Publisher: Dhauli Books (2018)
Price: 350 INR
Reviewed by:Koushik Sen
The first thing that would catch your eye while you leaf through the pages of this book is the sharp, post-apocalyptic images that have been ruthlessly painted by the poet with a dash of his uncanny wit. When you read about his take on the baptised feudalism (At the End of the Last Idea) in the times when people have run out of ideas to cannibalise, the last idea vanishing off like fog in sunlight, you would feel like there is something special is in store for you. You would feel that the book is sliding away into the grip of the convention when you see the poet talking of In the Mood for Love in the traditional context of failed love, and cleverly mixing it with the overall tapestry (depicted by the former piece) which can be seen as the general theme of the book. However, the ability of the poet in somehow churning out endlessly original images makes you go with the flow: “Hong-Kong, a heart-shaped apple/sliced by walls/sharper than/ a butcher’s knife”. This almost reminds you of Murakami and his antiques in Kafka on the Shore, where he churns out the feline entities, the whiskey man Johny Walker and the idea of cutting up bodies to release souls. Almost reminds you of WWII, when Shankar uses these images in his poem. That is where he is different, and that is what separates his work from the regular run off the mill stuff that gets published every day.
The dichotomy in the theme plays a significant role in the volume, and it is so conspicuous that it almost feels like it has been deliberately done. While the poet represents the quintessence of cosmopolitanism, in Reading Thrissur, where the Carnatic ‘alaap’ reminds him of a tequila shot, he is uncannily prophetic, with a Foucauldian vigour in Migrants of the World, unite! In the latter poem, he speaks of the alarming trend of poets giving in to the requirements of the establishment. He challenges the ‘asylum’ which can either mean the madhouse that the world has turned into or even the unholy congregation of the stifled voices, leaving a voiceless void that is nothing short of hell. It is the talent of the poet to locate his vision in the mundanity of everyday life which lends profundity to the book, and makes it a must buy.
The cosmopolitan tequila seems to spur on the poet’s imagination as Van Gogh’s painting of boats become ribs and skeletons as he envisages the casualties of the Okhra cyclone–and this will keep you hooked to the book–you will keep looking for the symbols and meanings that will in turn haunt you. The cover painting by KM Madhusudanan aptly complements the book, although the production quality could have been better.
1. Kar-Wai, Wong. “In the Mood for Love (2000).” IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/title/tt0118694/.
2. Murakami, Haruki, and J. Philip Gabriel. Kafka on the Shore. Alfred A. Knopf, 2005.