Snug, soft, rows, columns of pull aparts !
Fresh bake wafts through the warp and weft of a bamboo basket.
The baker’s harnessed onto a gangly bicycle that’s
gleefully raising dirt on a road
which survived the deluge of monsoon rains.
Excitement paints the hooter bugle’s rubber bulb red,
huffing, puffing, wheels whooshing along the ‘baandh’,
a road now to sumptuous village belles,
announcing to them that the handsome ‘Poder’
is on his way, with his heart on his sleeve
and the breakfast ‘pao’ in his bread basket.
The rousing reveille jousts
with the cockerels throwing a fit,
in tropical notes ricocheting
off the green tender coconuts
up in lanky trees.
Grassy blades of paddy fields frowning
at migrant wheat that freighted
to their native land and
inveigled their way into the baker’s heart.
They thereupon found divine expression
into soft pita ‘pollis‘ and hard bagel ‘kankonns‘,
raised in the yeasty ferment
of toddy that spilled off the dancing palms.
In Goa, misty mornings smell like crusty loaves
meant for tea grown in Assam.
But that was yesterday, when sun soaked farmers
up country raised bread from the earth, knowing little,
there were revolutions to come at all points of the compass,
in all shades and texture of soil,
in all minutes of latitude and longitude,
When the bread would be bathed in blood
or rusted in blight, there would be much to say
as the sheaves of paddy would then stand
united with sheaves of wheat,
they would have the ears of corn,
the soul kernel of every other grain and
heart of every tuber besides,
when the time comes …
Crumb bears no grudge,
The forgiving crust forgets yesterdays,
bides starlight, moonlight,
with faith in tomorrows,
until someday we shall all realise that
hopes rest in bread and in bread alone.
This poem is situated in my home town of Goa, with motifs and words that are familiar to me, scenes I remember, feelings evoked through the past alone. It tries to capture as poetically as possible, the nuance of an earlier time juxtaposed with the situation of the present and faith in the future.
Here’s to farmers, bakers, basket makers and the natural world, all an indelible part of the humanosphere.
Some terms as they appear in the poem:
Baandh ~ an embankment
Poder ~ konkani (from Portuguese) word for baker
Pao ~ konkani (from Portuguese) word for bread
Polli ~ leavened flat bread, konkani word
Kankonn ~ bagel shaped bread
Toddy ~ from the toddy palm, used as yeast source for bread in the old days