Maa

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Maa never wore a shalwar kameez.
She passed the year in two pairs of green saris
Abbajan got her.
She walked like a machine around the house all day
de-husking paddy, bringing water, cooking two meals a day-
she did all of these every day till the end.

When guests came, she didn’t offer them a seat on the sofa
but brought out a pira instead.
She didn’t say, ‘Will you have a cold or hot drink?’
Sometimes, it was a cup of tea, a ‘cookies’ biscuit
or a glass of lemonade- all offered with great love.

The poet’s maa recently passed away, living over ninety springs on earth.

My mother didn’t know the first curve of
the first letter of the alphabet.
Still, while burning half-dried firewood in the kitchen,
the water from her eyes meeting the water from her nose,
she shouted, ‘Little one, I can’t hear the sound of your reading.
Read my little one, concentrate. Education is priceless.’

My mother didn’t know what ‘Women’s Day’ was
but always set a plate of rice aside
for the widowed mother of our neighbour Heena.
Because he tortured his wife,
she called Shakil from the neighbourhood and rebuked him.
‘If I hear that you have troubled your wife again
It will not be good for you,’ she said.

To this day, maa passes on the fruits we beg her to eat
to her grandchildren.
To this day, my mother’s favourite foods are
wild ferns from the fields
and red rice with curds or milk.

This is why, though my mother
has lived more than ninety springs,
she still keeps us under her shade
like an ancient banyan tree.

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Dr Hafiz Ahmed
Dr Hafiz Ahmed

Dr Hafiz Ahmed was born in a Bengal-origin Assamese Muslim family in a remote village in Barpeta district of Assam. He has written fourteen books in Assamese including two poetry collections. Dr Ahmed is a well-known social activist in Assam. He was awarded the M. Elim Uddin Dewan Memorial Literary Award in 2015 for his contribution to Assamese literature and the Swahid Alif Uddin Memorial Award in 2017 for his struggle for the preservation of rights of the marginalized communities in Assam.

In early 2016, when Dr Hafiz Ahmed posted a poem 'Write Down, "I'm a Miyah"" on Facebook, it caused a sensation and several Assamese Muslims started sharing their experiences of discrimination. Soon, these poets got together to start a movement called Miyah Poetry, using the word 'Miyah' (Assamese slang for Bengali Muslims) subversively in order to assert their identities.

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