On top of the hill, we’re looking down on our mill town and talking about roots, how roots are mixed, roots are a tangle, a wood, a thicket, a jungle, how roots are something to search out – and last year, in the car, that friend talked about perfume, oudh, black oil, drops of gold and again we searched, dug deep, looked it up, found Assam.
How to hammer iron nails into agar trees, how we prefer the romantic to the cruel. find the iron nails and that perfumed Assam oil in the land where his family toiled and grew.
‘rub it into your skin, treat yourself, breathe it in, wrap yourself in it’.
From the drizzly hills of the north because you can have it all – far away, close to home techno and folk, jeans and kurta, body and spirit, iron nails and sophistication.
Our backyard, our farms, our forests, our trees. and then we dug deeper, dug up some roots, saw of ashy scars in wounded wood, found out they hammer iron nails into agar trees and brew a ceremony of scent, a drizzle of sacred sap.
This bold, bitter fragrance, tide that flows in the agar tree, tells us more than songs, more than its long story.
Only the discerning know this Assam aroma of powdered bark found in the steepness of the tangled jungle.
Summit stones of Pendle Hill, our breathless listening to the strum of a Baul’s lute.
Mad with rage, mad with joy.
Who will hunt for it with us? and brave the strike of thorns?
This was your grandfather’s’ grandfather’s musky treasure, his lamp of fire, his Kolkata palace, paradise rubbed onto his toughened skin.
We are the Oudh bringers, the sages in jeans of stony streets and perfumed trails.
Rub our black oil from the wounded tree into the nakedness of your wrist.
What do you smell? What do you feel?
It is the black raven and the white-bellied sea eagle, the shimmering pike and the silver hilisha, British granite and Assam quartz, harsh wind that swirls through a mill town, Monsoon deluge after desert months.
Announce our festival of black gold.
Sit down, for what you seek is here –
Our alchemy of agar wood and heat,
Spiritual nectar for city and Bari,
Backyard flair for mayors and poets,
Fragrance of prayer and ambition,
Sufi’s robe, tailored suit, rebirth, reclaim, identity.