Poetry with emotion


The flown-in politicos, they clap clap clap

The flown-in journos, they click click click
And more has been said than ever before
Because more can be said than ever before

Silence, Five Gujarat Songs in Universal Beach

You might enjoy reading the lines above, they are about Gujarat and we know how that name of the place has become a metonym for something else.

What these lines do is describe, quite caustically, how the metonym itself created more metonyms for certain varieties of disaster tourisms.

But these lines prove more effective when recited. I have tried reciting them myself, they roll on to the tongue pretty well, but I cannot capture half the pungency in my narration than is created when the poet himself performs them.

The poem is a part of the first collection called Universal Beachby the English poet Vivek Narayanan.

I had heard them before I read them in this collection. My relationship with poetry in English, or in any language other than Urdu or Hindi, is quite curious for someone who is otherwise deeply interested in literature of many different kinds. I have read novels, in translation, of different literary cultures, modern Bangla, French, Spanish and Tamil.

Unsurprisingly, for a post-colonial reader, I have gone through a fair amount of English literature, classical, modernist and contemporary. I read most of my social sciences and current affairs literature, in English.

I also think and write in English, but when it comes to English poetry I draw a complete blank.

The blank is so near total, that it becomes a glaring omission in my literary education — an Auden poem here, a line of Eliot there, something of Arun Kolatkar, a few lines of Rimbaud and my knowledge of foreign poetic traditions is exhausted.

The only poetry I can appreciate is the one I know best, Urdu poetry. All else seems either too jejune or incomprehensible. Hence, I need to explain my admiration for Vivek’s writings.

Perhaps, I like these and other poems in the collection a lot since my first encounter with them had been oral. I had the pleasure of watching Vivek perform these poems in an experience that he describes as performance poetry. He not only recited them, he performed them, complete with gestures, bodily movements, theatrical modulation of voice, mimicry along with sound and light effects.

Since I am used to hearing poetry aloud, I am as much attuned to poetry as sound. As shruti you might say, as I am to poetry as creation of meaning. Hearing Vivek perform these poems brings them alive in a manner that is hard to obtain for poems, which remain on the page.

Having gone this far, I also need to clarify that Vivek is a colleague at Sarai where I sometimes work, therefore I have had occasion to interact closely with him and familiarise myself with his work. Vivek is deeply interested in poetry and how poems are made and it helps that he is an ardent fan of Dastanagoi, who as some of you might know, has a lot of poetry as well as versified prose.

Born in Ranchi, raised in Zambia, educated in the United States and a denizen now of Delhi, Vivek’s poetic range reflects the varied background, especially the spoken poetic and other oral traditions of Africa and his native Tamil region in ample measure.

Here is a Tamilian take on the scientific Brahmin
Pandit the pundit, hyper-managerial software king,
Opened an office on the Moon, another on a Saturnine ring

-From Hindus on the Moon: The Tale of Pandit the Pundit

Vivek is also sometimes an anthropologist. Hence his dialogue with history was bound to be doubly complicated. Consider this excerpt from another Gujarat song:

History in its petulant detail
Prefers to sabotage retail:
Now the goondas use computers
To distinguish their own from others

My personal favorites in this collection are My Father’s Wound along with some of the American poems, among the latter Man Washing his Foot in the Bathroom of a Bus Station and Learning to Drown afford me unending delight especially the last which is based on a personal experience of drowning in a frozen lake and becoming a television hero for the local community, for a day.

Many of these poems and songs had been published in some of the most prestigious poetry journals of the world including Harvard Review, Poesis, New Quest and Agni.

The collection has been published by Harbour Line.

You can write directly to Vivek at vivek at sarai dot net if you want to order a copy. But remember that listening is more effective than mere reading and in this particular case Vivek’s performance of his poetry is far more sensuous than it is as printed word.

The best thing would be to catch a glimpse of his performance whenever he is anywhere near you. Meanwhile, you can peruse the poems, in anticipation.

[First published in Mid-Day.]

5 thoughts on “Poetry with emotion”

    BY INDER SALIM ( reader )

    … therefore, doubly naked: you and me
    In a room called Universal Beach.

    It is only now…
    Before ‘now’, it was somewhat quarrelsome
    Between word and the word: animal like, but now:
    The taste of the word: anOTHER word,
    Hammered to a new tool,
    At the flux-beach where waves don’t hasten to end,
    But begin to question, rotundly.

    The new: ‘the horizon’,
    The only slogan: ‘the new, the horizon’
    The thought: beginning of the self-rule,
    Of the pebbles at the shore.

    Perhaps, to carry sad weeping rivers to
    Sea, to see depth, to bring showers
    Of resolved conflicts, to touch
    Life: unstitched at all three end of a square,
    (Although triangle like) .

    Blasted to meaning,
    a dumb pyramid: the poet
    The poem and the reader,
    To reassemble shreds of pain
    From war zones, from such other zones.

    Face to face, lacerated, humiliated, but
    Intimate, therefore, reborn
    with limbs and genitals of others,
    with new faces, to face new faces,
    to create new memories, and utter new words
    to feel new,
    And united, to dance on the
    Universal Beach.

    This Beach’s umbilical cord,
    Connecting you and me,
    And a sea of other poems…

  2. the poetry of vivek, and his performative qualities are superb,
    my good wishes to him, and to Farooqi sahib, who has written quite intimately about his first publication. I agree that English poety has has no chance to stand in front of an urdu poetry recital, but the depth of vivek poems stand out and speak, i cherished to read them slowly and softly, they gift each time a unexpected freshness …

  3. I wish, Mahmood, you’d have asked Tehelka to publish this review. I still question Tehelka’s motive in sending Vivek’s anthology to Manohar Shetty for a review.

    Well, thanks to you I was introduced to Vivek. And then I read his poetry and then followed it by watching his performance twice – the later one, he roped me too as a performer. I must admit at times I find Vivek’s poetry obscure but that’s perhaps I do not get the references he’s making in his poems. I am alien to them. But those I get I love his choice of words, the line breaks, the internal rhythm, the layers of meanings tossed in a reader’s face and of course the performance just brings the whole context alive. I wish we get to read more anthologies from him in future.

    And lastly, I refuse to believe you draw a blank when it comes to poetry in English. This is again one of your ayyari. :-)

    Warm regards,



    Hindol Bhattacharjee


    Ekhane raastao apekhya korche. Theme jao. Je jaanena se nijei kondik, tar kache prashna kora britha. Atokhyon je bormotuku pore chile, khule rakho. Bormero ovyesh klanto hoy.

    Thik ei muhurtoguloy janmo, mrityu akakar hoe jay. Bhor, aro prashanto hote bole. Atodin rastai rasta kore dieche tomar, akhon rastake nie jaoar daityo tumi aswikar korte paarona.

    Poth kakhono pothik hoy, pothik kakhono poth. Tarpor tomari bhitor die chole jay mailtrain, porjotok, tirthojatri, bhanr, byabsaiee, matal beshya ar samasto smashan. Barshakalo ase. Ase shit. Kuasha goray.

    Kebol akkone pore thake barmo, tomar somadhi. Take ghire gore othe sahor, mohona, kono hotel, mondir. Okhanei theme thake rastar purono smriti;

    Ar tumi, dekhi, ak unchu kono rasta, barmohin. Janmomrityu hin, je pothe kebol bhor jay.


    Thanda alpinmatro hote parto samanyo tomar
    Anchor, shikar—sudhu eitukui banyajole bhese
    Ki shanto nirmom chor khele tumi somudrer kache!
    Akhon jetuku baki ta kebol nijer aange katha;
    Bataser dhkka kheye pathoro bhashkorjo hoe othe.
    Jakhon santona lekho, takhono to bhashar moyur
    Jege othe, mele day saptorshimondol.
    Kono raktopat hoyni samudre, nonay
    Jao, bhaso, kata ghaye, prolep diona.
    Sanket brithao jodi hoy, tobu pradip nibhleo
    Alo jay doshdikei, nijei shikar
    Hole jana jay shikariro chilo khide o trishnar
    Nijoswo hingsar gan, raktopat, jara swavabik.
    Thanda alpinmatro hote paarte bonyajole vese
    Akhon thitie jaoa bali khonro, megher chayay
    Chatok pakhir trishna akashei bhije muhurter
    Kache pran tene nay, nao tumi, raktopat hok,–
    Jetuku duratyo, muche jak, thanda alpiner doga
    Hok bhasha, shikarir, shikarer, chokhe chokh rekhe.


    Chayabot sore jay, jolobot ghire dhore deho, chitar samoy
    Kromosho uttap tumi,–ghono ghono bidyut mathay
    Ese danriechi aj…shunyo ghat, dhyose pora bagan
    Kardamakto, palolik, ami tar bhasha suni, poschim janlay
    Asi, kampoman gach, bhanga rasta pichon firey ache…


    Kotha bolte giye chup kore jaoa kothar gaye gaye
    Sada khanri, ami tar modhye dube achi
    Bajo banshi, akdub santar
    Chuteche horin tar chetonar pashapashi
    Kerani brittir pashe
    Chuthte giye pichle jaache dom, matrinam
    Mombati jalao pashe, ekti akhyor jano janmo dite pari…

    Se, jol tolpar kore uthe asey, mathabhorti bhrun…


    Thaako janla dorja bandho, shukno mukh, hantuk samoy
    Poschime jakhonmegh mukhora grihini hoe jay
    Takhon bishade ghamo, khero khata bhorti kore lekho
    Tritio biswer galpo, thanda ghore, puruk dupur.
    Kebol brishtir jole bishader nona hingsra gham
    Jhore pore jachche, eso khali paye rastar upor.
    Dakho bhijche dokanpat, majhemajhe baj porche dure…
    Khali taxi, hotobak windscreen, driver udhao,…
    Smashan, kaborkhana, ponchobhut, shoano konkal
    Jol paache, e sandhyay train bondho, tumio monthor
    Kebol aktana brishti, chuti jano, kukurkundoli
    Ghumie poreche ei kanagolisahure atmay
    Chute jao brishti pithekishorer kalponar kandhe
    Ghurir karnik mere gontta khao megher sorire…
    Thako janla dorja bandho, ami jabo, chuti nebo aj

    Ja lekha thakbe sudhui

    Nijeke somadhi karo, borofshitol snau nie..

    Churir upore rakho alto hat
    Jalao deshlai
    Snau purte purte chinre jak ghum, dhushor mathay
    Jato math sue ache
    Pichle jak sekhane bhorer
    Notun alor rong, pichle jak katakuti lekha;

    Purono engine dakho, probadprotim shayola gaye
    Sangsari buror sesh muhurter nirob passport

    Lekho nam….likhe muche dao

  5. Poems from a citizen

    Hindol Bhattacharjee


    Let there be light—someone asks in a loud voice
    I saw a head peering from the grave
    In the place of his eyes, there was a hole
    There was darkness, and i jumped into it
    I entered into his dream
    O, what a nightmare! O what a morbid room
    Let there be light—i uttered in a silent whispering
    I heard a bang, and what i saw was not a dream
    Fire, fire, fire everywhere
    I was bearing my coffin.


    I don’t have any identity
    I am crawling
    I am dreaming
    Like a tram coming out from a depot
    Like the city i know
    Live like the sunny morning at the time of winter
    I heard his voice
    An SLR, made me numbed
    I don’t have an identity
    Walking, i am a dead man
    Searching my eyes which i have lost in the battle
    I don’t have any identity
    Nexus, is my room
    They have cut my tongue
    They have cut my lungs
    I don’t have an identity
    I am living
    O still i am living!


    A pain stricken face is staring
    Nothing remains except sigh
    What else can you expect from
    these gloomy evenings?
    I pray for the rain
    Rain for the foggy drowsy howling lives
    A serpent is creeping through my brain
    Who are you waiting outside the platform?
    Who are you resonating your voice to nowhere?
    A pain stricken voice is staring
    Drops of blood everywhere…
    No movement
    No figure is forming its shape
    Drip drop drip drop drip drop drop…
    A madhouse we have built a madhouse where we will die…


    I feel an isolated touch of the meaningless crowd
    In this dead road, moving forward like a giant serpent
    No love, no breath, no blessing and no waiting
    I can translate; I can only feel the drabness…
    Can you put two wings…the road can fly then
    To an undefined region where an avenue has just started its journey.

    Last metro

    Hope is like a consolation
    To live
    Without thinking

    Love is like a touch
    To live
    Without a bird’s eye view

    Death is like a morning dew
    To live
    Without hesitation

    Hindol Bhattacharjee


    29/1A, Ramtanu Bose lane, Kolkta-700006

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