creativity in itself.

Deep thoughts are conversed with rich imagery in this poem. The novel-length story written in the verse form evokes the vivid memories in the reader. The dark rooms and antique pieces as described in the poem resemble the gothic elements that often get employed in the fiction. It is a genuine symphony to be appreciated for all its innovations, and evoked emotions.

This poem in verse is highly suggestible for reading if, you want to travel back to the forgotten childhood and a generation. You can revisit you grandparents, uncles, aunts and umpteen relatives. This poem is not suggestible read at a shot. Read it in short pieces and enjoy the fragrance of the old days as you enjoy your favourite delicacy



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