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Dealing with Marginalization

Anoop Verma

By Meena Kandasamy
Peacock Books, Mumbai, 2006, pp. 143, Rs. 145.00

By Lara Shankar
Penguin Books, Delhi, 2007, pp. 99, Rs. 150.00


Touch, a collection of poems by Meena Kandasamy, reveals her as a poetess capable of shedding views on diverse ideas and ideologies. She seems to be looking at the world with a clear-eyed honesty, as she draws fresh perspectives on the triumphs and failures that are concomitant with our culture. Social justice is a persistent theme for her, but she does not look at the vagaries of castism through a sense of despair, rather she takes it head-on, as a challenge. Even as the world around us changes alarmingly, Meena Kandasamy reminds us that before we begin wallowing in the shenanigans of a hopelessly bright future, we have to make sure that the ghosts of the past, ghosts like castism and untouchability, are consigned to oblivion.   You stick to your faith the incurable sickness of your minds, we don’t stop you from continuing to tend centuries of cultivated superegos. We will even let you wallow in the rare happiness that hierarchy provides. T he book is embellished by a brief introduction by Kamla Das. In her introduction Kamla Das writes, “Dying and then resurrecting herself again and again in a country that refuses to forget the unkind myths of caste and perhaps of religion, Meena carries as her twin self, her shadow the cynicism of youth that must help her survive.” Cynicism runs through Meena’s poetry like a leitmotif, but alongside there is also a certain kind of rough music and a rhythm as that of nerve endings open and alive, of veins open and overflowing with blood. In a poem on Mahatma Gandhi, titled Mohandas Karamchand, she minces no words and cries, “Stop it. Enough taboo.” The poem Frenzied Light is a promise of love, but it also sounds like a lament on the ephemeral nature of love.   Love, I will promise you a substitute. I could be that piece of holy camphor So safely locked away from prying hands. And dearest, when I burn for you, that single time Nothing shall remain of me, or of you, except that flash of Memory. Our blending shall be so sublime, so intense, so total. In all there are 84 poems in the book, which is divided into six sections – ‘Bring him up to worship you’, ‘Touch’, ‘Add some spice’, ‘To that more congenial spot’, ‘Lines of control’, and ‘Slander is a slaughterhouse’. The different sections run like a musical ...

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