In Custody by Anita Desai
My Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
‘The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
It is befitting to quote Rumi to introduce the middle-aged protagonist of this book who sends swirls of a bruised dream into the air even while chugging along life with a rusted body. Deven, a teacher in the small town of Mirpore, finds his humdrum walk thrown off guard when his college buddy, Murad, a cunning fox and an accidental two-penny publisher, flummoxes him into interviewing Nur, a legendary poet of yesteryear and Deven’s idol in youth. Overwhelmed by the awarding of a chance so rare and fulfilling, his fan-heart heaves wild beats, that eventually begins sending tremors of discord and dislocation across his family, friends, circle and beyond.
His life suddenly becomes a series of road trips between Mirpore and Delhi, each carrying memories that ricochets off his present like belongings of irretrievable past. Continue reading
The Book of Chocolate Saints by Jeet Thayil
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Aut insanit homo, aut versus facit. – The man is either mad or he is composing verses.
But what verses, would you say, emanate from the bosom of passion that borders on delirium? What timbre of voice floats in the smoked air held dense between intoxicating fame and inebriating oblivion? What fumes of rage charge the pen that knows its limits like a bird does the sky’s? Ask Xavier and he shall reveal the seething hearth, one ballistic verse (or painting) at a time.
When journalist Dismas Bambai embarks on expounding the poetic scene of post-colonial Bombay in an anthology, he excavates his known and obscure sources to put together the chapter on the Newton Francis Xavier. Xavier is a liar, a womanizer, a consumed painter. And he is also a loner, a masochist, a celebrated poet. Chronicle this 62-year old’s story across India and America, with cultural attendance of Bombay in full glory, is what the book does. Or not? Continue reading
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
You landed in my world on a calm, dewy evening
And struck was I with a song I was about to sing;
A song that lay hidden in the silhouettes of each letter
That protruded from the cover, all poised to embitter.
But waited I, patiently, under the light of the mundane day;
You see, Mr. Calvino, I had a knack of seeing your way.
Fusing the curious with the depth, and peppering them with some humor too;
All too often, you had served, a world that was both fictional and true.
So, on a fine evening, when all your cities rose, at once, to a noisy chatter,
I exited my world and entered yours, as it was now, an urgent matter. Continue reading
Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Tempting as it may appear to wrap the poetic pearls from this collection of Neruda’s heartbeats into a warm shawl of erotic wool, do resist it and pause.
These loquacious verses that assemble at the nape of a lover or ripple playfully across the soft mountains of a beloved’s waist, magnify when viewed through the dual lenses of night and water .
I have said that you sang in the wind
like pines and like masts.
Like them you are tall and taciturn,
and you are sad, all at once, like a voyage.
You gather things to you like an old road.
You are peopled with echoes and nostalgic voices.
I awoke and at times birds fled and migrated
that had been sleeping in your soul. Continue reading
Here by Wislawa Szymborska
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
“She wants me to live only for her and with her. Ideally in a dark, locked room, but my plans still feature today’s sun, clouds in progress, ongoing roads.”
With this singular clarity, Wislawa Szymborska views memory. By running a casual yet assertive hand, she makes the memory cursive; memory that is stitched into seamless minute knots connecting the present, illuminating the present.
Here is a solace, a silent hurrah. Written in small, fresh bud-like paragraphs, this collection of poems comes with the agenda of a butterfly – fragile at first sight, intriguing at second sight, rejuvenating at third sight and unforgettable after its flight.
Since her love for art found life and prosperity under difficult, turbulent times, her perspective emerged as a rough-cut diamond. Continue reading
The World Doesn’t End by Charles Simic
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Throw a pebble into the pool and
see it dissolve into shimmering currents,
carrying burdens of ashen leaves that autumn
has swept beneath the silent tremors, teaming to cry
their laments; Or hide behind a ripe tree and cast a glance,
all the way to that faint window where a boy, on one palm,
is counting stars and fanning the other to soothe
his bruises and in his eyes, dances the night,
like a celebrating comet, about to go ablaze
in just a matter of Time; Time—
the lizard in the sunlight.
The Waste Land and Other Poems by T S Eliot
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thomas Stearns Eliot. A lot is hidden between those three words. A whole world perhaps. A depth measured by many oceans, a mystery viewed from bewitching lenses, a song marrying numerous notes, a candle thriving on inexhaustible wax.
During his writing season, that spanned over three decades, T S Eliot penned many evocative and luscious poems, with his pen always leaving a signature cryptic mark over his dotted sheets. Often a source of delusion to an enthusiastic poetic heart, his labyrinthine lyricism was like a lashing downpour on a parched heartland: one surrendered to the torrent at the risk of bearing undecipherable strokes on one’s soul. I belong to this clan. Continue reading
Love In The Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Márquez
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
When glistening drops of dew swivelled across the leaves,
When hazy films of sun lifted their candid veils;
When morning spring walked the aisle of the autumn road,
I saw a face whose reflection, since years, I have behold.
In envious vanity, she swayed her hair,
In rapturous youth, she erred everywhere;
But stoic her nod was to my pure passion
Which sent me blazing waves of heartburn.
Running behind her, became my moral;
Worshipping her being, was a religion;
In those auburn eyes, my heart would lie still
And yet it would flutter, like about to begin. Continue reading
The voices are numb and the noise so dim, chances of movement are oh so slim,
As I imagine It to wriggle out somehow; and bravely take a last intrepid vow.
It musters every ounce of strength, and peppers up with a ferrous will;
It gears feverishly to step forward… But hell, the limbs stare, still.
Puzzled, like a master clockman, It rips open the machinery within,
Resets, reformats, rearranges and rechecks every connecting pin.
Reassured of its flawlessness, armed by its unparalleled solidity;
Forth goes It again, this time with laudable audacity.
The battle rages and questions arise; Continue reading