By Megha Rao
Those who have seen me burst into whirling dervishes.
Robes spinning in meditation, they are reborn to my name.
To acknowledge me is to acknowledge the soil. To marvel
at black cardamom, cinnamon, fried okra. To honor the slender
coat of turmeric in the light. To revel in bodies that are not
white marble, but the mane of lions. To drink the perfume of
spices and not burn. To walk on the Bay of Bengal coast and
wear the scent of dried fish—
Because in my land, I am how ittar is made.
Musk, amber, saffron, that’s how I taste.
My skin is a tea garden fresh from the rain.
When he sees me raging through the rubber plantations, the
messenger of the clouds
forgets the damsel he was meant to reach. Kalidasa, the
classical poet, vows to write about me, instead. The earth
forgets to spin around its own axis & begins to circle my waist.
I am the daughter of the Western Ghats.
My throat is the sky.
The sun rises in memory of my golden limbs.
Those who have seen me renounce the world for the
symphony of my anklets. To witness the tapestry of my hair,
rich in silk & coconut oil. Those who have given up stargazing
& silver doors & royal liquor need no horoscopes to believe in
a truth like me—
To know the Taj Mahal has to take but one look at me &
all her lost jewels have been found.