Ten 20th Century Indian Poets
Oxford University Press, 1976/2009, 114 pages
ISBN 0195671627 9780195671629
topics: | poetry | indian-english | anthology
poetry is arrogant, full of herself - a wastrel who thinks nothing of leaving most of the page blank. she is desperately vain, always wanting the limelight.
good poetry anthologies too, must be vain, full of narcissistic conceit. but it takes a rare spirit to carry it off, and Parthasarathy is one of the few who manage to make it with his acerbic dismissal of a century of romantic writers and his fine ear for the contemporary poetic scene.
parthasarathy's acid eye roves over the landscape of indian english poetry, looking for sparkles. but first it must discard the dull and the rusted. you may not agree with his taste always, but you cannot but admire his spunk, dismissing the revered poets of yesterday, ten of them in one page:
toru dutt had talent, and even she is chiefly remembered for one unique poem, 'our casuarina tree':
But not because of its magnificience Dear is the Casuarina to my soul Beneath it we have played; though years may roll, O sweet companions, loved with love intense, For your sakes shall the tree be ever dear! Blent with your images, it shall arise In memory, till the hot tears blind mine eyes ! sarojini naidu: her verse is excellent, but as poetry, it disappoints. .... she has perhaps the finest ear among indian poets for the sound of english, as in this anapaestic tetrameter Lightly, O lightly, we bear her along, She swings like a flower in the wind of a song She skims like a bird on the foam of a stream, She floats like a laugh on the lips of a dream. Gaily, O gaily, we glide and we sing, We bear her along like a pearl on a string. (anapaestic = stress at end of syllable; tetrameter = 4 groups of 3 syllables) aurobindo ghose: today, one seriously questions his outsize reputation. the others (derozio, m ghose, michael): only of historical interest. reading this volume today in the 21st century, i couldn't but agree more. beside the artificial romanticism of the poems, another reason for our disinterest in ancient poems also arises from their choice of poetic themes in the ancient past, as in ghose's savitri or michael's captive ladie (the rajput romance of prithviraj and sanyuktA). this choice of theme reflected the orientalist emphasis on india as nation of ancient glory that had now lost its way, and fit into the imperial myth of a nation that was incapable of governing itself. today's poetry has less of this baggage; it simply tries to tell of our pressing emotions, and tries to invent a language as it goes - as does poetry everywhere.
for parthasarathy, "indian verse in english did not seriously begin to exist until after the withdrawal of the british from india", and the change came about because the verse became indian in sensibility and content, and english in language. it is rooted in and stems from the indian environment, and reflects its mores, often ironically. thus, the poems we write today are indian first, english only later. it breathes the air of india, it walks on its streets, and most importantly, it is written for the indian ear. it is an indian literature, which happens to be written in english. of course, tomorrow's poetry reader may consider these works staid and boring, but today, we can see exactly what parthasarathy feels. the trend started in the 1960s, with the earlier romanticism giving place to individual experience. Starting with Nissim Ezekiel's Quest magazine in Mumbai and PC Lal's Writer's Workshop in Calcutta, and other individuals like the iconoclastic kamala das or the piercing vision of jayanta mahapatra, a number of fora developed for this raw, heart-felt poetry. the experimentation in the mumbai group (ezekiel, mehrotra, kolatkar, jussawalla, patel) formed one canon whereas the Calcutta group showed a more experimental and earthy trend (das, nandy). along with volumes of poetry - mostly self-published for a small reading clientele - a number of anthologies sprang up, reflecting a new vibrancy that had been completely missing in pre-independence poetry. some of this transition was captured towards the end in larger anthologies such as vk gokak's the golden treasury of indo-anglian poetry (1970). but the intensity and passion can be gauged in the more breathless compilations such as subhas saha's an anthology of indian love poetry (writers workshop, calcutta 1976), or pritish nandy's strangertime (hind books, calcutta, 1977). here you can feel the excitement of a new canon of poetry surging through the lines. a more nuanced perspective, though still fired by this new dawn, can be found in selections, such as saleem peeradina's contemporary indian poetry in english (1972), or this very volume. perhaps the maturing of this canon is to be seen in AK Mehrotra's Twelve Modern Indian Poets (1993). today's generation seeks to find is own emerging voice through compilations such as confronting love : poems by jerry pinto and arundhathi subramaniam (2005). while other compilations such as jeet thayil's 60 indian poets, remain too heterogeneous to capture much of a new excitement. parthasarathy ignores the gokak compilation in his review of earlier anthologies. starting with the much earlier volume "india in song" (1920) edited by the classicist and poet e.v. rieu (1887-1972), who was an editor with the OUP in bombay for some years before 1923. the foreword states that it is not generally known that during this century [1817-1920] much good english verse was produced by indians... parthasarathy disagrees strongly, going on to eviscerate most of the ancients as summarized above. what is interesting about good anthologies is the conceit underlying its claims. just as descartes, when he says "i think, therefore i am", is really telling the reader - "you think, therefore you are"; so also the compilers of opinionated, subjective anthologies seem to think that we readers will go along with their claims. one thinks back to Michael Roberts' references on "hostility to poetry" in the Faber book of modern verse
parthasarathy argues his case, that modern english poetry is essentially an indian poetry, by citing from the work of bilingual authors like kolatkar, who "does not use english and marathi for different purposes". that is to say, kolatkar's verse, both in marathi and english, are characterized by the "cryptic, often aphoristic" style which relates to the tradition of bhakti poets such as tukaram, whom he has translated into english: The seventeen lines are congealed In a carpet are deliered In the void of the woman's body Hanging by a rope The goat of glass in the corner Takes a metaphysical leap Transcends the barrier Of the hanged woman's body The empty vase flashes Like the flashgun of a camera And like the heavenly negatives Of the snap of a suicide Issues flowers of blinding light Which burn the spectators's eyes unfortunately, these translations by kolatkar, which predate jejuri, don't seem to be available anywhere.
from intro by Parthasarathy: with a frankness and openness unusual in the Indian context, Kamala Das expresses her need for love. ... an overpowering sense of urgency - her poems literally boil over - After that, love became a revolving-door, When one went out, another came in. The despair is infectious. ... The tone is distinctively feminine.
I have a man's fist in my head today Clenching, unclenching.... I have got all the Sunday evening pains The sea is garrulous today. Come in. Come in. What do you lose by dying, and Besides, your losses are my gains. Oh sea, let me shrink or grow, slosh up, Slide down, go your way I will go mine. He came to me between Long conferences, a fish coming up For air, and was warm in my arms An inarticulate... You are diseased With remembering, The man is gone for good. It would indeed Be silly to wait for his returning. Come in, come in. Oh sea, just leave Me alone. As long As I remember, I want no other. On the bed with him, the boundaries of Paradise had shrunk to a mere Six by two and afterwards, when we walked Out together, they Widened to hold the unknowing city... End in me, cries the sea. 'Think of yourself Living on a funeral pyre With a burning head. Just think. Bathe cool, Stretch your limbs on cool Secret sands, pillow your head on anemones. All through last summer's afternoons we lay On beds, our limbs inert, cells expanding Into throbbing suns. The heat had Blotted our thoughts.... Please end this whiplash Of memories, cries The sea. For long I've waited for the right one To come, the bright one, the right one to live In the blue. No. I am still young And I need that man for construction and Destruction. Leave me .... The sea shall bear some prying and certain Violations, but I tell you, the sea Shall take no more, the sea shall take No more... The tides beat against the walls, they Beat in childish rage... Darling, forgive, how long can one resist? (from The descendants, 1967) [AM: unlike the directness in much of Kamala Das, this poem has a convoluted construction, like a shell picked up from the beach. The sea enters the lines time and again, the waves leaving behind layers of consciousness: a bleached relationship like a dead fish, the tragedies of rememberance, and the woman's need for a man. in the end, the prying sea recedes for the last time, beating against the dyke walls "in childish rage" - but it is ineffective, for the love is not all dead. the poem ends on the same note of ambiguiity that determines the entire poem - an ambiguity hinging on whether the last line is spoken by the man (being rejected) or the woman (needing him still)....
l A poet-rascal-clown was born, The frightened child who would not eat Or sleep, a boy of meagre bone. He never learnt to fly a kite, His borrowed top refused to spin. I went to Roman Catholic school, A mugging jew among the wolves. They told me I had killed the Christ, That year I won the scripture prize. A Muslim sportsman boxed my ears. I grew in terror of the strong But undernourished Hindu lads, Their prepositions always wrong, Repelled me by passivity. One noisy day I used a knife. At home on Friday nights the prayers Were said. My morals had declined, I heard of Yoga and of Zen. Could I, perhaps, be rabbi-saint? The more I searched, the less I found Twenty-two: time to go abroad. First, the decision, then a friend To pay the fare. Philosophy, Poverty and Poetry, three Companions shared my basement room. 2 The London seasons passed me by. I lay in bed two years alone, And then a Woman came to tell My willing ears I was the Son Of Man. I knew that I had failed In everything, a bitter thought. So, in an English cargo-ship Taking French guns and mortar shells To Indo-China, scrubbed the decks, And learned to laugh again at home. How to feel it home, was the point Some reading had been done, but what Had I observed, except my own Exasperation? All Hindus are Like that, my father used to say, When someone talked too loudly, or Knocked at the door like the Devil. They hawked and spat. They sprawled around. I prepared for the worst. Married, Changed jobs, and saw myself a fool. The song of my experience sung, I knew that all was yet to sing. My ancestors, among the castes, Were aliens crushing seed for bread (The hooded bullock made his rounds) 3 One among them fought and taught, A Major bearing British arms. He told my father sad stories Of the Boer War. I dreamed that Fierce men had bound my feet and hands. The later dreams were all of words. I did not know that words betray But let the poems come, and lost That grip on things the worldly prize. I would not suffer thai again. I look about me now, and try To formulate a plainer view: The wise survive and serve to play The fool, to cash in on The inner and the outer storms. The Indian landscape sears my eyes. I have become a part of it To be observed by foreigners. They say that I am singular, Their letters overstate the case. I have made my commitments now. This is one: to stay where I am, As others choose to give themselves In some remote and backward place. My backward place is where I am.
Friends, Our dear sister is departing for foreign in two three days, and we are meeting today to wish her bon voyage. You are all knowing, friends, what sweatness is in Miss Pushpa I don't mean only external sweetness but internal sweetness. Miss Pushpa is smiling and smiling even for no reason but simply because she is feeling. Miss Pushpa is coming from very high family. Her father was renowned advocate in Bulsar or Surat, I am not remembering now which place. Surat? Ah, yes, once only I stayed in Surat with family members of my uncle's very old friend- his wife was cooking nicely .... that was long time ago. Coming back to Miss Pushpa She is most popular lady with men also and ladies also, Whenever I asked her to do anything, she was saying, "just now only I will do it. That is showing good spirit. I am always appreciating the good spirit. Pushpa Miss is never saying no Whatever I or anybody is asking She is always saying yes, and today she is going to improve her prospects and we are wishing her bon voyage. Now I ask other speakers to speak and afterward Miss Pushpa will do the summing up.
the long hooked poles know the nooks and crannies find flaws in stonework or grappling with granite ignite a flutter of unexpected pigeons and the boat is jockeyed away from the landing after a pair of knees has shot up and streaked down the mast after the confusion of hands about the rigging an off-white miracle the sail spreads
because a sailor waved back to a boy another boy waves to another sailor in the clarity of air the gesture withers for want of correspondence and the hand that returns to him the hand his knee accepts as his own is the hand of an aged person a hand that must remain patient and give the boy it's a part of time to catch up frozen in a suit the foreman self-conscious beside his more self-conscious spouse finds illegible the palm that opens demandingly before him the mould of his hands broken about his right knee he reaches for a plastic wallet he pays the fares along the rim of the boat lightly the man rests his arm without brushing against his woman's shoulder gold and sunlight fight for the possession of her throat when she shifts in the wooden seat and the newly weds exchange smiles for small profit
show me a foreman he says to himself who knows his centreless grinding oilfired saltbath furnace better than i do and swears at the seagull who invents on the spur of the air what is clearly the whitest inflection known and what is clearly for the seagull over and above the wwaves a matter of course
the speedboat swerves off leaving behind a divergence of sea and the whole harbour all that floats must bear the briny brunt the sailboat hurl its hulk over burly rollers surmounted soon in leaps and bounds a gull hitched on hump the long trail toils on bringing to every craft a measure of imbalance a jolt for a dinghy a fillip to a schooner a swagger to a ketch and after the sea wall scabby and vicious with shells has scalped the surge after the backwash has reverted to the bulk of water all things that float resume a normal vacillation [...]
his wife has dismissed the waves like a queen a band of oiled acrobats in her shuttered eyes move in dark circles they move against her will winds like the fingers of an archaeologist move across her stony face and across the worn edict of a smile cut thereon her husband in chains is brought before her he clanks and grovels throw him to the wolves she says staring fixedly at a hair in his right nostril. a two-year-old renounces his mother's ear and begins to cascade down her person rejecting her tattooed arm denying her thighs undaunted by her knees and further down her shanks devolving he demands balloons and balloons from father to son are handed down closer to keel than all elders are and down there honoured among boots chappals and bare feet he goes into a huddle with the balloons coming to grips with one being persuasive with another and setting an example by punishing a third
two sisters that came last when the boat nearly started seated side by side athwart on a plank have not spoken hands in lap they have been looking past the boatman's profile splicing the wrinkles of his saline face and loose ends of the sea [...]
the boat courses around to sidle up against the landing the wall sweeps by magisterially superseding the music man an expanse of unswerving stone encrusted coarsely with shells admonishes our sight
Take my shirt off and go in there to do pooja? No thanks. Not me. But you go right ahead if that's what you want to do. Give me the matchbox before you go, will you? I will be out in the courtyard where no one will mind if I smoke.
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.
Not my rival but co-sharer, your saliva is on my lips. Often when she made the gesture you were the prime mover. Just this difference though — while you rose like some giraffe I slouched over worms climbing up diamond-knots of wet grass. Each night I limped into my lone self where the dead croaked like frogs. Now that I give you the rose to keep let me pass through the turnstile into the open fields where riderless horses whinny under the red moon.
Not all of us spoke the same language— some cowered under the sun's threats and the dwindling supplies, others felt amused at the enforced equalities. The bystanders took us for a Persian mosaic of some insidious design. Sometimes the urge to feign was paramount. I pretended ataxia to lag behind and visualize more sharply the road's last, devious curve. The trees on either side would have given us a guard of honour had our leader not defiled them with blasphemies. Then suddenly someone announced that the easiest way to hit the destination was to march crabwise. We were out to span the sky's amplitude— this journey was merely to stimulate the blood. The women mumbled, 'Rest would be haven— indeed.' I was the only one to caution that the gods had trapped us into belief. [online at varnamala, along with Days in New York]
JM explores the intricacies of human relationships, especially those of lovers... there is an unexpected quietude about the poems. He says: What appears to disturb me is the triumph of silence in the mind; and if these poems are inventions, they are also longings amid the flow of voices toward a need that I feel is definitive. A poem makes me see out of it in all directions, like a sieve... Love offers a sort of relief from the uncertainties one has come to expect of life... The economy of phrasing and startling images recall the subhAsitas of classical Sanskrit. p.59
In the darkened room a woman cannot find her reflection in the mirror waiting as usual at the edge of sleep In her hands she holds the oil lamp whose drunken yellow flames know where her lonely body hides. p.60
Walk right in. it is yours. Where the house smiles wryly into the lighted street. Think of the women you wished to know and haven't. The faces in the posters, the public hoardings. And who are all there together, those who put the house there for the startled eye to fall upon, where pasts join, and where they part. The sacred hollow courtyard that harbours the promise of a great conspiracy. Yet nothing you do makes a heresy of that house. Are you ashamed to believe you're in this? Then think of the secret moonlight of the women left behind, their false chatter, perhaps their reminding themselves of looked-after children and home: the shooting stars in the eager darkness of return. Dream children, dark, superfluous; you miss them in the house's dark spaces, how can't you? Even the women don't wear them -- like jewels or precious stones at the throat; the faint feeling deep at a woman's centre that brings back the discarded things: the little turnings of blood at the far edge of the rainbow. You fall back against her in the dumb light, trying to learn something more about women while she does what she thinks proper to please you, the sweet, the little things, the imagined; until the statue of the man within you've believed in throughout the years comes back to you, a disobeying toy and the walls you wanted to pull down, mirror only of things mortal, and passing by: like a girl holding on to your wide wilderness, as though it were real, as though the renewing voice tore the membrane of your half-woken mind when, like a door, her words close behind: 'Hurry, will you? Let me go,' and her lonely breath thrashed against your kind.
Have I to negotiate it? Moving slowly, sometimes throwing my great grief across its shoulders, sometimes trailing it at my side, I watch a little hymn turn the ground beneath my feet, a tolerant soil making its own way to the light of the sun. It is just a mirror marching away solemnly with object and earth, lurching into an ancestral smell of rot, reminding me of secrets of my own: the cracked earth of years, the roots staggering about an impatient sensuality, bland heads heaving in the loneliness of unknown winds. Now I watch something out of the mind scythe the grass, now that the trees seem to end, sensing the almost childlike submissiveness; my hands that tear their familiar tormentors apart waiting for their curse, the scabs of my dark dread. p. 63
--I-- It's yours for the price, and these old bits have character too. Today they may not be available. Naturally I can't press you to buy them, and were I not leaving — You heard the sun choke with an eclipse? — I would never have thought of selling. You may take your time though, and satisfy yourself. This is Europe, that America, this scarebug Asia, that groin Africa, an amputated Australia. These five. I don't have more. Maybe another egg-laying island remains in the sea. You remember in my letter I wrote of forests? They're wrapped in leaves and carrying them shouldn’t be difficult. This skull contains the rivers. About that I'm sorry. Had you come yesterday I could have given you two. I'll take another look. Yes, I do have a mummy somewhere; only last night the pyramids came and knocked at my gate for a long time.
Would you mind if I showed you a few more things now yours? Be careful, one river is still wet and slippery; its waters continue to run like footprints. Well, this is a a brick and we call that string. This microscope contains the margins of a poem. I've a map left, drawn by migrating birds. Come into the attic. That's not a doll — it's the photograph of a brain walking on Sand and in the next one it wears an oasis-like crown. I must also show you a tiger-skin that once hid a palace. On one roof you'll see the antelope's horns, on another the falling wind. These round things are bangles, that long one a gun. This cave is the inside of a boot. And here carved wheels turn through stone.
I wish you had asked me earlier. The paintings have been bought by a broken mirror but I think I can lead you to a crack in the wall. I've a skeleton too. It's full of butterflies who at dawn will carry away the crown. I've also a wheelchair to show you; it belonged to my uncle and one day the hook that hangs from the sky touched him. If you open the cupboard you'll see his memory on the upper shelf and two books now yours: Ruskin's Lectures on Art and A Short History of English Literature by Legouis. I'll take another minute. Can you climb this ladder? Well, that's the sun and moon and with this candle you work the clouds. I'm sorry I was short of space and had to pack the Great Bear in this clock. Oh them, let them not worry you. They're only fisherman and king who will leave soon as one's bait is ready and the other's dominion.
I This is about the green miraculous trees, And old clocks on stone towers, And playgrounds full of light And dark blue uniforms. At eight I'm a Boy Scout and make a tent By stretching a bedsheet over parallel bars And a fire by burning rose bushes, I know half a dozen knots and drink Tea from enamel mugs. I wear khaki drill shorts, note down The number-plates of cars, Make a perfect about-turn for the first time. In September I collect my cousins’ books And find out the dates of the six Mughals To secretly write the history of India. I see Napoleon crossing the Alps On a white horse. II My first watch is a fat and silver Omega Grandfather won in a race fifty-nine years ago; It never works and I've to Push its hands every few minutes To get a clearer picture of time. Somewhere I've kept my autograph book, The tincture of iodine in homeopathy bottles, Bright postcards he sent from Bad Ems, Germany. At seven-thirty we are sent home From the Cosmopolitan Club, My father says, ‘No-bid,’ My mother forgets her hand In a deck of cards. I sit reading on the railing till midnight, Above a worn sign That advertises a dentist. III I go to sleep after I hear him Snore like the school bell: I'm standing alone in a back alley And a face I can never recollect is removing The hubcaps from our dull brown Ford. The first words I mumble are the names of roads, Thornhill, Hastings, Lytton; We live in a small cottage, I grow up on a guava tree Wondering where the servants vanish After dinner, at the magic of the bearded tailor Who can change the shape of my ancestors. I bend down from the swaying bridge And pick up the river Which once tried to hide me: The dance of torn skin Is for much later.
--1-- Mortal as I am, I face the end with unspeakable relief, knowing how I should feel if I were stopped and cut off , Were I to clutch at the air, straw in my extremity, how should I not scream, 'I haven't finished?' Yet that too would pass unheeded. Love, I haven't the key to unlock His gates. Night curves. I grasp your hand in a rainbow of touch. Of the dead I speak nothing but good. [p.77] --2-- 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 Suneeti'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. [p.78] --7-- It is night alone helps to achieve a lucid exclusiveness Time that had dimmed your singular form by its harsh light now makes recognition possible through the opaque lens. Touch brings the body into focus restores colour to inert hands, till the skin takes over, erasing angularities, and the four walls turn on a strand of hair. [p.78] --9-- A knock on the door: you entered undressed A knock on the door : you entered. Undressed quietly before the mirror of my hands. Eyes drowned in the skull as flesh hardened to stone. I have put aside the past in a corner, an umbrella now poor in the ribs. The touch of your breasts is ripe in my arms. They obliterate my eyes with their right parabolas of gold. It's you I commemmorate tonight. The sweet water of your flesh I draw with my arms, as from a well, its taste as ever as on the night of Capricorn. It's two in the morning: my thoughts turn to you. With lamp and pen I blow the dust off my past. Come in, and see for yourself. It's taken thirty odd years. Now, a small hand will do. [p.79]
It was the August heat brought the stars to a boil, and you asked me about constellations. Yet, by itself, your hand was a galaxy I could reach, even touch in the sand with my half-inch telescopic Fingers. Overwhelm the flight of human speech. Thus, celebrate something so perishable, trite. [p.80]
Preface Acknowledgements Introduction Keki N. Daruwalla from Under Orion, 1970: from The Epileptic The Ghaghra in Spate 14 And every year the Ghaghra changes course turning over and over in her sleep. [...] from Ruminations from Apparition in April, 1971 Fire-Hymn Routine from Crossing of Rivers, 1976: Death of a Bird Under an overhang of crags fierce bird-love the monals mated, clawed and screamed; the female brown and nondescript the male was king, a fire-dream! My barrel spoke one word of lead; the bird came down, the king was dead, or almost dying; his eyes were glazed, the breast still throbbed. [...] Kamala Das from Summer in Calcutta, 1965: The Freaks My Grandmother's House 23 A Hot Noon in Malabar 24 The Sunshine Cat 25 from The Descendants. 1967: The Invitation 26 The Looking-glass Nissim Ezekiel from The Unfinished Man__, 1960 Enterprise From The Exact Name, 1965: Philosophy Night of the Scorpion Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher The Visitor from Hymns in Darkness, 1976: Background, Casually Goodbye Party for Miss Pushpa T.S. Poem of the Separation Arun Kolatkar from manuscripts: the boatride 41 from Jejuri, 1976 48 Makarand 51 Shiv K. Kumar from Cobwebs in the Sun, 1974: Indian Women 54 My Co-respondent 54 Pilgrimage from Subterfuges, 1976: Days in New York Kali Jayanta Mahapatra from A Rain of Rites, 1976: Indian Summer A Missing Person 60 The Whorehouse in a Calcutta Street 61 from manuscripts: The Logic Grass Lost Arvind Krishna Mehrotra from Middle Earth, 1984: The Sale Continuities A Letter to a Friend from Nine Enclosures, 1976: Remarks of an Early Biographer R. Parthasarathy from Rough Passage, 1977 from Exile from Trial from Homecoming Gieve Patel from Poems, 1966: On Killing a Tree 86 Servants 87 Nargol 88 [every year, an ex-servant comes begging when he visits the native village] This time you did not come To trouble me. I left tthe bus Wiping dust frm my lashes And did not meet you all the way Home. [...] Cruel, you're cruel. From a village full of people She has chosen me; year after year; Is it need Or a private battle? At the end it is four annas — Four annas for leprosy. It's green To give so much But I am a rich man's son. She cringes -- I have worked for your mother. She hasn't -- You come just once a year. All right, a rupee. She goes. ... Was it not defeat after all? Personal, since I did not give, I gave in; wider -- there was No victory even had I given. [...] Naryal Purnima from How Do You Withstand, Body, 1976: Commerce O My Very Own Cadaver A. K. Ramanujan from The Striders, 1966: Looking for a Cousin on a Swing A River from Relations, 1971: Of Mothers, among Other Things Love Poem for a Wife Small-scale Reflections on a Great House Obituary Select reading list 108 Index of titles 111 Index of first lines 113