#NaPoWriMo: Curated Poetry for Week 4

Janko Ferlic/ Unsplash

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 22: Aag (Hussain Haidry)

Mere chaaron taraf, 
Mere chaaron taraf,
Aag hi aag thi,
Aag hi aag thi.

It is with this refrain that Haidry starts his poem. Faithful to the tradition of Hindustani poetry, and replete with repetition of entire lines and of anaphora, Haidry’s work is an interesting reworking of traditional concerns of Hindustani poetry.

He does not crouch in words that the casual Bambaiya speaker may not know of, choosing to make his poetry more accessible and simple. At the end of the poem, the viewer, however, is left wondering. Is this an expression of his inner angst, or is this angst political in nature?

Sunday, April 23: Dooriyan (Varun Garg)

Garg’s portrayal of emotional distance, as told through the story of a childhood friendship turned forlorn love is an eloquent ode. It is a story that is heartbreaking, but also gentle and steeped in understanding and empathy. In a way, Garg’s innocent portrayal adds a layer of genuineness to the poem.

Monday, April 24: Chandri Villa (Anand Thakore)

His name was Chandri — my grandfather once said — 
Who was to live here, but died of plague. Each of us fails 
In the end, but I was born in a house built for the dead: 
On the red gate they hammered his name with nails. 
Nineteen Nineteen. These bougainvillaeas 
Have grown since then; the dead leave us, leaving no trails; 
Deep in the banyan-grove at Chandri Villa, 
A secret sense of loss prevails. 
And the very stillness of these trees carries me past an April 
Long dead, newly strewn with banyan-leaves; thick roots dangle 
Above my head — ancient, knotted roots I cannot untangle, 
Till I am a child once again though against my will, 
The wide grove closing its arms as if to kill. 
My veins so many banyan-roots twisted into one, 
And all their tangled knots come undone, 
Till almost I see him, the plagued man I never will.

Keki Daruwalla writes of Anand and his poetry, in a way that encapsulates the charm of the latter’s poetry (via The Hindu):

He is a Hindustani classical singer, a student of Pandit Satyasheel Pande to whom his book Waking in December is dedicated. He is into mandala and things, as the cover shows. From malkaus to the iambic pentameter, is an achievement. He is one poet who rhymes all the way through the book… He ferrets out old histories.
The book’s strength lies in the poems on sea voyages, the real ones and the imagined voyages to Ithaca and the Greece mainland. Just thinking of Greece makes the sea bluer and turns the moon to “an orange flare”. Later of course, “dark flags, mastheads and green meshes” take over “Till slowly over the docks the moon returns to grey/ Salvages from time a minute — then anchors us to Bombay”. The poem “Ithaca” deals with an entirely imagined voyage to Brindsi, Patras and Mycenae and of course to Odysseus and Penelope country, to “Ithaca, dream-home of the idle, dark hope of the damned”.
Later in the book the rhymes become trite and creak a bit like gout in both knees. And, as in the poem “Cycle”, the verse becomes ponderous: “Though night ushers me further into words” etc. But this is an interesting new voice, and we should hear more of Anand Thakore, both his thumris and his rhymed quatrains.

Tuesday, April 25: Map-Maker (Keki N. Daruwalla)

If you map the future, while a millennium
moves on its hinges, you may find
the present turned into an anachronism. 
This too is important — what is yours and mine, 
The silk of these shared moments. But having stuck
to love and poetry, heeding the voice of reason; 
and experiencing the different textures of
a season of love and love’s eternal season,
I put a clamp on yearning, shun latitudes, renounce form. 
And turn my eye to the far kingdom
of bloodless Kalinga battling with a storm. 
Dampen your fires, turn from lighthouse, spire, steeple. 
Forget maps and voyaging, study instead
the parched earth horoscope of a brown people.

A poem in four parts, Keki Daruwalla’s Map Maker is a journey through time and through an India that is now hard to recognise sometimes. Born in Lahore, in British India, Daruwalla straddled many worlds (including the Indian Police Service) before settling into the literary world. He was astute in his rendition of the continent’s hardships, and his years of travel lent him a wisdom and knowledge of the country that was greatly lacking in his younger contemporaries.

The above excerpt is the fourth and final part of the poem. The last couplet of the poem is a haunting prophecy for the Country, and to the impending doom of food shortages. When this poem was written (and till today), India was unable to feed its people. Whether this was from the genuine lack of productive capacity, or an artificial scarcity caused due to graft and poor government policy making, is unknown. But the poem is unequivocal, for it is the reader that must do something about the droughts and famines that upend the Indian agrarian economy. This is a fate that people who have lived in a metro all their lives will never truly experience first hand, and therefore Daruwalla feels the need to draw the reader’s attention towards this side of India that is largely forgotten and ignored except for a humanitarian headline, once in a blue moon.

Wednesday, April 26: Adrak Chai (Rochelle D’Silva)

The motif of this poem is Tea. Chai, not English Breakfast Tea or Earl Grey or even Assam, but Adrak Chai, the Bombay style. It is this nostalgia for adrak chai that keeps D’Silva going, even when she performs this piece in Melbourne. Rochelle’s adrak chai finds its match in her boyfriend, a story that is masterfully constructed through the course of the poem.

Thursday, April 27: The Tibetan In Mumbai (Tenzin Tsundue)

The Tibetan in Mumbai (Tenzin Tsundue), recited by Suhaas Ahuja.

Tenzin Tsundue is a second generation Tibetan Refugee, who gained through Master’s Degrees through Bombay University in literature and philosophy. Tsundue’s poetry is essential to read at a time when the world is moving towards a dangerously anti-immigrant bend. The nostalgia for home is evident in the poem, a home that he has and probably will never see, unfortunately. The poem talks about stereotyping, and humanises the people we see, bringing back memories of my favourite Chinese take-away, Geetanjali, when he alludes to them.

Tsundue is a thoughtful activist, one who believes in the power of the written word. However, something that highly influences the way I look at Tsundue’s poetry is the Chinese occupation and annexation of Tibet, and the way it affects second generation refugees. These refugees have no idea of home except an idea that their parents and grandparents give them. What does home mean to them? It certainly has a psychological effect on them, and on their sense of identity. Tsundue’s poem, from his anthology of poetry, Kora, reminds the viewer of the need to explore these fundamental questions even more.

Friday, April 28: Purpose in Poetry (Javed Akhtar)

via Abbott.

Commissioned by Abbott, the American healthcare giant, for the Indian market and for Hindi/Urdu speakers across the world, Akhtar’s poem is a search for purpose. Accompanied by music, and recited by the man himself, his gentle voice shines through. The authenticity of his questioning pushes the viewer to search for answers within. He asks questions, questions that need to be answered by each and every one of us.

Aisa kya hai, joh hum nahin kar sakte hain?

Write to us at letters@themumbaiartcollective.com with comments, critiques, and feedback.

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