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The House of Memory by Anna Sujatha Mathai

Precious stones to build the   

               house of memory.

Tiruvella, a shade and sanctuary,

A memory for all my life

Magic and sustenance.

I go home to Tiruvella to roost

With beloved grandparents.

Every inch of that house

Still floodlit in my memory, 

Precious, gleaming stones of memory.

Evenings on the cool verandah, 

Sitting on the black marble parapet, Me pacing up and down, 

Aspiring theatre actress,

Doing imitations of teachers, 

And others in Delhi,

'Graany' and 'Graanpapa' drowning in 


Sometimes, my sister and I would

               walk over, in the cool evenings

To Kuraciethu Achachens pleasant house, just across the road.

Dodo Kochamma shone in dark 


Her curly hair washed, left loose to dry.

One day she produces little Meena,

Who she's just bathed. 

There stands a tiny girl,

Dark as ebony, 

In a bright pink dress, 

With a pearl necklace,

Her face covered with talc, 

Hands behind her back,

Solemn, unsmiling,

Raisin eyes fixed on me, keen, 


Her unmoving gaze, darkly pinning me

a butterfly on a page.

She is a Sphinx who gives away 


Just surveys me,

An older cousin come to visit.

I'm startled by her unsmiling, inscrutable observation of me!

Do we recognize each other,

Does something flick the pages of the 


Me in my teens, and she just two?

She doesn't know the story

Of how my grandmother had rescued

The orphan baby of her aunt,

And nurtured him, lavishing her love

On him, saving his spirit.

He was to become Meena's 

                           beloved grandfather.

So many years later, Meena hands me

Her first Ms Bright Ring Around the Water, and I send it to P. Lal, who

                                   publishes it.

She asks me if I can introduce her to my friend, Kamala Das.

I send Kamala a lettter all about Meena, and she becomes 

a friend to Meena,

Later still, I, divorced, alone 

Am given shelter in the Alexander 

     home in Delhi, by 

Dodo Kochamma,

Meena's mother. That's when I start loving Meena's younger sisters,

Anna and Elsa, bright students, full of Simone Weil and Philosophy. 

Anna's tragic death years later, a knife

Piercing our hearts, 

Time washes all things away. 

Only the bright gems of memory 


Poet's Note:  The poem is an attempt to relate the relationship between my mother's family and Meena's family.

Copyright. 2018. Anna Sujatha Mathai


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