The Sea

“Fine salt. Clear salt.
Straight from the sea.
Fine salt. Clear salt.
Come, come, and see.”

On a flat cycle-cart he comes.
And behind him, sitting royally,
Rides his yellow tarpaulin,
Three-breasted as Meenakshi,
The temple deity he lives next to
But never joins palms before.
He has only one palm, you see.
Lost the other in a paper mill.
So, he bows to Jagannath, you see:
The un-armed and de-feeted God
Of unarmed and defeated people
Who still carry a handicap resolve,
Smoking in their big round eyes
As Handi-black as Jagannath’s,
A resolve to move on with life.

“How do you give it today?”
Grandma calls, sitting royally,
On her own plastic lion-throne,
Basking in winter morning glory,
As I sit at her feet pressing them.

“The same, the same, Ma,” he says.
“The same, the same, hunh,” she thinks.
“Should I give the same?” he asks.
“The same, the same, yeah,” she says.

I so laugh every time they do this.
They do this every time so I laugh.
And then he puts his solitary hand
Roughly inside the yellow blouse,
Digs his fingers deep in there
And pulls a handful out.
Dirty-white crystals all:
So out of shape when out of sea.
Not as fine, nor as clear
As they are when out of packs
Of “The Country’s Salt.” Iodised.

“Shall we drink the sea?” she asks.
“With a squeeze of lemon,” I say.
“And with a pothole big,” he adds.
“Then let it be made,” she says.

I bring out the three tumblers steel,
Along with the Handi of wintry water,
And a lemon, sliced in thirds along
“The Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn,”
Just as Mom had taught me once.
He opens his fist in front of me
Into the plate I hold out to him.
I, then, divide the heap into six,
“First by two, then each by three.”
Three for now, three for later.
For Mom, Dad, and Elder Brother
When they come back in the evening.
I pick and tumble three little heaps
Into the three tumblers steel,
Pour the water, squeeze the lemon,
And stir them all so “Fast-fast.
A pothole in the water, see?”
A pothole in our tumbler sea
I make, all happy, all noisy.

“The sea,” she says, smacking lips.
“The sea,” he says, smacking lips.
“The sea,” I say, smacking lips.
And as we laugh, the street laughs.
“The sea,” I claim lifting my Cup.
“The sea,” they all agree and smile.
And so I sing, like every morning:

“Fine salt. Clear salt.
Straight from the sea.
Fine salt. Clear salt.
Come, come, and see.”