Grandmother’s Photo

by M. Mohankumar

As we move on in life, we carry things from the past only to lose them at some point in time. M. Mohankumar’s poem is about the photograph of a grandmother and her memory itself.

Grandmother left for us a few precious things,
among them her black-and-white photo, postcard-size,
mounted and framed. It hung on a rusty nail
in her darkened room. We took it with us, carried it
as we moved from place to place, only to lose it
forever. And then we lost other things − movables
and immovables, swept away by sudden floods.
“Remember me when you’re in distress,” she had said.
We remember you always, Grandmother, not merely
in times of trouble. Today, sitting here, I face
the emptiness of the present, but am buoyed up
with thoughts of you, I want to paint your portrait,
in fast colours, on the canvas of my mind; but
how am I to capture the glow of your face and the glint
of your eyes? Lines, tone, half-tone − these elude my brush,
and my palette fails. No, my unpractised hand can’t paint
your portrait. The photo is lost − and many other things.
But amidst the losses one thing still survives: the torch
that you handed over to us. We keep it burning
like the fire in the Agnihotri’s house, and it continues
to light our path and guide our uncertain steps.

Mohankumar has published eight volumes of poetry in English, his latest collection being “Gleanings” which released in 2016. His poems have appeared in almost all reputed literary magazines in print in India. His first collection of short stories in English, ‘The Turning Point and Other Stories’ has been published by Authorspress, Delhi. Mohankumar retired as Chief secretary to Government of Kerala.
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