Shoka Sonjuku sketch by Dibyasree Nandy
A Beacon Under the Pines
by Dibyasree Nandy
Based on ‘Shoka Sonjuku’ which translates to ‘village school under the pines’, run by Yoshida Shoin, the teacher responsible for creating several nationalists, or ‘Ishin Shishi’, people who were instrumental in ending the Tokugawa Shogunate rule.
The nation aflame with red
Serenely he walked, footsteps measured
Shadows of the pines left in his wake
Enshrouded by the veil of dusk, murk’s leaden bed.
A wee child in maroon and olive ran after him
Trapped the boy was by the darkness and the twilight
But the teacher turned around and smiled, the first ray seen through the barren branches on a
dawn of silent white
The blight faded, a little palm was gently held as they strolled past the mills and rice fields,
waterlogged to the brim.
So many children with brushes and ink
He bent down before every pupil, helping them hold the pen
An angelic countenance, wings cruelly slashed
Planting a garden of carmine camellia, he waited for the edge of the nib to sharpen,
instructing about what lies beyond the brink.
Akin to the Sol he was
The fledglings drawn to his orbit, their compass in the gloom
Not a master but a father
Stardust dancing on their faces, the students huddled by him, sleeping peacefully,
dreams devoid of narrow-minded bourgeois.
“What shall we learn next?
“In this era of erupting fireworks, the past shan’t aid us, but the scrolls of the militia
The new wind brings maples with it, so let us study about the golden season yonder, over and
above the text.”
If tides curled around their feet, his firm strides can’t be erased
The rim of his mauve clothes glimmered like diamond beneath the moon’s glow filtering
through the bristles
As the little ones hugged him and laughed
His clear irises focussed evermore on an untainted day; expression unfazed.
“Teacher, you forgot to tell us… What shall we do should you ever go?”
“You will get lost, you will stumble in the mist
But on the barks of the trees, the answers are etched
Your path shall lead you back here, your home beneath the pines; that, I do know.”
He only saw chubby faces with wide eyes of innocence
While he knelt on the ground, hands behind
No signs of distress as many made him lower his head
For he envisioned the rise of banners high, the shattering of the eon tense.
Dibyasree Nandy began writing three years ago while pursuing the final semester of M.Tech. She has authored poetry and short-story collections as well as full-length fiction. Her individual pieces have appeared in fifty anthologies and literary journals. An admirer of Japanese culture, she has begun learning the language. A patient of acute epilepsy, she lives in Kolkata with her parents and grandma.