Once I was a Prince - Part Three

Written by: T Wignesan

                      Part Three

  ...swishing away with your sunshrivelled burgundy knotty arms with broad disdainful harvesting sweeps the cobras come out to water in the sweltering heat by the thatched fly-buzzed hole

your low under-the-breath warning tones a reminder of the will of your self-inflicted charge
you never ate until i gorged myself
              like the dutiful wife given with a dowry
watching me all the time through the shield of the wisp of cloud of cheroot smoke in your sentinel corner against the far wall your eyes glinting fearing that i might take exception and even before my plate was half-empty you had already darted across the kitchen floor to bring me more fried brinjals mashed greens fried and sliced plantain the steaming rice lying bare by its metal cover hanging on the lip of the open pot-mouth in a clear aluminium pot by my side

now they say you are gone for some plotted and took your life in haste
                    even before you had time to ensure an heir
others say you were alone dismayed abandoned by your own
           prey to enchanters coveting
the plot of land the house derelict forsaken by your absence
       they say some one else caretakes it for himself
others no a forbidden son of your husband’s has raked it for himself

alas would you have known how landless nationless stateless i’d be
this dot of ancestral land clinging-clanging in memory

did you know then you might never see me again
     nor probably ever hear of me
or if you had how might you have taken it all

did you believe the tales true and false they told
       or only what you wanted to hear
of your precious prince you once served in silence and

               who had gone to slave in other lands

Notes

eevaa peerankal muuvaa marunthu is a take on another well-known Tamil proverb: eevaa makkal muuvaa marunthu meaning “children who obey even before the order is given are a God-send”. Here, in lieu of children, the word “grandparents” is substituted

chembu: a small usually copper vessel shaped like a rounded vase with a tapering neck and open mouth, used for holding drinking water or milk

kuul: thick holdall gruel which may also be highly spiced

chemman: red soil

Vaithi: ayurvedic doctor, practising the traditional Indian homeopathic medicine

© T.Wignesan 1997 - Paris May 7, 1997 (from the Sequence/Collection: "Words for a Lost Sub-Continent")