They were not born in a shell ‘
Water did not caress them to grow
Just the memory of chastity in a drop
Translated mechanically by human hands
Mother of pearl would not adopt
Wet moon did not kiss the natural elements
They did not go through public holy fires
Earth did not break up to hold their suspected
Innocence in her cleavage
Their sheen was a pretense
It could not weather the testing years
They could not balance the dreams
Pushing them to be heavily lower…
They were returned
Considered cheap …
Like the plucked fragrant
Unchaste basil leaves
Out of holy waters……..
Notes: Cultured pearls were first made in China in the 12th century BC by placing a bead in the mantle of an oyster baby mollusk aged 3 or 4 years then nacre is laid by the oyster for 3 years. The only difference is that the mother of pearl is secreted by artificial stimulation and laid in parallel layers and not concentric rings….Tested pearls usually carry less market value.
Basil or tulsi in Hinduism is a chaste wife who is cheated by the God Vishnu . Hence loses her chastity to him since he assumes the avtar of her husband. To atone his sin , Vishnu declares Tulsi to be his dearest flower though she is merely a leaf ….
Both these notes explain the imagery used in this poem that is highly culture specific.