The Dance of the Peacock:
Snapshots of Indian English Poetry
A Review by Sanober Kahkeshan
The poems of the anthology, The Dance of the Peacock are pouring – out of an extra talented cerebrum and ultra sensitive heart and have succeeded in portraying the realities and concerning issues of day to day life. Each poem in this anthology gives an image of picturesque scene. The poems look like snapshots which convey a specific mood, moments and milieu. The editor should be lauded for his excellence in taste.
Abhay K’s historically portrays the monuments of the Capital:- ‘Delhi’ entices “hordes of human flesh from far away lands’ like traders , emperors. The poet escapes from the busy crowded city to the hill for the feast of eagle. It reveals his state of discontent to live in this filth. ‘Nakedness’ and “nude’ reveals the truth. His next poem “Qutub Minar’ describes the bleak future of the nation. The poet has its own strained world which is filled with dirt and double standards. It reminds us reading lines of T.S. Eliot’s – Wasteland where the world is filled with dirt. His last poem ‘Shastri Bhavan” reveals the truth of “priests’ of politics who “plan and plunder”.
Aftab Hussain’s only poem “Kamithapura” speaks volumes. The red light area has beautifully portrayed. A pious poet who lectures sermons at day on squares, in disguise visits Kamithapura at night to meet his mistress. He celebrated his birthday in 3 by 4 rooms with a “fair girl” where he notices a mark on her arm, the one that her mother gave her. He saw her when she was seven and after a gap of 15 years he saw her which made him dumb.
Anju Mukhopadhya’s ‘The Paper Boat” is a beautiful short poem depicting childhood reminiscences. The poet has sailed the boat in his childhood and has arrived at his youth age at his doorstep, with full gear inviting him to set out for some new adventure. Another poem “Insect’s Nest depicts reality. The poet compares man’s construction with insect’s nests which too is fragile and ‘brittle’ and will soon disappear in a moment by nature’s fury. The ending has a moral ‘Why bother about any mark made on lime’? The poet’s pen ends in a question which has already given an answer. ‘At the River Bank” portrays picturesque view about side of river bank which flows silently and the surrounding is motionless. The fisherman is tired and a naked boy looks his figure in the water reflecting his image.
Akhil Katyal’s poem ‘Moments before she died” is an autobiographical poem describes his experience of death approaching to his beloved. Helpless man can only wait and watch the parting of soul from the body. His next poem “I have Crammed into PCO Booth’ describes the old phones two decades back when there was no “buttons’ only ‘winding arcs’. As he has to work in this call centre he has to adapt its tune. Ending is in dilemma ‘Will hi’ do or “will bye do’?
Amalan Stanley V. has beautifully described “Millipedes” which is his acute sense of observation of a small insect and his fondness to live in cemeteries to personify the dead ones. “The Well” is a short poem describing its quiet and darkness and it ripples only when it being pumped out to the neighbouring paddy fields. The fish in a small well tumbles and misses the aquarium and the poet compares himself with fish and wonders his being in this world. His last poem “Bouquet of Weeds” remembers his father, who was buried a decade ago, addresses to the weeds which has stretched its roots deep in the cemetery. The poet consoles himself that at least the weeds have the chance to lie beside him. The poet captures graphic images and in an eco-friendly tone takes care of the green weeds blooming on the cross. The last line is again captivating for he cares the weeds because “they are nurtured by same minerals and organics that once nurtured us-“my brothers and sisters”.
The poem in a sentimental journey has travelled down the memory lane where a signpost of deeply felt emotions digs deep inside. Ambika Ananth’s poem: ‘When in Love’ …describes poetess longing for lover’s company and has no identity of her own. She alone in the wide world searches for that “safest haven’ where love is universal truth. “Cold Fury” describes the incident of sudden floods at Andhra Pradesh in 2010 which engulfed the innocents in minutes. Merciless nature’s fury turning villages “into ice-cold graveyards’, helpless man can only watch with aching heart their kith and kin in a distorted stage. Her next poem “Life’s Reasons” is an excellent poem portraying the reality how helpless mother reacts at the sight of her newly born abnormal child. But soon the bond between mother and child tightens as his “hungry fish-mouth clamped itself on her breast”. She consoles herself accepting all the faults for no one is perfect in this world. Some are imperfect from inside and some from outside. ‘Love’ binds the two making a team. Her poem ‘Distorted’ displays the atrocities laid on women in a patriarchal society. Gender discrimination in India and the Third World countries is not a big issue. Different dark phases of women have been explored. Her fate is ‘just to receive and accept’ in a compartment of old rigid dogmas; with a distorted self image.
Amol Redij’s “Gendercide’ has drawn a real picture of birth of an unwanted girl child. Her cries made her mother happy but soon the voice was stopped by an old lady who was screaming loudly to see the sight of a baby girl. She arranged milk not in bottles but in litres, and her diplomatic plan to silence the little one was fulfilled.
Anju Makhija’s “Pickling Season” has produced a mouth watering recipe of mango pickling in the summer season. Her next poem “Black N’ White’ pays a tribute to Dom Moraes; who looked young at old age and ‘digested literary issues”. He was the guiding spirit to encourage her in the field of poetry. Poetess often recites his poetry and his number is still in her telephone directory. His death has stopped her pen.
Debjani Chatterjee captures Indian mythological figures: ‘Angulimala’ who strips the fingers of every passerby to make a garland during the age of Buddha is lying today beneath his own blade. The poem portrays that power diminishes with the passing of time. The poem ends with a question that fear still persists and no finger is safe today. ‘Ravana’ also depicts Ravan’s super human power and immense courage which makes him a hero. All the Haikus are excellently composed. ‘IBC’ and ‘Cancer’ touches to the heart in just 3 lines.
Deepak Thakur’s ‘On Death of Mother’ has written in a heart rending tone yearns to “offer homage of tears” to his mother. On that day the crowd and the rituals abstained him to offer his homage of tears. He feels her presence in the kitchen and he wants to cry in ‘a dark sunless room”.
Geetashree Chaterjee’s poem “My Roots’ has a diasporic touch that misses her roots in a foreign land. For long she saved her penny with a hope that one day she will meet her dear ones. Their absence has pricked her heart which is bleeding along with tears. It makes her feel rootless in her native land. ‘Dusk’ and ‘Autumn’ also portrays her pessimistic views. ‘Twilight” describes a very real poem of parting souls at youth age meets at old age. The description of old age is excellently portrayed. ‘Withered by pain and wrinkled with grief’ they have tasted the pangs of separation and deprivation. The value of “silence’ is portrayed in the last lines with 3 interrogatives: ‘Would silence have prevailed’? ‘Like this”? ‘Had we met age ago…”? It is truly matching with the proverb that “Speech is silver and silence is gold’.
Gopa Nayak’s ‘A Time of Celebration’ describes a time of union of longing hearts which were separated is now meeting, hence it’s a time of celebrating. In the poem ‘I had put Mehndi that Evening’ depicts inhibited sexual desires of women who yearn to plunge into the river of love. She has applied Mehndi that evening with a hope that she would ‘caress” his hair and wanted to see the power of Mehndi. The poem ends with a sigh that she wanted to be a woman that evening for she had put mehendi… ‘The Night’ describes her marriage which broke her dreams. Her dreams of feeling her fingers in her hair were shattered. Like her heart bangles also broke into pieces. Her ‘diamond ring felt like a noose” but she has to sleep with a stranger.
K.V. Dominic’s poem “Beauty” describes the importance of the inner beauty. In the first few lines a young girl complains her mother for not making her beautiful and her mother gives excellent examples to console her. Great men like Lincoln, Gandhi, Shaw, Serena or Kalam are known for their deeds. Bodily beauty fades with the passing time like flower. Remembering Lawrence and Keats at end for ‘beauty is truth’ makes the poem more beautiful. The poem, ‘Crow the Black Beauty’ describes in a metaphorical tone the color prejudice. A crow is never remembered by a poet. They remember ‘Skylark, Nightangle or a cuckoo. There is always discrimination between black and white. The question is thought provoking that ‘Why is White attractive and Black disgusting? “When will the Black and the White dwell in the same house and dine from the same plate? Racism, color hatred still persists though we are living in a technological age. Another poem ‘Musings on my shoes” praises shoes, which is always ignored and a metaphorical poem where a shoe is compared to women. A shoe that lifted him from dust and mud, seldom he heeded to ‘terrible tearful travail’. The last lines reveal the truth of the poem ‘Mothers and wives when old age weak Become burden to sons and husbands.’ A beautifully written poem depicting reality with a slight pinch of irony.
Rizwana Parveen’s poem ‘Alienation’ describes sorrows and pains of labourers, who are devoting their life in building skyscrapers. They have no time to achieve their goals. They left their family and home and living an alienated life. With too many mouths to feed, burden heavier than the shoulders, forced to leave their house. Toiling hard in sun and rain, building skyscrapers but no home of their own. They are like aliens in their own homeland – disheartened and depressed. Using a very simple language the poem has spoken volumes. Her second poem ‘Desertion’ resembles Oliver Goldsmith’s ‘Deserted Village” It describes short and uncertain span of life. A house once full of laughter and mirth now gives a deserted look. It is inhabited by vultures, and eagles; the place of worship is ravaged and ruined. There is mournful cry everywhere and all the dreams are shattered. Her third poem “Loneliness’ again describes sadness. Her life is full of darkness, forsaken and forlorn. She stood like a lamppost on a dark night- watching life pass by and fear battering her. Thoughts reminiscing her past memories and now loneliness are engulfed from all sides.
At last she surrenders to her circumstances. Anita Nair, Jayant Mahapatra and many more have penned their poems in an excellent way. The Anthology has delightful varieties of subjects with words artistically arranged. This collection of poems is a welcome addition to the corpus of Indian Poetry in English as it records the natives as well as the diasporic experiences in a faithful and ardent manner. Vivekananda Jha, the editor of this anthology has done meticulous job for collecting a galaxy of legendry poets. I wish him all success for his laudable work.
Sanober Kahkeshan is an Assistant Professor, Dept. of English, Takshashila Mahavidyalaya Amravati, MS, India.