Saturday, May 01, 2010

Ashok Mahajan - Goan Vignettes and other Poems

My blogger friend Ashwin Baindur of The Butterfly diaries has often adorned his blog with nature poems. It was on one such post that I came across a poem by Ashok Mahajan. I was instantly smitten by it, and begged him for details. The poem was taken from Goan Vignettes and Other Poems which was sadly, out of stock on book sites.

A flurry of emails on the issue followed and at the end of it Ashwin kindly scanned the images from his copy of the book, converted it into a PDF, copied it into a cd and mailed it to me.

In doing so, Ashwin has gifted me a handful of diamonds. Thank you, Ashwin.

I don’t think I will be ever able to find appropriate words to describe these poems. (I thought of something very clever to say about them when I was driving yesterday, but have forgotten now.) They are indeed little vignettes of life in Goa and other places. If you are fortunate enough to read a few, you will realize that the Author has the knack of using just the right word for the right thing. So I will beseech you to look up the words you do not understand, I promise that your understanding of the poem will multiply hundredfold when you look up the meaning.

On reading the poems, I get the sense of a ruminative poet who looks at the world and sees things that lesser mortals like us do not. Maybe we do, but we do not remark on it; we have no talent to freeze the moment forever in a perfect little poem.

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour
(William Blake)

These are the lines that best describe the poems of Ashok Mahajan. It is time for me to vanish and present some poems of the author that struck me particularly. Click on the images to enlarge them. If you want more, send me your emails and I will send them to you.

To start with I will quote a small poem here called metamorphosis. I have kindly (thank me) provided the meanings so you (philistines) may better appreciate this picture.

But a week ago
This hill that was
A rugged
Topaz of dry grass
Is now a nowy
Smaragd of green.

Nowy Smaragd = new emerald

Sunset at Colva is the poem I would pick as a favorite if pressed. It is evocative and creates a perfect picture of a sun slowly slipping, red and resplendent, into the sea.

Estaminets=A small café
Incarnadine=red color


(An aubade is a poem or song of or about lovers separating at dawn.
Aubade has also been defined as "a song or instrumental composition concerning, accompanying, or evoking daybreak)

This comes next because of a leisurely and detailed listing of things we see if we stroll out at daybreak for a dozen eggs. The author does not shy away from listing scenes that are not pretty. Dhobi’s boy taking a dump on the roadside is as assiduously noted as the pretty rhododendron sun. You can see a further example of this if you check out the poem featured on Ashwin’s page

I picked Channo’s Tandoor because it reminds me of summers in Delhi when we used to pick up rotis from a tandoor nearby, to save our ladies the bother of making endless rotis and also because we loved the crispy earthy taste of real tandoori rotis. Again, the poem paints a perfect picture of the Tandoor which is turned into a community centre in an instant.

Majorda Jaycees Princess. I knew one such Veronica Dias; she won a minor beauty contest, and thought she was too good for our little town.

Grandmother is such a lovely look at a crabby old lady, I could cite several ladies who could qualify for this portrait.

Truck Driver gives you a peek into the world filled with machismo and vulnerability. In a few deft strokes you get the picture of a life condemned to greasing palms and easing loneliness with a bottle of the local brew.

Vasco Da Gama takes a cynical look at that renowned adventurer. Ah, how many heroes of yore are the result of good publicity agent? How many real heroes have passed on unsung?

All I wish is that this lovely slim little volume were illustrated. I know, it is much better to get a picture into your head, but like Alice, I like a book with nice pictures. A set of drawings by one of those renowned Goan illustrators would have been like a cherry on a yummy layered black forest choclate cake.

There are a few glimpses into the goodies that Ashok Mahajan has presented to us in his lovely book. As I said earlier, the full feast is but an email away (or maybe some kind soul will teach me how to upload large file on some sites like rapid share so that many more people may have access to his poems).