Taste of Childhood by Shanta Acharya



Shanta Acharya was born and educated in Cuttack, India. She won a scholarship to Oxford, where she was among the first batch of women admitted to Worcester College in 1979. A recipient of the Violet Vaughan Morgan Fellowship, she was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy for her work on Ralph Waldo Emerson. She was a Visiting Scholar in the Department of English and American Literature and Languages at Harvard University. The author of twelve books, her publications range from poetry, literary criticism and fiction to finance. Her latest books of poetry are Imagine: New and Selected Poems (HarperCollins, 2017), and What Survives Is The Singing (Indigo Dreams, 2020). www.shantaacharya.com






















Taste of Childhood








My tongue never forgot the taste of childhood –


the piquancy of pineapple, subtle flavours of jackfruit,

burst of honey in sugar palm, date, lychee and starfruit,


tangy zest of tamarind, sweet aftertaste of sour amla,

bitter neem and karela, the astringent bite of jamun –


the tree-climbing, limb-bruising days of magic,

plucking guava, papaya, sapetta, chasing butterflies


in the sprawl of grandfather’s grove that hugged the river

bustling with wild life and islands quivering


with its siege of herons practising their moves

while we spent orgasmic afternoons sucking


mangoes, munching raisins, almonds and cashews,

waiting for a flash of kingfisher’s indigo blue,


sipping nectar, sugarcane juice spiced with ginger –

when the world in your reach was for your pleasure,


and ghar, not bricks and mortar but a state of belonging,

Vilayat, the vast unknown out there, beckoning –


you a sapling born to stay put in the shade

of ancient banyan trees, not travel hopefully.


Who would’ve thought the sparkling laughter

of pomegranates would reduce you to tears,


and the ceremony of cracking open the hard exterior

carry you home to the tenderness of kernel in the belly


of coconuts, the soft, scented pulp of ripe wood-apples,

the tree born from the sweat of a goddess,


its sacred leaves offered in worship, transport you

to the inner sanctum of temples?


Like oranges, apples, bananas and grapes you make

a home of the world, holding your worlds together –


the place of your birth where all your efforts to escape

landed you in a place where all your attempts to belong


always point to a world elsewhere, leaving

you in-between, in the not-this-not-that state of being,


double helix of past and future wrapped round each other,

an afterwardness, dancing to the music of the present.


This persistence of memory is no ordinary thing –

a lifeline like mother’s milk, la dolce vita homecoming.


Shanta Acharya


Song of Praise by Shanta Acharya

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