Delhi’s Bandaged Heart – Jonaki Ray’s Poem on Corona, Chirag Enclave
Poetry in the city.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Who could have imagined coronavirus touching our life so intimately. So maddening to be quarantined at home.
But Jonaki Ray isn’t into cribbing. A scientist in a Noida-based software firm, she also happens to be a poet—her first poetry book is coming out soon. Confined within the walls of her south Delhi apartment in Chirag Enclave, the young woman is dealing with the crisis creatively—last night she finished writing a poem on the ongoing epidemic.
It’s a rather dark piece of art. “I wrote it after reading a forwarded message about how once this pandemic is better, we will all change, and everyone will love their jobs, and their friends, and so on,” she says pessimistically, talking on WhatsApp video—the pictures are taken through the screen that connects her to The Delhi Walla. While showing her writing table, Ms Ray generously agreed to let her brand-new poem make a debut on these pages.
The Saga of the Crown and the Virus
Today, after a long time, the skies are blue,
The roads are empty, children are playing at home,
parents are together, everything is washed and cleaned,
childhood friends and strangers are sharing symptoms
and videos and rumors and placebos. Today, time has expanded,
and art and poetry and indoor games have emerged
like tiny shoots of tuberoses, bruised but defiant
after a thunderous hail of numbers and bad news like rain.
After all, flowers or humans, the instinct
for survival makes for a common anthem:
Everything will be all right afterwards.
Afterwards, the skies re-grayed, the borders
unsealed (and then resealed),
the splintered lungs re-fused,
Throats re-tarred, the corpses re-counted,
The ones who said they-didn’t-think-it
-was-that-serious sprung from the chambers
Of forgiven guilt, the old and young re-permitted
outside, the maids, the maalis, the drivers re-permitted
inside, the sahibs and memsahibs re-powered,
schools and colleges re-populated, cocktails’ glasses
re-clicked, and toasts reclaimed.
Afterwards, worries normalized—about prices,
and jobs, and taxes, and books, and exams,
and who loved and who lost,
and who followed and who made others follow,
and who made money and who didn’t, until
the leaders declared (as usual) that they had conquered,
that they had everything under control, that
it was back to warring and walling the world
and the markets and the oil, and people re-divided
on the basis of religion and color and caste
and everything was the same as before.
Afterwards, the kindness that had emerged
was packed back into closets like winter clothes,
the roads re-jammed, talks curtailed,
time re-shrunk, and new diseases with single strands
of genetic material re-formed, and everything was the same
as before. The truth remained that while the nimbus around the cells
had lightened, the virus waited for enforcements,
until the next time when what had been masked
became unmasked, the rich restocked
their pearls and art, and the poor re-lined to survive.
By Jonaki Ray
Poetry in the times of corona