Poems by
Kamar Sultana Sheik

The Stove

a poem by Kamar Sultana Sheik

It had looked to me always like some kind of a furnace
Designed for some kind of sacred ritual;

Before the noisy ‘pump’ stove that gave us arm-aches
Before the ‘wick’ and kerosene model that made our fingers burn with blisters
Trying to pull up the wicks through the metal tubes.

Before the sparkling stainless steel
‘Best Flame’ came to my mother’s Kitchen
After many years of a better income.

The simple firewood stove made out of bricks and cement
And a coat of ‘Gobi’*

Meal after meal she made upon it,
Ignoring watering eyes and pouring sweat,
Complaint-less, performing the sacred ritual of preparing
Food for her family.

Every year a day before the 10th of Muharram**
After her evening prayers,
The stove was given a fresh coat of red mud-paste
To herald in the New Year***;
The color stuck to her hands for days…
And in my memory
All these years.

* Gobi – Whitewash with yellow pigment in it; the overall effect is orange
** 10th of Muharram : considered the heralding of the Muslim New Year.
Considered an auspicious date for new beginnings
*** New Year : the 10th of the month of ‘Muharram’ marks the beginning of the
Muslim New Year in the Islamic Calendar