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The Flesh of Life

C.S. Venkiteswaran

Translated by Pradip Acharya, Krishna Dulal Barua and Niren Thakuria
Monsoon Editions, Calicut, pp. 82, Rs. 150.00


Return to the village—they advise We aren’t far from the countryside not to be able to return you don’t see the ebony flowers you see the flesh of trees. (Flesh of Trees) Here is a world pulsuating with life where trees have flesh and blood, all organisms can speak, feel pain and pleasure, their trills and cries have distinct colours, that too for men and women among them, where ‘moon’s hair grows longer like the notes of Chaurasia’s flute’ and even canoes and yarn have stories to spin. It is a world where time is a great continuum, where the other-worlds and netherworld merge to create this world which we only seem to inhabit. Jiban Narah’s poems wakes one up into that world that is painfully immediate and hauntingly sensuous. It is not a faraway world but one of here and now, where a dog’s answer can send a ladder into a faint and topple a tale; a place where ‘errant plump swine’ swarm the streets where the poet takes his morning walk, and a glow-worm can murmur to us like this:   With the spiraling smoke a glow-worm came from the rain and said: Do you hear the drenched note of the flute I’d gone looking for the unknown player When the wind brought me here Don’t tell anyone that I’ve come the wind will keep it a secret if the sky knows it will tell the stars I’ll spend this night with you the colour of the gourd-blossom is on my body Blow out the lamp We flower at night (The Gourd Blossom) What animates Jiban Narah’s imageries is their keen sense of place and roots. They are not mere words trying to evoke the lyrical and the transcendental in you, but are extremely sensual and visceral, immediate and palpable. One can see the presence (of life and also death which is part of it as if in a moebius strip) pulsating in them, and always reaching out to you. For instance, this is how death figures here:   The slow tremors of the feet scatter on the bell Dust grows through the toes earthen lamps burn in the courtyard don’t look back the knell is close behind. (The Death) Here, time is not a transcendental and abstract experience, but something ever-present, of body and soil, all ...

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