Monday, 31 December 2012

Traversing Poetic Landscapes

Brian Mendonca’s A Peace of India: Poems in Transit Manifests him as a Painter of Word Images!

Book Review by 
Professor Mohammad Aslam
Department of English
Central University of Kashmir

Dr Brian Mendonca, a personal friend, is a modern poet from Goa who has, over the years, gained rich experiences of travelling across India observing varied cultures. His first collection of poems Last Bus to Vasco: Poems from Goa won him acclaim for its richness of thought and expression. He is basically a traveler; you may call him Goan Ibni Batuta or Huan Sang whose keen eyes catch even minute things that shape his landscape of poetic imagination. His landscape is vast and therefore his images are a storehouse of rich cultural heritage that India has been known for generations. He is a very good painter who knows that his image has to provide a background to the place and people that it belongs to. You are therefore forced to suspend your disbelief and see through the images, a cross section of people and their cultures.

 Mendonca’s second self-published book A Peace of India: Poems in Transit manifests him as a painter of word images that attract your attention on the first look. During one of his visits to my home, I took him to the Hazratbal shrine where, in its close vicinity, a wedding was also taking place. I took him around the wazwan area, explaining all dishes that had been prepared for the guests. Brian (that is what I call him) was fascinated by the variety of dishes (by the way, he loves mutton). Those were the days when Kashmir was burning and, at the University of Kashmir, we were still holding annual seminars. The interior of the shrine delighted him and the pathetic situation of Kashmir saddened him. To my surprise, after reaching Delhi (where he was working those days), he sent me two poems both of whom are included in the collection under review. The two poems are “Hazratbal” and “Srinagar” (p. 3). See how as a keen observer of Kashmir, he presents the shrine within the ambit of Kashmiri culture and  the situation that was prevailing those days:
            Hair of the Prophet
            Mynahs in the chinars
            Marble from Makrana
            Chandeliers from Belgium
            Walnut for the sanctum
            Moses among the reeds
            Wanwun for the bridegroom
            BSF at the ready
            Yakhni on the carpet
Silence over Pir Panchal
Kashir kori dich pooch
Habba Khatun hinz chaayi manz.

In fact, Mendonca starts his journey from Delhi and goes “on a thematic vacation/To expand my /leisure horizons,/To trip out/ ‘Inside India’/To get my links/on a portal” (p. 1). Mendonca brings with him a rich heritage from Himachal Pradesh (p. 12), Uttrakhand (p. 16), Rajasthan (p. 21), Uttar Pradesh (p. 27), Bihar, Assam, Nagaland, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Goa, Daman and Diu, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala, all spread over more than thirty pages of the booklet. Ravi in “Hymn to Ravi”( p. 12) fascinates him for its laughter, wisdom and courage and Chamba (in “Chamba”, p. 14) offers “an oasis of green to enclasp the soul” (p. 14). Luknow (in “Lucknow”) has immense pleasure for the poet because of “Mujhra, Chikan and kebab” (p. 29) and Agra provides a “[s]pectacle in marble/Quintessence of grief/Epitaph of unrest/fro the carnival horde” (p. 28). As a matter of fact, wherever you go, Mendonca introduces you to the place in such a manner as if he has been living there for ages. His knowledge of the history and cultural of the different peoples is enormous.

A Peace of India is a food for thought for lovers of poetry and painting alike. A good read, indeed. 

Picture of Hazratbal shrine, courtesy Imgres/ wikipedia

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