Wednesday 18 May 2022

The Rice Cake Trilogy - Three Poems by Amita Sarjit Ahluwalia (Amita Paul)


The Rice Cake Trilogy 




Such a sober sari in blue and cream checks

Handwoven from Cooptex, my favourite kind

I want to gift it to you for Easter, my friend !

Will you wear it , or generous as always,

Gift it away ?


Such a beautiful sari , fawn, with maroon bootis,

And lavender stripes woven into the border

A pretty pallu, and matching blouse too !

I want to gift it to you for your birthday , dear friend !

Will you wear it , I wonder ? I won’t mind at all

Even if you regift it 

With love !


These tokens of love and respect 

This idea of keeping traditional handicrafts alive 

So deeply ingrained in us ! How they comfort us 

When the world seems to be falling apart !


Forget the heartache. I made you some idli rice cakes

With sambhar lentils, rasam soup and coconut chutney.

Let us continue to cook with love, share with joy,

Pray for peace, and take comfort in our friendship

And in faith, as long as these are granted to us ! 


Blessings upon our sad but beautiful world 

And blessings upon us!





Your illness made me feel so helpless 

I know with greater surety how precious you are 

I have to find a pale green cotton sari 

With thin blue lines on its border 

And tiny sprigs of blossom here and there 

To give to you. A symbol of new life . 

Today when your return from the hospital 

And sit awhile among the mango trees 

And watch the thirsty birds around the tap

Sipping in puddles where the green mint grows 

Sweet scented damask roses will enchant you

And pearly jasmines nestled in thick leaves. 

Someone will cook you rice cakes ,I’ll send grapes. 

I wish you healing . I hope the Koel

Will sing a sweet melody at your window 

Lulling you to sleep. Rest, and find renewal. 

One day, we all must go , but here or there, 

Friends pray for friends , and loved ones for loved ones . We, you and I, and many like us everywhere,

Pray for all, and need all prayers.





Then it arose.

Cool, soft and round as a full summer moon

Light, white and bright in all its pristine beauty 

Emerging from the translucent bridal veil 

Of diaphanous mists of evening rising

From the muggy humid heat of a tropical afternoon

That kills the very desire for sustenance 

Thus did the weightless idli rice cake rise

From the steaming hot pot on a wood-fire 

Glowing gold -orange like a June sunset

Accompanied by fluffy clouds of coconut chutney

Ready to float upon the spicy liquid darkness 

Of a thin lentil , tomato and tamarind rasam 

Tempered with cardamom, cloves and cinnamon 

Curry leaves and star anise , coriander, cummin 

Appetite-whetting black pepper and chilies

Fragrant as the sea breezes from the coasts

Of Coromandel and lush Malabar 

Musky with scents of sandal and allspice

Ready to entrance the languid and the liverish

Uniquely poised to dent their turgid torpor

Singing its siren song to stomach’s stupor

Appealing to all six senses at once 

Ostensibly oozing onomatopoeia

Mixing masked hunger with stirring desire

Thus was the sluggish appetite awakened 

And tempted to the table to partake 

Of idli, rasam, and coconut chutney

On such a night as this rice cake gave ease

“ When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees”

Oh, the sheer pneumatic charm of it !



Amita Sarjit Ahluwalia is the pen name of Amita Paul, a retired civil servant who is at heart a poet and teacher. She writes , mostly poetry, in English, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu. She was awarded the NISSIM International Poetry Award 2019 and then the Reuel international Award 2020 for Non- Fiction Prose, while Destiny International Community of Poets UK, declared her Poet of the Year 2020 as well as Critic of the Year 2020, and again in 2021. Women Empowered India have just declared her their WE Greenheart 2022 jointly with Bengal based poetess Rituparna Khan. Her work has been published in several international anthologies and also in many journals and online magazines such as Das Literarisch, Doaba, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Yugen Quest Review, Setu Bilingual Magazine, GloMag, Fasihi Magazine, and Spillwords, besides twice being among selected featured poems on the global NaPoWriMo Website, once in 2021 and then again recently in 2022.


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