Cup of Tea
Naru Dames Sundar

A cup of tea lies in a treacherous cleft of quiet neutrality,
Oxford china perched in the hands of the lapel-starred general,
Sitting on dust clotted wicker in the veranda (not his veranda)
Of her house. Her — bone weary, trembling, hidden by
Palm leaf shade, in the dusky sedge behind jacaranda blooms.

Aunty, come join us, quiet peaceful contemplation, tea and lamprais
still steaming from banana-leaf shells. Come sit in your chair
(The one we dragged from your living room, wicker legs dragging
across the kolam swirl on the floor). Come drink your tea
(Oxford tea, poured from the tin in your kitchen, sent by your
Oxford son, with his pretty words — oh yes his words)

Two cups of tea lie abandoned in the veranda shade
One nothing but dregs, a wisp of water sodden leaves
The other full and steaming, poured just for her
Bergamot and dark honey and scant tears of milk
So tempting to sit and drink, to drag bone weary
Onto the wicker and the memory of times past.

But no, the cup of tea is not neutral. The cup of
Tea gained allegiance from pot to cup, gained
The stamp of them and us, and this oxford tea,
Most decidedly them. Most decidedly not us.
Beyond the veranda, past mangrove and palm
In the crosshatched shadow between blades,
The eyes that watch, the bone swords of order,
The keepers of division, the ideologists
For whom neutral is as foreign as chocolate
As foreign as colonial tread, as foreign as peace.

A cup of tea, tainted. And so she lifts it up
High on spindly limbs, like offerings couched in
Coconut shells, lift up and then upturned,
Stream of amber falling to earth, allegiance
Spilt to ground, watering a wide field seeded with
Fear.

___

एक कप चिया
नरु डेम्स सुन्दर

एक कप चिया ढोंगी तटस्थताको आडमा छ।
उनको आँगनमा तग्माधारी जनरल
धुलो बुनेको छडीको कुर्सिमा
हातमा अक्सफर्ड कप लिदै बसेका छन्।
उनि — ख्याउति, त्रसित, भँगेरी फूलको पछि,
पाल्मका छाऊमा काप्दै, लुकेकी छे।

काकी, आउनुस् हामी सँग, शान्त मनन गरौ,
लिउ चिया र तात्-तातो लाम्प्रीस केराको पातमा।
आउनुस् बस्नुस् आफ्नो कुर्सीमा
(हामीले त्यो छदिको कुर्सि
तपाइको बसाई कक्षबाट
भुइँको रंगोली हुदै घसेती ल्याएका।)

आउनुस्, आफ्नो चिया लिनुस
(अक्सफर्ड चिया, तपाईकै भान्साको टिन बाट खनाएको,
तपाईंको अक्सफर्ड छोराले पठाएको,
उसको सुन्दर वचन संग – हो, उसको वचन।)

दुई कप चिया आँगनको छाउमा त्यसै छ।
एउटा खाली केही चुस्की पानि र चिया पट्टि
अर्को तात्-तातो र भरि, उनको प्रतिक्षामा,
बर्गमोंत र गाधा मह अनि दुधको केहि आशुं-थोपा,
मचानमा आरामले बसेर, खुब पिऊन मन लाग्ने,
हड्डी-गल्ने थकान हराउने, बिगत सम्झाउने।

अंह होइन, यो चिया कप तटस्थ छैन।
चिया भाडा बाट यसले गुलामी सिक्यो,
नागरिक र बहारियाको भेद बुझ्यो:
यो अक्सफर्द चिया
सबै भन्दा बिरोनो रे,
हाम्रो कहिल्यै नहुने।

मानग्रोव र पाल्मको धारिलो छाया देखी पर
हड्डी-तलवारको हुकुम मान्ने पहेरादरका आँखा —
भागवन्डाका रखवाला, जसका लागि तटस्थता
चकलेट जस्तै बिरानो छ,
उपनिवेशकको जुत्ताको सोल,
र शान्ति जस्तै फरेन।

यो कप कलंकित छ।
आफ्नो लामा कद ठड्याएर,
उनि चिया कप उठाउछिन्
र धर्तीमा खनाउछिन्,
सत्ताको भक्ति माटोमा टुंगिन्छ
त्रसित मैदानबाट खोलोझैँ
एम्बेरको लहर बग्दछ।

Translated in Nepali by Salik Shah

Note: To help correct or improve the above translation, please email your comment or revised draft to the editor.

SUBSCRIBE Patreon | Weightless Books
PURCHASE  Gumroad | Amazon | B&NWeightless
 | IN

Naru Dames Sundar
Naru Dames Sundar is a writer of speculative fiction and poetry. His works have appeared in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed and PodCastle. You can find him online at www.shardofstar.info and on twitter as @naru_sundar.
Salik Shah
Salik Shah is the founding editor of Mithila Review. His poetry, fiction and nonfiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Strange Horizons, Asimov’s Science Fiction and Juggernaut, among other publications. You can find him on Twitter: @Salik Website: salikshah.com