My Aunt’s Lollipops


Such divinations were planted in my ears
by my aunt who died on a cloudy day,
spelling out the mantra for absolute cheers
by watching out the omens sent my way.

Cruising for success never comes by
stepping on the broom as you step forth,
setting your eyes on a lone magpie,
stumbling upon the wooden threshold,
feline of any hue crossing your path—
the blacker the cat the deadlier the hail—
or the report of a sneezing stout or frail,
or a lizard tumbling on your right toenail.

Return and wait for a while if you bump
into a one-eyed biped, or a hasty woman
darting like a bee with empty pitchers
and sucking your fortunes to make them richer.
But the grimmest of fates, the most macabre,
is a white-clad widow, a faceless relict,
remember lad, she is an outright robber,
retreat and return if she stalks the street.

But the kindest maid at the end of the lane
sold lollipops to children who so wished,
she dressed in black for her mate was slain,
—a chink in the omen my aunt had hissed.
I sought her the most on the days of the tests
that plagued poor us at quarterly rests,
there was the time when she was down with flu
and I landed straight into the hornet’s nest.
I hid the report from my father’s wrath,
It was also the time my aunt played host
to cancer and fumbled in her parting days,
craving lollipops as she gave up the ghost.



  1. I love to hear these old wise tales. They are fascinating. The superstitions and omens people believe and cling to. I’m sorry your Aunt died such a painful way…a lollipop might have made it a bit sweeter for the moment.
    Lovely writing Uma 🙂

    1. Many thanks for the compliment, Vicki.Those beliefs and voodoos may have originated in the folklores, prejudices and undercurrents of a culture. Both my aunt and uncle (who would follow her soon) were full of those quirks. The end came to her swiftly but she tried to make the most of her parting days.

  2. Well, I must admit I must’ve been brought up in a relatively omenless environment! Although I knew about the black cat. The images of your dying aunt and the kindest lollipop lady have been carved in the slate of my mind. Somehow the simplicity of the rhyme accentuates the pain of the fumbling cancer-dying aunt.

    1. Perhaps you missed out on those eerie thrills, Bruce! In my younger days, they used to both inflate and deflate my expectations. I am glad the poem found a place in your mind.

  3. Exquisite, Uma Shankar. Is it just us Indians that are raised with omens? Or others around the world as well, I wonder. In my childhood, the sight of a funeral procession was a good omen strangely! And the sight of one Myna wasn’t!!

    1. Shubha, being a one-time student of anthropology, I can tell you those superstitions existed in relatively primitive societies where they served as tools of social control also. They make for absorbing studies and stories. I do remember the thing about the funeral procession and I had had the chance to confront many of them being based in Varanasi during my childhood.

    1. In my aunt’s own considered opinion, a crow had planted a slap on her head early in her life, hastening her tryst with the Nada. I guess she had reconciled with her fate!

  4. This is a beautifully written poem, Umashankar, and a loving tribute to your aunt. I’m so sorry cancer took her life. I hope that “craving lollipops as she gave up the ghost,” brought some sweetness to her final days. She seemed to be someone you held in high regard in your youth even seeking her out on certain days. The omens are fascinating. My maternal grandparents from Sicily held many Old World beliefs and put stock in omens too, so I can understand that. Despite the omens, or maybe even because of them, after reading about your aunt, I felt that if I had ever met her, I would have really liked her!

    1. She had a mercurial disposition but she was ever the child at her heart. So I guess, yes, you have liked her! Many thanks for the approval, Madilyn.

  5. I believe that our dead are as alive as we are, only in a different way we cannot comprehend yet. Once people believed that the world was flat, and they had ‘proof ‘. May be our ‘proof’ regards superstitions, omens etc is only our lack of knowledge 🙂

        1. Inese, that is how I’m inclined to think too. Either way, the idea gives me the chills. I fervently hope that somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high there’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby, my aunt is relishing her lollipops, and my father who used to sing nursery rhymes to me, is nodding at the bluebirds.

  6. I knew about a few like, the black cat one, courtesy hindi movies but, this busy-bee lady with empty vessels is a relatively new knowledge and, had since thwarted many a joyful exaltations of my heart simply by her mad dash to some unknown destination! It has never resulted in anything bad but, it never failed to irritate me beyond measure! I curse myself for noticing her, which proves that I was keeping an eye for the empty cans and buckets and pitchers and what not! Whew!
    Nice one. Your verse, I mean. 🙂

    1. Perhaps it harks back to the times when folks would go to waterholes to get them water. But if you pass by areas where people still survive on tanker borne water or taps provided by city councils, you may well run into them, and then you better watch out! ,😀

    1. Many thanks, Karthik. She passed away as I entered my teen years. I remember having met her briefly three or four times in all of her life. I have tried to evoke her fleetingly, the way I knew her.

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