Those Bombay Sundays

By Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca

Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca
(Inspired by Robert Hayden’s poem ‘Those Winter Sundays.’)

Those Bombay Sundays
My father woke up his usual ‘early.’
‘Seize the day’, he would say.
He gave the Carpe Diem call
On other days too.
Oh, that rising reluctance
On those Bombay Sundays,
Resisting his poetic exhortations.
The crows and pigeons followed the rhythm.
Of early rising, no matter the day of the week.
Did he want me to turn into a bird?

Then the Black and White TV arrived,
A loan from the National newspaper,
Brought the entire neighborhood with it,
Mostly children, and all those related to them.
Grandmothers needed a helping hand,
to climb the old creaking, wooden staircase
But come. they must, to watch the Sunday Hindi movie.

Father watched the six o’ clock Hindi movie,
To write his TV column,
The children sat on the stone floor,
Like groundlings at a Shakespeare play,
My aunt sat on the large bed, watching intently
With a grandmother or two,
Begged the husband not to beat his wife,
‘It’s wrong,’ she would say in Marathi.
Calling out the villain to repent of his evil deeds.
Smiling widely when the hero chased the heroine
Around the tree, singing romantic songs.
Shifting her weight to the edge of the bed,
When the tension was palpable.
Father wanted to know why the female singers had such high voices.

He had a bemused look on his face
Throughout, and with steady stoicism
Watched all three hours of the movie,
Took notes on a lined note pad,
Smiled at the children from time to time.

During the intermission
The children stood up, dusted themselves,
And sat down again to watch.

In true Shakespearean groundling style,
They called out different ‘endings’
to scenes, each according to their tastes.

Those Bombay Sundays
Of the Black and White TV,
When loneliness was unknown,
and no silent snow was falling.

I hear the voices of the children
“Thank you, Uncle, thank you, Uncle,
See you next Sunday.”
Daddy loved the children,
kept a few handkerchiefs ready,
for the ones with the runny noses.

“Please come again”, he responded to their thanks,
A true Indian-English phrase!
When I say it here, I see the surprise
on the faces of my visitors
and I have to explain, it means
they are welcome to visit
again.
We say it in India,
Even when exasperated
by some in the constant stream
Of visitors!

Copyright Kavita 2021

Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca was born and raised in a Jewish family in Mumbai. Her first book of poems, ‘Family Sunday and other poems’, was published in 1989, with a second edition in 1990. Her poems have also appeared in the Indian Literature Journal, published by Sahitya Akademi, SETU, Café Dissensus, among others. Kavita is the daughter of the late poet, Nissim Ezekiel. She manages her Poetry page at https://www.facebook.com/kemendoncapoetry/

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