Comfortably Numb

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Published on: 05/5/24 6:53 AM

Book review: Bitter Gourd, poems by Anupama Raju

The skewering gaze

In Anupama Raju`s  second book of poems Bitter Gourd, she puts the everyday with all its attendant activities and emotions,  under keen scrutiny,  and what emerges is another angle to the quotidian.

Some lines spin soft yet strong visual images, like the ones that go:

each time you call me mol

I`m as young as your Malayalam,

Tender as elaneer, soft as panji,

Haunting as pulluvan paattu.

In Table for One, the poet wafts the loneliness, the quiet, the momentary awkwardness, over to the reader, who receives it in empathic  silence..

There is a decided cynical slant as when the poet states that

Conditioners can condition

Hair, skin, legs, breasts, vagina.

But mostly screams which

Don’t leave a stunned mouth held shut by a knife.

This inherent cynicism reveals itself through the book. It`s a fight you started she tells an unknown protagonist. It will take us all down.

And elsewhere,

Pick up what`s left of me and make me

Ino a country without love.

In a lovely little poem titled What You Don`t Know, the poet slips in a statement of quiet strength. I am an axe, she proudly states.

There is also a political note that threads itself through some poems, as when the poet wistfully tells the reader:

If you want to bring me something

today, bring me the republic I thought we will be some day!

The pragmatism that peeps through the book is of the gentle kind, a wry acknowledgement of how things won`t change all that much. When it comes to matters of the heart, the emotions swing this way and that. There is the  grey dreariness of a love long gone, of a futile waiting. In contrast, there is the soft assertion of confidence:

I`m the key to your door.

Stay closed.

Only I can open you.

Some of the poems don’t open themselves up too easily to the reader, the latter needs to stop, absorb, re-read a line, sigh over another line. Which makes it all the more rewarding for the reader who persists.

Bitter Gourd, Poems by Anupama Raju. Copper Coin Publishing.Rs 399. 61 pages

This appeared in the Literary Review of 5 May 2024.

Related Links:

Excerpts: Suspected Poems by Gulzar

Book review: The Book of Bullah by Manjul Bajaj

Book review: Three Women in a Single-room House by K Srilata


Anupama rajubitter gourdCopper Coin Bookspoems

Sheila Kumar • May 5, 2024

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