Grannies, Groins & Growing up: Sonnets from Early Memoriesby The Daily Eye News Desk July 17 2020, 6:16 am Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins, 38 secs
The experiences in Farrukh Dhondy's childhood that formed the man are worked into a collection of sonnets that are fun, charming, full of scabrous humor, exciting and above all a real treat to read and savor.
Farrukh Dhondy is a best selling novelist, translator, commissioning editor, historian and playwright.
Those who already know Farrukh's writing won't be at all surprised at the details, the wicked insights into human nature and the panorama of characters that peopled his early life in India - and they will be delighted at the way his use of the sonnet is so rich and so transparent. This book is one of a kind - reflecting Farrukh's joyful attitude to life and his breadth of understanding.
Chandri – (A Sonnet): An excerpt
In nineteen twenty they began to pave
The road outside our urban neighbourhood
In Poona, where my family’s home stood.
Our municipal corporation gave
The contract to British road engineers
Who in turn hired a labouring crew
To drive steam rollers and make women strew
The stones over the dust of thousand years.
The work was welcomed when it was begun
A sign our town had joined the modern age.
Among those workers on a daily wage
Was a young girl called Chandri. She was one
Of the gang who from their relentless task
Would come to my great grandmother to ask
If they could drink some water from the tap
In our front yard – and this girl thought she’d say
That being low-caste she’d been turned away
Thirsty but now she said no such mishap
Could break her spirit because she had seen
The worst of what her karma had decreed
Her unfortunate birth had sown the seed –
None should regret the life that might have been.
My great grandmother said, “We have no caste
We are Parsis, and you are welcome to
The water from the tap.” The young-girl crew
Would use the tap in work-breaks. Then at last
The road was done, the machines, workers, all
Left, leaving one girl sitting by our wall.
My grandmother, a vahu* of the clan,
With four daughters of her own, came upon
This girl and asked her why she hadn’t gone
With the others? So Chandri said the man
In charge of recruitment made overtures –
They had to fuck him if they wanted work.
He forced himself on her – she went berserk
And kicked him away – all of sixteen years!
My grandma asked her if she’d now return
To wherever she came from. She spoke
A rural Marathi. Where were her folk?
She said she had no folk and had to earn
Her living. Her karma was bad. She said,
“Sleep with that bhadwa**? I’d rather be dead!”
* Daughter-in-law ** Pimp
My grandma said that she could spend the night
On our veranda and she would provide
Her with food and bedding. “You can decide
Tomorrow what you’ll do. You were quite right
To resist such advances from that swine.
Didn’t the white sahibs who were in charge
Of the whole project suspect, by and large
What was going on?” “And do what? Undermine
The recruitment of women carriers
Of stone?” It was the accepted basis.
The mukkadams* could hire and dismiss
Girls at their whim, there were no barriers.
“The sahib bhenchods** wouldn’t interfere—
So their cowardice has landed me here.”
* Foreman ** Sister-fuckers
My mother was at the time ten years old –
Her three younger sisters aged one to six
And four cousins the same age in the mix
Made for a fairly riotous household.
My grandmother and her sister-in-law
Proposed to Chandri that she remain there
And be their ayah* helping with the care
Of my mother’s younger sisters and four
Cousins. She gratefully said she would stay
And soon became part of the family
Telling the elders why she had to flee
And what she had to risk to get away.
She was orphaned before she was quite ten
And taken in by an uncle who then
Sold her in a “marriage” to an old man
Who accepted her as his virtual slave
Herding the family cattle. He gave
Her leftovers to eat and soon began
To use her body in ways she described
As torture which ended when he fell ill.
He caught smallpox and died and in his will,
Entrusted to his mother, he prescribed
The ceremonials she should undergo
To purify her to commit suttee*
On his funeral pyre so that he
Could avail of her in heaven and so
That she wouldn’t be a burden on those
He left behind. They thought that all widows
* The custom of widows immolating themselves on their husbands’ funeral pyres
The book, published by Bite-Sized Lifestyle Books, is available on Amazon. You can follow the link here to access it:
Bite-Sized Lifestyle Books are designed to provide insights and ideas about our lives and the pressures on all of us, and what we can do to change our environment and ourselves.
They are deliberately short, easy to read, books helping readers to gain a different perspective. They are firmly based on personal experience and where possible successful actions and aren’t academic or research based.