Paniker, K Ayyappa (ed);
Modern Indian Poetry in English
Sahitya Akademi, 1991
ISBN 8172011237, 9788172011239
topics: | poetry | india | anthology | english
1. Into her eyes wild geese are vanishing. I rub the glass I stare at this northern snow I read the poems of Li Ch'ing-chao she lived seven centuries ago.
Nani the pregnant maid hanged herself In the privy one day. For three long hours Until the police came, she was hanging there, A clumsy puppet, and when the wind blew Turning her gently on the rope, it seemed To us who were children then, that Nani Was doing, to delight us, a comic Dance... The shrubs grew fast. Before the summer's end The yellowflowers had hugged the deorway And the walls. The privy, so abandoned, Became an altar then, a sunny shrine For a goddess who was dead. Another Year or two, and I asked my grandmother One day, don't you remember Nani, the dark Plump one who bathed me near the well? Grandmother Shifted the reading glasses on her nose And stared at me. Nani, she asked, who is she? With that question ended Nani. Each truth Ends thus with a query. It is this designed Deafness that turns mortality into Immortality, the definite into The soft indefinite.
Sometimes you want to talk about love and despair and the ungratefulness of children. A man is no use whatever then. You want then your mother or sister or the girl you were with whom you went through school. and your first love, and her first child - a girl - and your second. You sit with them and talk. She sews and you sit and sip and speak of the rate of rice and the price of tea and the scarcity of cheese. You know both that you've spoken of love and despair and ungrateful children.
The sea has been like a sewer these many days hastily turbulent, foamy black. At low tide the waves curl slackly up the dark beach their push sucked up by storms, pre-rains at mid seas. The country like a harsh lecherous widow awaits rain that comes slow reluctant to freshen her wrinkled flabby greedy flesh.
Spiders infest the sky. They are palms, you say, hung in a web of light. Gingerly, thinking of concealed springs and traps, I step off the plane, expect take-off on landing. Garlands beheading the body and everyone dressed in white. Who are we ghosts of? You. You. You. Shaking hands. And you. Cold hands. Cold feet. I thought the sun would be lower here to wash my neck in. Contact. We talk a language of beads along well-established wires. The beads slide, they open, they devour each other. Some were important. Is that one, as deep and dead as the horizon? Upset like water I dive for my favourite tree which is no longer there though they've let its roots remain. Dry clods of earth tighten their tiny faces in an effort to cry. Back where I was born, I may yet observe my own birth.
In this triple-baked continent women don't etch angry eyebrows on mud walls. Patiently they sit like empty pitchers on the mouth of the village well pleating hope in each braid of their mississippi-long hair looking deep into the water's mirror for the moisture in their eyes. With zodiac doodlings on the sands they guard their tattooed thighs Waiting for their men's return till even the shadows roll up their contours and are gone beyond the hills.
[This poems appears to be inspired by the Bengali poem "Jadi nirbAsan dAo" by Sunil Gangopadhyay, the refrain of which goes: যদি নির্বাসন দাও, আমি ওষ্ঠে অঙ্গুরী ছোঁয়াবো if you exile me, I shall touch a finger to my lips clearly, the common refrain of exile, and the "touch of your finger on my lips" is rather close. the rest of the poem is quite different. In Gangopadhyay, we find references to rural Bengal - rivers and clouds tinged with mournful light. Nandy is completely urban. Thus the spirit of the poems are quite separate. Nonetheless, much of the power of this poem derives from the refrain. It is on of Nandy's most powerful poems, from a handful that can stand the test of time. however, one wonders if the relationship should have been acknowledged? and about the ethics.... Are Nandy and Sunil still friends, I wonder ] Calcutta if you must exile me wound my lips before I go only words remain and the gentle touch of your finger on my lips Calcutta burn my eyes before I go into the night the headless corpse in a Dhakuria bylane the battered youth his brains blown out and the silent vigil that takes you to Pataldanga Lane where they will gun you down without vengeance or hate Calcutta if you must exile me burn my eyes before I go they will pull you down from the Ochterlony monument and torture each broken rib beneath your upthrust breasts they will tear the anguish from your sullen eyes and thrust the bayonet between your thighs Calcutta they will tear you apart Jarasandha-like they will tie your hands on either side and hang you from a wordless cross and when your silence protests they will execute all the words that you met and synchronised Calcutta they will burn you at the stake Calcutta flex the vengeance in your thighs and burn silently in the despair of flesh if you feel like suicide take a rickshaw to Sonagachhi and share the sullen pride in the eyes of women who have wilfully died wait for me outside the Ujjala theatre and I will bring you the blood of that armless leper who went mad before hunger and death met in his wounds I will show you the fatigue of that woman who died near Chitpur out of sheer boredom and the cages of Burrabazar where passion hides in the wrinkles of virgins who have aged waiting for a sexless war that never came only obscene lust remains in their eyes after time has wintered their exacting thighs and I will show you the hawker who died with Calcutta in his eyes Calcutta if you must exile me destroy my sanity before I go
first stanza: যদি নির্বাসন দাও, আমি ওষ্ঠে অঙ্গুরী ছোঁয়াবো আমি বিষপান করে মরে যাবো । বিষন্ন আলোয় এই বাংলাদেশ নদীর শিয়রে ঝুঁকে পড়া মেঘ প্রান্তরে দিগন্ত নির্নিমেষ- এ আমারই সাড়ে তিন হাত ভূম যদি নির্বাসন দাও, আমি ওষ্ঠে অঙ্গুরী ছোঁয়াবো আমি বিষপান করে মরে যাবো । (see whole poem in sunil gangopAdhyAyer shreShTha kabitA)
Against a motley framework you Emerge bearing stone, return Measure again your infintely slow distance To the rise. Beneath the mounting rise, sometimes, Though you are simply a figure bending Over rubble, the full brown Movement of your body's taut mystery alone Gives stone meaning. From wall's meaning To your own in the shifting shade where Squatting, you house A body close, your breast Fills his need. Your smile lighting Shadows in the sub-regions of your eye disturbs My poem. Somehow, the long sadness You've always held there is stronger Than stone borned at the centre Of this boom. At the concrete center of a city, your turning Face's lone procession rests Again on the small length of movement In the shade. In the given shade He kicks the dust, fingers Stone, never knowing which way you go Or where you come from.
1 As a man approaches thirty he may take stock of himself. Not that anything important happens. At thirty the mud will have settled: you see yourself in a mirror. Perhaps, refuse the image as yours. Makes no difference, unless You overtake yourself. Pause for breath. Time gave you distance: you see little else, You stir, and the mirror dissolves. Experience doesn't always make for knowledge: you make the same mistakes. Do the same things over again. The woman you may have loved you never married. These many years you warmed yourself at her hands. The luminous pebbles of her body stayed your feet, else you had overflowed the banks, never reached shore. The sides of the river swell with the least pressure of her toes. All night your hand has rested on her left breast. In the morning when she is gone you will be alone like the stone benches in the park, and would have forgotten her whispers in the noises of the city.
Over the family album, the other night, I shared your childhood: the unruly hair silenced by bobpins and ribbons, eyes half-shut before the fierce glass, a ripple of arms round Suneet's neck, and in the distance, squatting on fabulous haunches, of all things, the Taj. School was a pretty kettle of fish: the spoonfuls of English brew never quite slaked your thirst Hand on chin, you grew up, all agog, on the cook's succulent folklore. You rolled yourself into a ball the afternoon Father died, till time unfurled you like a peal of bells. How your face bronzed, as flesh and bone struck a touchwood day. Purged, you turned the coiner in a child's steps.
Meena Alexander : Sidi Syed's architecture 20 To Li Ch'ing-chao 22 Hotel Alexandria 25 Keki N. Daruwalla : The night of the jackals 27 On the contrariness of dreams Gulzaman's Son Haranag 39 Kamala Das : Nani 42 Requiem for a son 43 Evening at the Old Nalapat House 45 Of Calcutta The Stone Age The transit at Chiangi [Changi] 51 The wold bougainvilea 53 Gauri Deshpande : The Female of the Species 55 Laying of ghosts 56 It comes slow 57 Nissim Ezekiel : Hymns in darkness 58 Ganga 66 Guru Very-Indian Poem in Indian English 68 Night of the scorpion 70 K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar: Traveller's visa 72 Surrender and Grace Poetry pedlar 77 Adil Jussawalla : Nine poems on arrival 79 The exile's story 80 The waiters 82 To the Tune of a swing in the Municipal Park 83 K.D. Katrak: Locals 84 Ancestors 86 Poet 88 Arun Kolatkar The Bus 89 Ajamil and the tigers Yeshwant Rao Crabs 95 Shiv K. Kumar Broken columns 98 Indian Women 108 P. Lal The old man 109 living is cruel, and loving is crueler, he said. The murderer At noon he broke away by gently closing The grilled gates like passionless flowers. The poet 111 Jayanta Mahapatra Hunger 112 Dawn at Puri A rain of rites The lost children of America Grandfather The voice 122 Arvind Krishna Mehrotra The sale 123 Genealogy 126 Dom Moraes Letter to my mother 128 Gardener Bells for William Wordsworth Pritish Nandy Calcutta if you must exile me 133 Lonesong street 135 Now that we have come back to our broken homes 136 R. Parthasarathy Exile (1,2) 137 Trial 140 Home Coming] 141 Gieve Patel How do you withstand, body 144 On killing a tree Naryal purnima 146 Saleem Peeradina Kamati woman 149 Transition 150 A.K. Ramanujan : Epitaph on a Street Dog 152 Snakes 153 Still another view of grace 155 Death and the good citizen 156 A minor sacrifice 158 At forty 164 Vikram Seth From Golden Gate 167 1:1,4,5,18,19,20,21 13:50,51,52 Biographical Notes 172