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Remembering Sarojini Naidu on her 145th Birth Anniversary 

Sarojini

This year, we celebrate the 145th Birth Anniversary, on February 13 – of poet, orator, and eminent icon of India’s political history, Sarojini Naidu – with the heartful poems by Jhilam Chattaraj 

My earliest association with Naidu began with the poem, ‘In the Bazaars of Hyderabad’. In a world ripe with cultural amnesia, Sarojini Naidu remains a memorable figure; not only for her achievements but also for her intelligence, wit, and ardent nurture of beautiful friendships. In India, the 13th of February is also celebrated as National Women’s Day, a day to commemorate the cultural, social, political, and professional achievements of women. 

If I were to celebrate this day— my achievement would include a conscious effort to live ‘slow’; a life where there is space for relationships, wonder, and alignment. On Sarojini Naidu’s birth anniversary, I recall a serene evening, spent in a solitary alcove in Mattu Beach, Manipal—in the company of my dear and ever lively friend, Ketaki Chowkhani. I remember Ketaki from my student days. She would always wear shorts and a T-shirt and she still does except that she is also a popular Professor at the Manipal University and the only practitioner of Single Studies in India.  A proud moment for me; but pride fades between friends. Our conversations always meander around lovers, parents, our aging bodies, and the uncontrollable urge to fart, and to burp. That evening, the sun poured pure gold on us. The sand and the sea pulled two women within a magical green vault—the breeze seized us with its cool stillness. I did not find our anxious souls worrying about career, money, and marriage — that was our achievement—not power, positions, or shining awards but the freedom to choose; to sculpt a tranquil state of mind—the allowance of leisurely hours by the beach—sharing soliloquies with the sea. Ketaki and I were filled with the bright, wing-powered spirit of the beach birds— it was a blessing from the ‘Nightingale of India’— the effervescent spirit of Sarojini Naidu revisited us; a gentle way of reclaiming our time — our space.

I share seven Ekphrastic poems (22 Syllables) inspired by the gilded beauty of Mattu Beach, Manipal: 

I

Sun-glazed sands 

preserve our footprints; 

expelled from grim spots, 

we stir skies with comic roar —

sea cats.

II

Asphalt lips 

cleave the sea and the river—

heron-hemmed ripples, 

steal our wait 

for arched Dolphins.

III

Two hearts

empty burdens

under the bluest skies —

kites glide over olive seabreasts—

God’s light.

IV

Rock-stunned alcoves, 

embrace aloneness — 

the beloved is beyond the sea — 

waves summon, 

shell-songs.

V

Breeze-borne silence, 

sleeps on twilight lips — 

echoes freeze 

in the swift wade 

of a sandpiper’s dream.

VI

We are riders 

to the sea.

We shun naked caves

to sing whale songs 

on sapphire sea light.

VII

Shorebirds 

perforate salt mists

they don’t fear the call of the tide

we, melt time  

ceaseless sea-foam.

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