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Judging The Book By Its Cover

Nita Gupta

By Uday Prakash
Kitabghar , New Delhi, Rs.140.00


Uday Prakash, the man, is something of a maverickpoet, filmmaker, shortstory writer, translator, journalist, critic, and with the publication of this book, Ek Bhasha Hua Karti Thi, a chronicler of our times. When you pick up the book, its the cover that strikes you for its simplicity. A glass of steaming hot tea. Cutting Chai. Just what you need on a rainy Sunday afternoon. But this is not a book of poems for the chaidrinking romantics or the fainthearted, this is a collection of hardhitting highly political verse aimed at drawing your attention to whats slipping away, towards growing alienation, the loss of the centrality of life and of the way things used to be. These poems are about ultimately losing our own way home. Anger seeps through every line, every word. This kind of clinical analysis is so often the domain of nonfiction political writing. The angst of revolutionaries is to be found here. Cold facts are enumerated as if in a body count. And yet the form is poetry. For instance the requiemlike title poem, Ek Bhasha Hua Karti Thi, suggests: A language in which the bodies of women are prostituted with ease [But in which] discussing science, economics and politics is a punishable offence/Knowledge and Information is controlled Thoughts are prohibited...' Thought itself becomes the theme of another poem. The poet laments the fact that those with the most thoughts are also the most chastized for having them. Elsewhere in the book, the poet addresses other poets. He invokes the poetry of Shamsher and Shailesh Matiani. Another poem pays homage to Safdar Hashmi: He hasnt gone anywhere/hes here/dont shed a tear...' And somewhere in there is the poet, battling change, fighting for an innocent love, trying to save a language on the threshold of death. Yet the futility of it all comes across in his own words: In the two minutes it takes to write a poem/ 40,000 children will have died/of third world hunger and disease. I remember years ago Uday Prakash had told me an Orwellian publishing tale. One of his first poetry collections had just been published and was a sellout. A sarkari outfit placed an order with the publisher for 500 copies of the book. In an interesting twist, and since Udays book was out of print, the publisher ripped out the jacket of another title in print, put ...

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