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Indian literature, 227, May-June 2005

Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee and Sahitya Akademi

Bhattacharjee, Nirmal Kanti; Sahitya Akademi;

Indian literature, 227, May-June 2005

Sahitya Akademi 2006

ISSN 00195804

topics: |  critic | fiction-short | poetry | india | anthology

The cover highlights these articles:

    In memoriam : C.D. Narasimhaiah
    		    Ramachandra Sharma
    Masters: U.R. Anantha Murthy
    From Manipur:  Poetry in the Time of Terror
    	   (I expected a selection of verse from Manipur; but this turns out
	    to be Robin Ngangom's musings on his poetic career.  Also, a
	    selection of his poetry, separately).


Revathy Gopal : I Would Know You Anywhere

		p. 21
I would know you anywhere
even as a line drawing,
with just a suggestion
of broken tusk.
A mischievous arc
of belly and trunk,

I know you in stone
and wood. Terracotta
is fine; once in someone's
living room, I saw you
made in jade
with the light trapped inside.
In shops sometimes,
they seal you
in plastic.

Even on a crowded, noisy street
you make
an area of stillness
around you.
I stand in a trance
watching the dance.

One leg hefted high,
or in the indolence
after sleep,
balancing your elephantine
head in your hand.

Renegade, clown, purveyor of dreams,
dispeller of darkness, arbiter of destinies,
you stand just beyond
my angle of vision,
untamed, unclaimed.

Robin S. Ngangom : Revolutionaries

Before they used terror when things were beginning to go out of control and
people showed aberrant behaviour, revolutionaries had asked poets in their
lower ranks to compose patriotic songs for a country that cannot be found
on any map. They would even coerce nocturnal drivers of interstate buses to
play tapes of one-act plays that are designed to make unsuspecting
passengers weep with patriotic shame. I know this for real; I grew up with
revolutionaries. They had even asked me to translate a press release over
the phone.

Before he became the sharpshooter of a revolutionary band, my childhood
friend smelled of straw and cattle; and then one day he bridled a horse and
rode it hard through a busy marketplace, scattering customers and traders
alike like straw in a gale. I was told that he buried a pistol in my
cousin's backyard just before he went under the ground. Only after he came
over ground with the venerable title ’teacher’, because he was trained by
Chinese masters, did I meet him on the street, and he smelled of designer
clothes. He now keeps himself occupied with work contracted out by the
public works department, and once asked me if I was married. He has two
wives, one of them an actor.

Before the crackling fire of revolution which warms the hearts of boys we
sat in a circle and talked endlessly about oppressors and life in the
jungle. Friends brought stories of the ordained, who survived on roots and
eggshells. We looked at Che's hammock with longing and even mixed his
cocktail but had no idea of when to dig a tank pit. When little books with
a star and red skins appeared it was too late for me. I had fallen in love,
and although it broke my heart, my father sent me to another land with
gentle hills, so that I can read other books which will make me stand on my
bourgeois feet.

When they are not around, they become butts of fun. The roving story then
was of a wastrel who went home after midnight because he had wasted all his
time with his layabout friends around a fire one winter night. He had to
cross a walled house guarded by fierce dogs to reach his home. When the
owner of the house who was woken up by the dogs asked, "Who goes there?"
the wastrel found his wits and replied, "In the service of the motherland",
in a solemn voice as one would expect a revolutionary to reply.

When they became arbiters when someone's duck was stolen or two women were
fighting over one man, I stopped being furious with them.

You should write when you can still laugh at yourself and the world, before
you give yourself up to despair.

Vivek Narayanan: Ode to prose

	 (for Ratika)

 For we long for the vertical reach of verse,
 its first-dipping rise into the blue,
 its way of fixing the stars in their firmament --

 for we are at home in the world sometimes --

 ...but on other days the dark pebbly-smooth noun-stones in a well of
        prose will do;
 prose straining towards the spirit of prose,
 prose that rarely walks unplanted, scythe among the stalks,
 prose that in the rainbow-arching reach of the line rolls into plain
        view, like a hippo, like a tank, like a combine-harvester drawing
        steadily across;

 that prose is the mat we slept on,
 the only heart we can trust if only because it beat so firmly,
 that prose is black bread, the grain we power our machines with,
 that prose is not averse to philosophy,
 that it pulls back from sophistry

 ...that one day among those Socratic contractors and their forklifts,
 the elephants devoted to their granite blocks and their mahout,
 the tracts of arable land as seen from the sentinel's smug cabin,
 near the marketplace, bursting with spoiled tomatoes, tasty slabs of meat

 among all this, or in the stable near the pigs,
 in the hour of the blood sacrifice,
 at the moment of that offering,
 humble, hewn from a human hand

 that quadrangular prose, at that very moment, be born.

Vivek Narayanan: Elegy for Silk Smitha

She's the slut
among white hippies on the beach,
behind the campfire, hot pants
and an upright pony tail
for style; she's the dancer
in metallic feathers
and red plastic shoes. Foil
to the gangster's bait, the woman
you never brought home
to mother, she is
and is not
the salt of what she is.

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This review by Amit Mukerjee was last updated on : 2015 Sep 18