In honour of the National Poetry Writing Month, April 2017, The Mumbai Meter selects a poem for each day of the month, written by poets from and in Mumbai. This week’s selection is curated by Ishaan Jajodia, the founder & head curator of The Mumbai Art Collective.
Saturday, April 1: Shame (Anu Elizabeth Roche)
Anu performs Shame with grace and elegance, carrying the poem effortlessly. She described Shame in a piece for The Mumbai Meter:
“Shame” was born out of frustration at two things: men urinating in public, and women getting catcalled. The two may not seem all that connected, but in my mind it seemed as if both these activities were rooted in shame and entitlement. A man who peed in public felt entitled not only to defile a public place, but also didn’t feel the kind of shame women were expected to show with their private parts. Women who were catcalled were frequently admonished and blamed for being out in public, wearing certain clothes, having certain body parts show. Often, some of them learned to walk with measured, guarded steps, holding their bodies as if it was something not meant to be seen.
Anu’s piece, performed, is a masterstroke. Before talking about sexuality and the body promised a piece viral status, Anu was brave enough to face the odds and perform such a work, something that I really appreciate.
Sunday, April 2: Untitled, for NaPoWriMo Day 1 (Tamarind Fall)
The wind is fresh and sharp but I’m gasping for breath.
The world is spinning into hurricanes and tornadoes.
The world is hauntingly still.
My chest is tightening as I suffocate,
My lips, shivering, turning blue.
I can’t remember a time when my lungs didn’t know poison.
I can’t remember a time when I opened my mouth to speak, and didn’t swallow my words to feed my anxiety.
And somewhere in my chest, reverberates a bitter hollowness.
Somewhere in my head, shadows of fears creep their way, inch by inch, settling like ivy in my bloodstream.
That maybe, it’s not this place which is toxic.
That maybe, the only one drowning is me.
There is something sublime and ethereal about Bombay-based poet Tamarind Fall’s work. The anaphora makes the poem stand out even more, working as a structuring device in a poem that is also free from the shackles of conventions of form. Behind the facade of simplicity lies a whole new world, one where the pain of existence is brought to the forefront. The aestheticization of suffering that takes place in the poem does not make it seem beautiful, but makes the reader think about the role of these actions in their own lives. The inward looking nature of this poem collapses the duality between good and bad, love and hate, suffering and joy, crafting a world that is almost uniquely its own.
Monday, April 3: Ode to Bombay (Krishna Prasad)
Krishna titles this poem Ode to Bombay, not Ode to Mumbai, for a reason. The Bombay that he grew up in, and the Bombay that you and I know is not Mumbai. In this poem, however, he recognises the good and the bad, which sets it apart from other pieces which tend to gloss over the latter, and accentuate the former. The witty and humorous description of the city reminds me why Bombay is great, and his refusal to elevate and refine the city to polish its image shows in his seamless use of colourful language. Behind the humour lies an implicit recognition that Bombay can never be what it currently is without the cricket, the tension, the gossipping, and the food. The form of the poem connects them together, tying up loose ends together in a Bollywood song of the yesteryears.
Tuesday, April 4: Plea for Peace (Navaldeep Singh)
In this Hindi poem, Navaldeep Singh questions the jingoism that has come to dominate Indian politics, particularly under the guise of ‘nationalism’. Brimming with passion, Singh is able to subvert this narrative through his masterful use of rhetorical questions. It is also short for a spoken word piece, but that adds to the charm of the poem, because it is the releasing of pent up frustrations about abusive nationalism.
Singh slowly unwraps nationalism, starting with highly abstract ideas and moving towards the abstract but more tangible, ending with the Indian flag. The poem shines through its masterful use of rhyme and tone, creating an atmosphere that is charged with emotion but is also an intellectual space.
Wednesday, April 5: Untitled (Harnidh Kaur)
Love in the City of Dreams has always been a complicated affair, and has provided fodder for some of the most incredible poetry that has been written. Harnidh’s poem is a romanticisation of the banal and mundaneness of life in Bombay. In a city where time is money, the poem makes the reader want to stop and look around, much like William Henry Davies suggests in his poem, Leisure.
Much like Baroque painting, Harnidh breaks down the barrier between the reader and the poet, reaching out to the reader in a way that forces the reader to really introspect and ask questions. The beauty of this poem lies in the way she reaches out to the reader, especially in the couplet at the end of the poem.
I will love you with all I am, all I know, all I will be.
Just let me, please let me.
As far as endings and poetry go, this has to be one of the most remarkable ways to tie up a poem. The subtlety with which the poem moves away from the anaphora of “I will love you…” and the semantic field of location and into this couplet that is highly abstract makes this one of my favourite poems.
Thursday, April 6: From Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (Javed Akhtar, recited by Farhan Akhtar)
Pighlay neelam sa behta hua yeh samaan
Neeli neeli si khamoshiyaan
Na kahin hai zameen
Na kahin aasmaan
Sarsaraati huyi tehniyaan, pattiyaan
Keh rahi hain ki bas ek tum ho yahaan
Sirf main hoon meri saansein hain aur meri dhadkanein
Aur main sirf main
Apne honay pe mujhko yaqeen aa gaya
This poem from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is written by Javed Akhtar, and recited by his son, Farhan Akhtar. For the current generation of millennials, this was the first time a mainstream Bollywood film exposed them to the beautiful world of the Hindi and Urdu poetry. The poetry is simple, yet highly impactful, and is worth listening to minus the visuals that have the potential to overpower the poetry.
Friday, April 7: Five Poems (Manisha Sharma)
To play cricket like my brother
Sew clothes like my mother
Smell wet paint
Jump on water puddles
Soak in summer rain
Strum guitar or sitar
More poetry from this series can be found in The Bombay Review here.
Compared to all the other poems in the list, Manisha’s work is rather bare-bones basic. The concept of her poem is primarily inward looking, and for me to pontificate about it would dismantle its charm.
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Next week’s selection will be curated by Simar Singh, founder and curator of UnErase Poetry.