Saturday, February 2, 2013

For Salman Rushdie: An Elegy from Kolkata


[This poem has a specific context. Rushdie was not allowed to enter my city for inexplicable religious and political reasons. Something that goes against our history and heritage. This is my response to that. I hope the poem stands on its own. But knowing Rushdie's novels, even the titles, certainly helps.]

Saleem will not dream in my city tonight.

Throttled and gagged, the angel that swings
And lovingly looks on from alabaster dome,
Ribbons her face with tar-dyed tapes
And sobs with the Ganges all night.

We had throbbed along expanding bridges through the land
And dipped the whole world in our cups.
Renoir and Bunuel had supped with our Ray
And Teresa was made our own.
And even as Rabindranath turned the world home,
We lounged in our cafes full of Da Vinci and Donne
With Gorky and Lorca in tow.

This was the soil on which we had grown
And flowed free with rivers to the seas.

But now our windows are slammed tight shut,
With streets full of hooded little men.
Scared of the sky full of galaxy of stars
They turn their eyes to petty little holes
And shake their fists full of rage.

Puzzled we now wonder and rattle our chains
And wait for a sigh from Florence to entrance
And lead us to a light through our shame.

23 comments:

Jack said...

Wow, wow, wow. I love the current, historical, and character references you've made. After looking up "Rabindranath," I've now expanded my poetic and artistic education.

The rhyming sounds in this piece really drove the content, and everything flowed from an incredible beginning.

Matthew John Davies said...

Beyond poignant. Takes one to acknowledge many disparate artistic personalities in foreign lands, towards the poet's own crush of insight.

Guard these poems. Rereading ensures as it frequently does with your work.

sayan said...

i was guessing that this shame would instigate someone like you to write on it..and yes..it is wonderful...beautiful...i remember my first class on RUSHDIE where Prof. J.S remarked " every educated Indian must read MIDNIGHT's Children..."and by GOD she was right:-)

maybe one day we will get to hear SALMAN RUSHDIE...in some other land..in some other clime...in some other time

Judy Roney said...

What a scary situation and an encompassing poem. Wow!

Kim Nelson said...

History, politics, sociology... it takes artists and writers to help us understand the important, the profound, the necessary. You are all that.

poetry-diary.com said...

I like the poem, although I'm not sure the next enlightenment will come again from Florence. We live in interesting times.

Mary said...

Abin, I wish I knew more of the history of what you are writing here. It sounds to me as if you are writing about suppression of the arts in your country. If so, this is tragic. I will come back at a later time and see if you have answered my question, as I would like to understand.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

A topic dear to my heart, the right - and duty - of writers and poets to be the voice that speaks on behalf of the voiceless. He is a brave soul, and I love your poem in tribute!

Libby Meador said...

I am illiterate of some of your references but am inspired to remedy that. I feel it is prevention against waking up one morning puzzled at yet another chain to rattle.

Poet Laundry said...

I feel the benefactor of culture and history unknown to me. Your tribute encourages me to research your references here that I am unfamiliar with. Love that.

Audrey Howitt aka Divalounger said...

Your work is always stunningly wrought. Your sensibility and delivery here is exquisite. Now to go and re-read

rallentanda said...

Brilliant and erudite poem.
The sigh from Florence leading to light is such a wonderful metaphor.FREEDOM. Very impressed. Well done!

Akila G said...

very true! and very well said....we seem to be increasingly becoming resistent, as if every idea needs one!! ironical to our own heritage

Laurie Kolp said...

Beautifully expressed, this horrible situation...

Mixi said...

When will the culture police be disbanded in this great state I wonder. I moved to Siliguri just a year or so back, and have been watching the news with growing apprehension ever since. It is as though even the smallest contrary opinion, let alone dissent, is handled with an iron glove.

I share your pain, shame and anguish. Here's hoping we're not arrested for this :(

Kerry O'Connor said...

It is always sad to re-enter the dark ages after a period of enlightenment, and quite contrary to the notion of progress in modern times. You worked the ironies all too well, Abin.

Susan said...

WOW! Sing it! Loud and clear here in your words. While you sing:
"Throttled and gagged, the angel that swings
And lovingly looks on from alabaster dome,
Ribbons her face with tar-dyed tapes
And sobs with the Ganges all night"

I. Love. the present. history. and all anger wrapped into these stanzas.

Susan said...

PS: How can I share this poem? WOuld it be ok to put the link on Face book?

Timoteo said...

"streets full of hooded little men scared of the sky full of galaxy of stars..."

What great lines and so full of the spot on truth!

Wonderful work again, my friend.

Marian said...

yes, amen, Abin! petty indeed. and i too love the lines that Tim has quoted above... and all the rest of it. thank you for writing and sharing this.

Panchali said...

If religious fringe groups are encouraged like this by politicians in the name of upholding law and order, a day will come when the same politicians will find themselves besieged by these divisive forces. History will never forgive these leaders !! Seriously...are we really secular???
City of joy is no more a joyous place :((((((
Exquisite piece!

Susie Clevenger said...

You have spoken such truth. A poet is not all about pretty things, but is a voice to tell truth and be a vehicle of change. Brilliant write.

Phoenix said...

Yes I do share your agony. It's a shame that this is happening and we are unable to do something worthwhile. But I strongly believe that this phase will pass. The good thing about every bad thing is that it ends some day.