Random LIGHT

a poem by Swagata Sinha Roy (aka Deepa by the Bengali community in Malaysia)

My first memory of LIGHT

I do not recall

But my daak naam seemed to have

a luminous circle around it

I guess it pays to choose to come

into the world on days like Deepavali

When I realized that I am actually called LIGHT

I kind of laughed out loud … yeah right

Light on my feet I am certainly not

And light as a … feather(?) …no, don’t even go there

At three, I was fascinated by the streetlight

Outside my Mashi’s house in Kuala Pilah

The darwan (as my Mesho called him) much to the chagrin

Of my Anglicized cousins, who in unison would say

‘watchman, Baba’

…. Where was I?

Yes, the darwan , the watchman

would make his rounds tapping his staff

And stand at the light post – he scared the dayLIGHTs out of me

Tall, scraggly, uniformed, with a ‘cane’ as I saw it

Next vivid memory is

of Baba getting the ‘kerosene’ lamp to work

whenever there was a power outage …

‘load-shedding’ Ma would say

And the flickering light

cast shadows on the  plank walls

And I imagined stories

that never could be told

When much older, it was

the LIGHTing of the pradeep in the puja room  

LIGHTing diyas during festivities

especially at Kali Pujo and Deepavali

And Xmas trees all lit up

in neighbour’s homes

Then came the fascination with words – idioms/proverbs

          to be  LIGHT years away

          to cast LIGHT on something

          to see the LIGHT of day

and  …. Lines from the Good Book  – Let there be LIGHT and there was LIGHT

Then  rolled in the music –

the bhajans , kirtans, the hymns in the chapel hall,

a LIGHT that never comes;

you LIGHT up my life;

Come on  baby, LIGHT my fire… really?

And the voracious reading….from

All the LIGHT you cannot see to

the LIGHT between Oceans that broke your heart,

barely making you grasp

the unbearable LIGHTness of being

in the LIGHT of what we know

One day not too long ago I remember when I said,

“ No, there is no LIGHT at the end of the tunnel”

And an older, wiser one told me

“You yourself are LIGHT;

you are a lamp

That’s what you are DEEPA

It is fine not to be

a flooding LIGHT

It is totally okay

to be just a ray!”


Bengali Words

Daak naam- a name you are addressed by (like a nickname)

Mashi – maternal aunt

Kuala Pilah – a town in one of the states  south of Kuala Lumpur

Mesho – maternal aunt’s husband

Baba – father

pradeep – a  ‘light’ holder

puja  – prayer

Kali Pujo – prayers for the goddess Kali

bhajans – devotional songs

kirtan – songs of praise during worship

About the Author – Swagata Sinha Roy is Assistant Professor of English, and co-organiser of the Paperback Book Club. She labels herself as an educator, observer of life and an armchair traveller, who oftentimes disappears into books.

By MyCerita Rakyat

This blog is repository of stories of Malaysian life from anyone who wants to contribute to share with us a true experience as a Malaysian and anyone who lives in Malaysia. We accept stories from all ethnicities and groups. Our only request is that you honor diversity and inclusion and use this forum only to share experiences that reflect the reality of Malaysian living. We ask that you restrict political commentary and stereotyping, and not go beyond the facts of the story you share. We reserve the right to accept, edit and publish any narrative that is submitted. Thank you. The Cerita Rakyat Team

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