Traversing Poetic Landscapes

Brian Mendonca’s A PEACE OF INDIA: POEMS IN TRANSIT manifests him as a painter of word images!

PROFESSOR MUHAMMAD ASLAM

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 LAT 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 belong 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 santum
 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.

Together we walked Srinagar streets. He would often ask me why Kashmir got such bad days. I would give all kinds of explanations and historical background just to convince him that ‘we’ weren’t responsible for the mess that we got into during the 1990s of the last century. I don’t know whether he believed everything that I told him but I could see that he was pained to see Kashmiris suffering and dying. He laments this in “Srinagar” in the following words:
The dayes pass by
Like a deck of cards
The Ace of Spades
and the Queen of Hearts,
Somewhere in the distance,
The future flickers
On the high of pain
It’s the trail that beckons.
In A PEACE OF INDIA poems are about India and their themes are multicultural and expressions multilingual. The poet writes: “The odes to travelling are many and varied…I have tried to travel to the nook and corner of India. Through my poems I try to present a photograph in words of the place before me. This with a sense of the history of the place and often strewn with contemporary references” (p. vii). Mendonca further writes that his poems would enable the reader to travel with him and “re-discover the nuances of places in their many moods—an Eternal India, where peace is to be found on the move” (ibid.). So, we travel with him to Delhi to  Qila Mubark (Lal Qila) where “[t]he ‘Stream of Paradise’/Connects with the ‘Hall of Mirrors’” (p. 10) and an Autumn Woman reveals her “bare, smooth arms” and a “cotton sleeveless kurti defines [her]gait” and “Jeans hug [her]waist/in careless abandon” (p. 11). 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 Himachel Pradesh (p. 12), Uttrakhand (p. 16), Rajasthan (p. 21), Uttar Pradesh (p. 27), Bihar, Assam, Nagaland, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Goa, Dman nd Diu, Andra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Keral, 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 Chmaba (in “Chamba”, p. 14) offers “an oasis of green to enclasp the soul” (p. 14). Lukhnow (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.

The reviewer teaches English at Central University, Kashmir. Reach him at miraslam@rediffmail.com

Lastupdate on : Wed, 16 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 16 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 17 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST




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