I had my first introduction with islands
On the pages of my atlas
When I tried to fathom why certain small chips
Floated away from the mainland which housed their kin.
Or, was it that they were born desolate, distant and different;
And their exile an outcome of an unwelcoming mainland
That treated them as outcasts?
The Geography syllabus at school made sure I stopped these musings
And learnt how to circle islands on a blank world political map
Neatly with a blue pencil while labelling them in perfect black block letters.
I learnt about their shapes, sizes, geographical coordinates;
Whether they were of tidal origin, or were created when
A coral or an underwater volcano decided to bloom.
History taught me that they were exceptionally useful as prison sites;
But it didn’t reveal
If the islands ever felt imprisoned themselves
With the vast nothingness of the ocean enclosing them like an unperforated salt shaker.
Did the islands want to be freed and incorporated ?
Or were their isolation self-imposed and a mark of defiance?
No one told me.
In college, I found myself floundering in a sea of literature
Which took me to the shores of
Donne’s No Man is an Island and Arnold’s To Marguerite: Continued.
One said that “man” cannot live like an island without interacting with others,
“He” cannot stay deprived of community life.
The other claimed in response:
Sure, “man” cannot live in remoteness, in alienation,
But like an island “he” has to,
While knowing the joys of human proximity all too well.
I realised poets most certainly are visionaries.
Or humans have been damned islands all along;
The virus just drowning the isthmus of redemption in between
Like the rising sea level.
Dimitri Mallik is a 20-year-old undergraduate student of English Literature in St Stephen’s College, University of Delhi. She hails from Kolkata and is capable of feeling with her soul.