Petrichor Poets and Poetry

Oxford Bookstore, Connaught Place, New Delhi hosted a poetry reading session on the evening of 9 February 2018. That was part of the run-up readings to Delhi Poetry Festival 5 (IIT, New Delhi, 23 – 25 February 2018). Over a score of poets gathered on that calm evening. The program was organized in collaboration with Petrichor, a creative writing society of over 120 members based in Venkateswara College of Delhi University.

Petrichor started as a club in the Department of English of the college to provide the students poets and writers with a consciously nurturing space for creativity, which was nonexistent there then. The society has collaborated with Oxford Bookstore, CP, New Delhi, and Delhi Poetry Festival.

Poets from Petrichor, including Arijit Roy, founder and President of the society, also read their poems. I photographed all of the poets while they were reading their poems. Some of them are below. These photographs may not be of all those Petrichor poets. If any poet is missing, I will add them here soon. As I don’t know anything about them yet, not even their names (except of a couple of them), I have left the photographs with no textual accompaniment. I will request Arijit to tell me at least their names. It would be a great idea to post a few poems each (including the ones they read that evening) along with the poets’ photographs.

Megha Sawhney

Rajeev Anand

Misk Khurana

Aditya Rao

Vridhi Arora

Sukeerat Channi

Arijit Roy, founder and President of Petrichor

There are various other versions of the photographs here. If the poets want any or all of the versions to be sent to them, write to Lake Bard here. It may take some time but Thoithoi O’Cottage replies. As he does this just in the interest of the poets and not for any commercial purposes, he entertains requests at his leisure.



Promila Manhas

A Dogri writer and poet with a beautiful voice living in Jammu. Literary translator translating from Dogri to Hindi and English, and vice versa. Lecturer of Botany in the School Education Department of the State Government of Jammu & Kashmir. Newscaster at Radio Kashmir and news anchor at Doordarshan Jammu.

She read some of her poems at the Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi’s annual Festival of Letters on 16 February 2018.

Manipuri Poet, Srilekhak

Manipuri poet and playwright, Srilekhak (born Ksh. Mohan) at the launch of Yengkhom Kengba’s Manipuri novel at ROLs in January 2017. Srilekhak is one of the most experimental poets in Manipur. Influenced much by the Japanese haiku tradition of the east and the imagist and modern poetry, his poetry is characteristically sharp and formal as its primary drive. His metaphors and similes are unusually powerful unlike any other Manipuri poets among his contemporaries or younger generations.

His once-famous Times Printers (late 1980s – 1997), located on the leirak across from the old post office building at Kakching Khunyai Leikai, was the center of literature in the town of Kakching. Besides printing almost every literature book and magazine published during that period here, he regularly hosted literary readings and critical sessions in his press office.

My translations of his two poetry collections will soon come out from LSC.

Tangle in the Shade

Eyes closed,
wide awake
to the color of night.

in its primeval namelless oneness
unsliced by ticking swords
of cartographers and historians

only to be punctuated
by bright splashes from
a leaking faucet.
God’s sake–off with it.
It’d have got on her nerves.
A light sleeper.

At a distance
a howling dog is
rolling up his plaints
yet again tonight.
I am not a god.
The dew must have brought
them down back to the dust,
and the wind drifts them to
dark windows with no shades or panes.

A short rest to the wheeze,
and the drips beat yet clearer–
a city bright atop a mountain
on the darkest night of the year–
and the watch’s whistle dampened and
fitful sirens and nightly grainy traffic
mis-shaped by the sinewy wind of December
make a shy creep into my ear canals
for attention in the lucid dark.

I can’t still fix it with
closed eyes–wool in a tangle.
Open eyes and I find
the dense stands of darkness
bending over me and staring against
the monochrome walls and ceiling
grained by the diffused city lights
through the smuggling holes
from the leaves in a scret communion.

The dog is still rolling up
his howls heavenward (or is
he now rolling them down?)–
it feels like each fine dewflake
murmurs a grain of howl in an echo.

In Memory of Home (Presenting the Past)

The town where I grew up
is not a western town
or an eastern town.
It’s stuck in the middle with
the warriors, east of India
and the wobbly devastator,
west of the Chindwin.
Beyond that the west walks
into the blues on the sandy plains,
and the east through palms
and across rapids.

In the lurid cities
where they paint their street crawlers
red, green, blue and yellow
in full intensity,
where they dye their clothes
like spring flowers in full bloom,
where they paint everything deep bright
and strange faces stir them
like that curiosity, all of a sudden,
is what they were born for–
there they get the barking dog
more than your eloquence.
They complain you don’t love the dog,
and I see you don’t hate
the street dogs, nameless as the homeless.

The chemist’s son from the ancient
town outskirts, a cat lover,
once when he went with his cat
to the east on a shooting trip,
found a Burmese poet pissing
music from his mouth while
the actor’s cat slurped milk off
his small upturned lips.
That was a family slurp.
The static of the east air swaddled
the poet’s trunk into a muzzled
pig squeak the actor knew.

Singing Life a Capella

How far are you from where I live
for it doesn’t feel like the same here?
The signs have come to pass–
the rains in empty streets–nothing to wet,
the rains hitting the terrace–without love,
the fingers of golden rain trees
tattooed on the tarmac in yellow haloes
in the yellow grainy November nights,
the winds whispering into the woods
the answers in the winds of boozy boys
spending hollow nights in the cold.
The signs have come to pass unaccompanied
like time singing life a capella.
How far are you from where I live?

An Armless Son

missing you mama
missing you baba
both old and ill
and me just a son
too far for a hug that speaks
when words fail

I am really worried and weeping that I may not be around when all you want in the world is a warm wordless heartfilling hug as you quietly pass on, letting out the last cloud of breath in a long string of thinness on which your crystal dewdrops slide into the mist and beyond. Unwrapped by these arms still small and delicate to you, unlike those warmth and love, and the beating joy and curving smile that you once greeted me with when I came.

There is a time
once in a lifetime
when all one wants
is just an hug
and no word.

I am just words,
and no arms–
words for the mulct
arms for the dear.

চোংশিন্নবা / Face to Face

Face to Face
by Tomas Tranströmer (1931–2015)
Nobel Prize in Literature (2011)

ৱাকচীংদা চপ লেপখি হিংবা৷
উচেক্না তন্না পাই অদুগা থৱায়না
তকই লমহাঙ লমজাউদা শুরু শুরু
তক্তুনা লৈবগুম হিনা হিথাঙফমগি পুনফমদা৷

উপালশিংনা লেপ্পী মনম ওনশিন্দুনা ঐঙোন্দা৷
থানা শীল্লবা উন মরেপ ওল্লী অশিবা চরূনা৷
মন্থরকই খোঙ্গুলশিংনা লৈমায়দা৷
ৱাজরে লোনদি তিরপাল মখাদা৷

নোংমদি লাকই কৈনো’মা থোঙনাউদা৷
খূৎকি থবক থা, লৈদুনা য়েংখৎলুই ঐ৷
মচু মমেন্না ইঙান! ঙম্নমক লৈদুনা য়েংলম্লে৷
মালেমগা ঐগা চোংশিন্নৈ৷


Roblin Fulton’s translation:

In February living stood still.
The birds flew unwillingly and the soul
chafed against the landscape as a boat
chafes against the pier it lies moored to.

The trees stood with their backs turned to me.
The deep snow was measured with dead straws.
The footprints grew old out on the crust.
Under a tarpaulin language pined.

One day something came to the window.
Work was dropped, I looked up.
The colors flared. Everything turned around.
The earth and I sprang toward each other.

মঙ্গারকপা / Back from a funeral

The poem came visually and aurally, quite in a pre-linguistic fashion. Yes, when I woke up from sleep in the middle of the black night. Then when I got down to writing, the visuals and audios crystalled themselves linguistically. This process is a subtle aesthetic orgasmic experience, and you don’t ever want to get over this. For this one, the linguistic crystallization occurred simultaneously in two languages–some parts in Manipuri, and some other parts in English, the two languages I straddle most comfortably. The blended nature of how I experienced the original bilingual poem has its own distinct, irreplaceable beauty; however, I have separated the strands for better presentation, translated parts from one language to another and vice versa, and have presented the two versions as below, the English and Manipuri lines kept abreast of each other.

Assuming some may find the line alignment of the English version in the ‘preformatted” juxtaposition with Manipuri uncomfortable, I have reproduced the English version at the bottom of the post again.

ঈশিংদা তাশিল্লে                      Fallen into the water.      
কদায়দগিনো খঙদনা--                God knows from where—
অরূবা ঈশিং                        clear water,
ত্রৎ ঈংবা ঈশিং,                     freezing cold
হকচাং কয়াৎ পূম্বা য়াথোকহনবা৷          getting around all organs.
হোই,                             Yes,
মখূৎতু ঙাইহাক্তি লাম্মী                 the hands grope awhile
মখোঙদু ঙাইহাক্তি কাওই৷               the legs kick awhile.
অদৈদি ঈশিংদু হঞ্জিল্লকই                 Then the water returns
করিশু খঙজদবা মতৌদা৷               to its placid innocence.
ফমজিনখ্রবা ঈমায়দা ফমদুনা             Crouched on the icy surface
উই মশাগি হোৎনবা পূম্বা               he sees all his own efforts
ঈশিংনা চূপশিনখিবা,                  being sucked up by the water,
মাগি ফিথোংদবা হকচাং                 his naked body
অঙৌবা গুলিগুমই                     a blueish-white tablet
অরূবা গ্লাসকি ঈশিংদা                 in a glass of clean water
তুমদ্রঙৈ ঙাইহাক্কি প্রীক প্রীক৷             noiselessly bubbling awhile
                                 before it dissolves.

অহিং নোংয়ায়দা মীৎকপ থোরকই৷         He wakes up at midnight.
মঙ্গারকপগুমই মদু                    It feels like back from a funeral
অঙকপা অমম্বা লমদম অমদগি৷           in a strange dark place

মুশিবা তেবল লেম্প নাকলদা              A glass of clean water
অরূবা ঈশিং গ্লাস৷                     beside the shaded table lamp.
অঙৌবা গুলি অমা থাদৈ৷                 He drops a blueish-white tablet in it.
কোঙ্গোল মচা খরা পৃক পৃক              A few tiny bubbles prick up
ঙাইহাক৷                            just awhile.

অমুক তূমথবা য়াদ্রে                     He can't bring himself
মহাক৷                              back to sleep.

The English version is reproduced below again:

Fallen into the water.
God knows from where—
clear water,
freezing cold
getting around all organs.
the hands grope awhile
the legs kick awhile.
Then the water returns
to its placid innocence.
Crouched on the icy surface
he sees all his own efforts
being sucked up by the water,
his naked body
a bluish-white tablet
in a glass of clean water
noiselessly bubbling awhile
before it dissolves.

He wakes up at midnight.
It feels like back from a funeral
in a strange dark place.

A glass of clean water
beside the shaded table lamp.
He drops a blueish-white tablet in it.
A few tiny bubbles prick up
just awhile.

He can’t bring himself
back to sleep.