Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Amita Sarjit Ahluwalia writes


Abendessen, warm
Warmer Kartoffelsalat

And I think of the Potato Eaters
The oil sketch at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo,
The compassion in each line
The vivacity in every brush stroke
In the darkness
A little light
And warm food
Is enough
With family
And friends at the bare table
Innocent of cover, or trimmings

The pair of shoes
Wrinkled with age
Old work shoes at the flea market
Walked through the mud till filthy
Mud encrusted in every crack and fold
Of the twisted leather
What feet 

What hands what stomachs and what eyes
Little by little
Dot by dot
Stroke by stroke
A dazzling mind
On the brink of darkness, always
Never valued
Desperately poor
Desperately seeking a sign

Comfort to millions
Till this day
In another millennium
176 years later
At the thirtieth
You wrote
“got a guilder from you to buy a pair of cufflinks
Many thanks, old chap, but you shouldn’t have 
you need your money more than I do...

..had a very pleasant day, because just then I had an excellent model for a digger “
What would you have made of the worn out soles
Of the red rubber chappals of a young boy
Who had walked 993 miles to reach home
Quarantined another 100 miles away
And grateful
It was not he who was shot like a dog for informing
Of who came with him in the long march
Following government orders
About flouting government orders
The blood red
Like crushed mulberries
That a mother’s hands wept to touch
Splattered on her corpse-embracing breast
Mother, I am not he
Mother, I am still sitting on an iron cot
Watched by a policeman
Though I committed no crime
Not even a non crime
Ear bleeding from my own knife

The Lust,
For Life

Mother, don’t cry
They gave me warm aloo chokha for lunch
And a mound of hot rice
It felt like your hand on my cheek
When I was leaving home
Already dreaming
Of my return
And new slippers for your feet
And full sacks of rice and potatoes
For the winter

I’m coming home, Mother
And never again shall I leave
We shall all become the soil of our own village, Mother
And from our clay shall potatoes grow
For a hundred and seventy six years
And more

We, who eat today
We, who toil everyday
We, who mingle with clay
Tomorrow and yesterday
That the world might eat
Mother, are potatoes, meat?

Clay, buried in warm mushy potatoes
Potatoes, growing out of clay 

You may -

Who’s to stop you?
Who’s to say?
Where is the harm? -
Of Abendessen. Warm.
De Aardappeleters (The Potato Eaters) -- Vincent van Gogh

1 comment:

  1. Abendessen is a light evening meal; Kartoffelsalat is potato salad. Aloo chokha is an Indian side dish made from mashed potatoes garnished with onion, green chilies, coriander leaves, garlic, mustard oil, and lemon juice.

    The original oil sketch of "De Aardappeleters" is in the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, a small Dutch village in the province of Gelderland. Van Gogh worked on it from March to April 1885. He told his brother Theo "I really have wanted to make it so that people get the idea that these folk, who are eating their potatoes by the light of their little lamp, have tilled the earth themselves with these hands they are putting in the dish, and so it speaks of manual labor and — that they have thus honestly earned their food. I wanted it to give the idea of a wholly different way of life from ours — civilized people. So I certainly don’t want everyone just to admire it or approve of it without knowing why." His friend and mentor Anthon van Rappard criticized it, causing van Gogh to respond "I am always doing what I can't do yet in order to learn how to do it." Two years later he told his sister that it was "the best thing I did." In Decenber 1888 he was hospitalized after cutting off his left ear with a razor, wrapping it in paper, and delivering it to a prostitute.


Join the conversation! What is your reaction to the post?