Tuesday 7 July 2015

Dithi Mukherjee: lost and found...

Rain soaked roads
force the traffic
to jam
a cacophony
of horns and scorns.

Destination- Kalighat.
Purpose- to see the Goddess.

I hear footsteps
and muffled Bangla
floating down the green staircase
as I ascend to see
in red and purple
kohl and silver.

her eyes-

yes, please.
Hmm..., would love it.

The kettle whooshes the water
to undo the leaves
at the bottom of the glass
to become one

We settle down
on high stools
next to a window
at the printing table.

Do I look into those eyes
or do I listen to her speak?

Do I focus on her art
or click her?

Do I sip my tulsi tea
or snap the studio?

I do it all
in a daze.

'I was lost in Geneva
and tried to fit in.
I even stopped wearing my kohl!'
she says.

Geneva's loss!

The talk turns to temples-
Dakhineshwar is her favourite.

'I don't like temples.' I confess.
'The pundits behave like the mafia-
it beats the purpose.'

'If you can detach yourself from the pundits-
not care
and enjoy the temple-'
muses Dithi.
'Try it. They don't bother me.'

But you're you.
Your eyes mesmerise.

Conversation orbits around life,
countries and continents.

'I wouldn't be here
if I hadn't married my husband
or gone to Geneva
and got lost.'

'Going away
gave me
new eyes
to look.'

she says,
standing in the doorway
kohl and silver
red and purple
that mesmerise.

Stepping out in the rain-
I am lost.
I am found.
I feel the ground-
wet, sensuous, messy and muddy
It's a funny thing- this facebook. You know what a person looks like from their pictures and you think you know what they are like from their posts, but meeting a person in person after being in touch via facebook doesn't prepare you one bit.

I wasn't prepared to be so awestruck.

Dithi and I had exchanged mails and messages, spoken on the phone and I'd bought a print of hers online in March. But spending that rainy afternoon with her in her teacher's studio felt like standing on a sandy seashore - the waves washing away the sand from under my feet- you know you might fall, but you like it- this play of holding on and letting go. It's hard to put into words.

I didn't buy anything. I didn't need to.

'It's not about that.' she said.

It was time to leave. I had planned to buy shakha paula (the red and white bangles worn by married women in Bengal) from Kalighat. I used to wear them as a newly wed bride living in Calcutta all those years ago. The sound they make when you are going about your daily chores while wearing them can conjure up Calcutta in a blink- no matter where you live. Dithi recommended a shop.

The green stairwell beckoned.

'Do you have a brolly?' she asked.

'I've come from a desert.'

We grinned and said goodbye.

Barefoot and drenched, my husband, sister-in-law and I bought pedas (sweets) and garlands of hibiscus to offer to Goddess Kali. She was on her lunch break- taking bhog. So, we made the offerings to the closed door. The mafia pundit's demand for more money didn't bother me.

I had met the goddess twice that day and even hugged her once. I was happy to get wet in the rain and eat pedas and step into my sis-in-law's car with muddy feet.

Moments as ordinary as these-
when you see the light in the brush strokes of Kalpana's scrolls
in the depths of  Dithi's kohl rimmed eyes-
make a pilgrim out of me.

Saraswati, Kaali and Durga
reside in you
in me.

This, I'm beginning to see.
Here are a few pictures I did manage to click despite the daze of being dazzled by Dithi:)

the tulsi tea ceremony...


Dithi tells me that these hearts are her teacher's work in progress...

Shakha Paula from Kalighat and cotton saree from Bellur Math- a girl has to shop, right?
Kolkata traffic made sure I enjoyed the rain- every raindrop of it:) green, green and more green...

I have been reading Paradise in Plain Sight by Karen Maezen Miller and as I read, I underline. Here's a quote from this awesome book:

"Once you admit you are lost,everything you see is a sign pointing home."


  1. Amazing read, Arti. Just the breath I needed to catch today, the retreat I longed to take.
    Thank you,

    1. The pleasure is mine April. So glad you could chill a bit. xx

  2. Mesmerized once again, Arti. You have a knack of taking the readers with you and transporting them to a place where you've been and that's a gift :) I love Dithi's work and also loved her home in Geneva from the snippets I saw on FB some years back. So glad you could meet her. Everything in this post right from the tea , the studio, the conversation, the rain, the slush, the pedas and of course meeting the great artist herself......awesome :)

    1. Thank you Reshma:) The joy multiplies when friends can share in the experience. hugs. xx

  3. Envy you your experiences Arthi!

    Enjoy living vicariously through you although one is sorely tempted to visit the places and persons you do..

    Kolkata happens to be Sumit's fave city and am sure he'd enjoy reading this particular blog too.

    Thank you for have 'transported' us once again

    1. The more I enjoy the travels and the people, the more opportunities I get to travel and to meet people:) We visited Xaviers, too. Sumit would've loved it. Maybe, I can write a post about their old school and maybe, we can all go there one day and enjoy the puchkaas and the paan:) xx

  4. Thanks for sharing this, Arti. Your words are truly a work of art. I'm so glad that you like getting lost and being found again, and also that you are comfortable sharing of yourself in such a beautiful way.

    1. Thank you for your kind words Tara. Hearing from you, makes me happy. xx

  5. Arti, this post was such a pleasure to read (and feel). :) The poem is such a work of art. Once again, you had me there with you. Years ago, I went through a difficult period (doesn't everyone?) and after a while, words began pouring out of me - in this same style. Line breaks everywhere. Single thoughts in 3 words. I let it be so and in the end, realized that a story had been told. You have also shared a story here. Your visit with Dithi sounds amazing, and those photos are wonderful. So happy I've 'met' you. :) xx

    1. Hi Pauline. Your comments feel as warm as a hug from an old friend. Thank you...you get me:) I've been away on another travel adventure- just got back and logged on - so happy to see you here. xx

  6. As always your magic with words is amazing, Arti! I am an ardent fan of Dithi and Thank you so much for sharing your meeting with her... Loved going over this story..


    1. Thank you Prasanna. Dithi's art and magic is meant to be shared, no? hugs...xx


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