My first memory of LIGHT
I do not recall,
But my ‘daak naam’ seemed to have
a luminous circle around it.
I guess it pays to choose to come
into the world on days like Diwali.
When I realized that I am actually called LIGHT
I kind of laughed out loud … yeah right!
Light on my feet I am certainly not.
And light as a … feather(?) …no, don’t even go there.

At three, I was fascinated by the streetlight
Outside my Mashi’s house in Kuala Pillah.
The darwan (as my Mesho called him), much to the chagrin
Of my Anglicized cousins, who in unison would say
‘watchman, Baba’.

…. Where was I?
Yes, the darwan , the watchman
would make his rounds tapping his staff.
And stand at the light post – he scared the dayLIGHTs out of me.
Tall, scraggly, uniformed, with a ‘cane; as I saw it.

Next vivid memory is
of Baba getting the ‘kerosene’ lamp to work
whenever there was a power outage …
‘load-shedding’ Ma would say,
And the flickering light
cast shadows on the blank walls.
And I imagined stories
that never could be told.

When much older, it was
the LIGHTing of the pradeep in the puja room
LIGHTing diyas during festivities
especially at Kali Pujo and Diwali
And Xmas trees all lit up
in neighbour’s homes.

Then came the fascination with words – idioms/proverbs
to be LIGHT years away
to cast LIGHT on something
to see the LIGHT of day
and …. Lines from the Good Book – Let there be LIGHT and there was LIGHT

Then rolled in the music –
the bhajans , kirtans, the hymns in the chapel hall,
a LIGHT that never comes;
you LIGHT up my life;
Come on baby, LIGHT my fire… really?

And the voracious reading….from
All the LIGHT you cannot see to
the LIGHT between Oceans that broke your heart,
barely making you grasp
the unbearable LIGHTness of being
in the LIGHT of what we know

One day not too long ago I remember when I said,
“No, there is no LIGHT at the end of the tunnel.”
And an older, wiser one told me,
“You yourself are LIGHT;
you are a lamp.
That’s what you are DEEPA.
It is fine not to be
a flooding LIGHT.
It is totally okay
to be just a ray!”

Daak naam – a name you are addressed by (like a nickname)
Mashi – maternal aunt
Kuala Pilah – a town in one of the states south of Kuala Lumpur
Mesho – maternal aunt’s husband
Baba – father
pradeep – a ‘light’ holder
puja – prayer
Kali Pujo – prayers for the goddess Kali
bhajans – devotional songs
kirtan – songs of praise during worship
Dr. Swagata Sinha Roy has been a facilitator in education for more than 30 years, having worked in educational institutes in Brunei and in different parts of Malaysia. She is interested in reading and writing about, as well as discussing the diaspora, her Bengali roots, issues of identity, narratives for children, and most recently, popular culture and social media toxicity. Currently, she is with a Malaysian university, nurturing her passion to get learners to enjoy the written word. She organizes book and poetry clubs in Kuala Lumpur and enjoys experimenting with different forms of poetry and getting to read poems aloud. For her every poem is a conversation. She is deeply grateful to be extraordinarily ordinary. She can be reached at

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