book excerptise:   a book unexamined is wasted paper

Modern Indian Poetry in English

K Ayyappa Paniker (ed)

Paniker, K Ayyappa (ed);

Modern Indian Poetry in English

Sahitya Akademi, 1991

ISBN 8172011237, 9788172011239

topics: |  poetry | india | anthology | english


MEENA ALEXANDER : To Li Ch'ing-chao 22

	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.

KAMALA DAS : Nani 42

	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?
	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.

GAURI DESHPANDE : The Female of the Species 55

	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.

Gauri Deshpande : It comes slow 57

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. 

Nine Poems on Arrival: Adil Jussawalla : 79

        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.

Shiv K Kumar : Indian Women: p.108

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.

Pritish Nandy : Calcutta if you must exile me p.133

	[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

Jadi nirbAsan dAo (যদি নির্বাসন দাও)

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)

Kamati woman : Saleem Peeradina : 149

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.

R. Parthasarathy : Exile 137


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. 

R. Parthasarathy : Trial 140

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
	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
		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
	The voice 						       122
Arvind Krishna Mehrotra
	The sale 						       123
	Genealogy 						       126
Dom Moraes
	Letter to my mother 					       128
	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
Biographical Notes 						       172

amitabha mukerjee (mukerjee [at-symbol] gmail) 2011 Sep 25