Literature Special: ‘Tonight This Savage Right’

Updated: Nov 30, 2010, 09:40 AM IST

Aman Kanth

To say that poetry is what gets lost in translation will be a cliché, for modern Indian poetry is deeply rooted in the psyche of man and he is acutely conscious of his surroundings. The post-colonial Indian poetry focuses primarily on individual identity rather than society, thereby questioning issues of morality, sexuality, love, marriage, gender, religion and politics at large.

In ‘Tonight This Savage Right’, Harper Collins brings us two of Indian poetry’s most celebrated names in the 1970s – Kamala Das (1934-2009) and Pritish Nandy.

First published in India by Arnold Heinemann in 1979, ‘Tonight This Savage Right’ is a collection of love poems. According to Nandy, “‘Tonight This Savage Right’ is about love. The magic and mystery of love, the miracles it brings to our life. I should know. For I have always believed that love overrides every emotion, it’s the reason why we are who we are. It’s also the reason why we read and write poetry, listen to it and still believe that it can change our lives more than 3D or the tamagotchi can.”

Neatly divided in two sections, ‘Tonight This Savage Right’ is a pretty slim, pink book with black and white pages dedicated to the vulnerability of Kamala Das’s poetry and the lyricism of Pritish Nandy, with some brilliant drawings by Manu Parekh that capture the raw sensuality of love.

The first part of the book includes thirty four poems by Kamala Das, who was recognized as one of India’s foremost poets – an author of several novels, short stories and poetry in English and Malayalam. To borrow the words of K Satchidanandan, Indian poetry by women in regional languages has been poetry of dissent and that holds true to the poetry of Kamala Das. ‘The Suicide’, ‘Sunset, Blue Bird’, ‘A Phantom - Lotus’, ‘The Old Playhouse’, ‘The Prisoner’, ‘Ghanashyam’, ‘A Man is a Season’, ‘A Paper Moon’, ‘After the Party’, ‘The Freaks’, ‘The Latest Toy’, ‘A Request’ and the ‘The Winner’ resonates with theme of men-women relationship - unrequited love, women emancipation, male egotism and domination. One should take note that Das wrote self confessional poetry, who fused life into limerick. Through her stirring love poems, Das exhorts that unmitigated love is the basis of man-woman relationship.

“I chose my words well that day
And used them like knives to hurt him.
But loves battles are often strange,
If the thrusts were mine, the wounds were also mine.
He said goodbye. I thought it ended there,
But all through the night
I saw him in my dream. I saw him smile,
Oh I saw him greet me with a smile…” ‘The Winner’ – Kamala Das

The second part of ‘Tonight This Savage Right’ includes forty-one love poems by Pritish Nandy – an award winning journalist, film producer, painter; Nandy has penned more than thirty books on poetry and after two decades, Nandy recently came out with fresh poems ‘Again’.

Unlike Das, Nandy’s love poems are more lyrical, powerful, immediate and classless in nature. In poems like ‘Tonight’, ‘Tattered skyline’, ‘Resurrect our love’, ‘Analogue of grief’, ‘Goodbye’, ‘Winter’, ‘My hurt’, ‘It just happens’, ‘I cannot complain’, ‘Poets’, ‘In the circus’ and ‘Lovetime’ Nandy’s verse portrays the beauty of love in all its hues - longing for the beloved, unfulfilled love, pain, dejection, hope and finally ecstasy. Together, Das and Nandy’s poetry creates a rare magic, which continues to echo in your mind.

“Goodbye is not always a great exit line.
There are simpler ways of saying you are wrong.
The sign on the window says you are lonely.
The void in my heart says you are gone.
There is still someplace unknown where we can drift and watch
the springtime grow.
In silent praise of the love, we as strangers today
shall recognize and know.” ‘Goodbye’– Pritish Nandy

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