Sunday, February 21, 2010

Return of Jarasandha (and Ravana too)

The Mahabharata talks about Jarasandha the king of Magadha who was born in two separate halves to twin mothers and was slain by Bhima in a wrestling combat. The two halves were put together by a witch called Jara and hence his name. Bhima, in a combat which lasted 27 days, would tear him into two and by magical power, both the halves would come together. Finally, Krishna picked up a piece of straw and broke it into two and threw the halves in opposite directions and the intelligent Bhima picks up the cue and tears Jarasandha into two and throws the halves in opposite directions. The two halves thus cannot come together and Jarasandha dies. My memory of the story comes, of course, from the Amar Chitra Katha.

Jarasandha has returned.This time as a trope for splitting and division of self at multiple levels of being:emotional, personal, social, cultural, and spiritual.  He is reborn in my Marathi poem,` Jarasandhachya Blogvarche Kahi Ansh' which is the title of my second collection of Marathi poems. My first collection of Marathi poems was titled, ` Bhintishivaichya Khidkitun Dokavtana' ( click here to download my first collection) which was published by Abhidhanantar Prakashan, Mumbai in 2004. So the second collection has appeared after almost five to six years and consists of most of my poems written in the period.  The cacophonic collection is a parodic collage of ready made narrative materials in the public domain- from James Bond, Harry Potter and Peter Parker to Ravana, Jarasanda and the Bible. There is a distinct shift in the poetics from extremely subjective, surreal and  self obsessed agonies of the first collection to parodic use of public personas, narratives and motifs. Though the chief characteristic of my poetry, the visual and surreal imagery, persists. The cover of the collection is a fantastic painting titled The Colour of Genesis I by a well-known Marathi visual artist Deepak Shinde.

My poems don't set out on a predetermined journey. They usually begin with a startling image or a motif which singes my being and I explore the possibilities inherent in this seed. I don't know what tree it will turn out to be. I have written a footnote on my poems in one of my blog entries.It discusses various contexts of my poetry and creative process.

Here is a poem from my newly born Marathi collection translated into English by yours truly. It is contemporary soliloquy of Ravana

Ten Asides for Ten Heads


The elixir of immortality
In the navel
Of this ten faced world
Has dried out

I place my longish demonic fingers
On the navel
And click
But I hear no beep

Its ten thousand windows
Must have crashed
I guess


You think Ravana was a single person
Or that his world had a single face
In fact, for your information
His bliss was also ten-faced
His agony was ten-faced too
He used to laugh
In ten different ways
At a single joke
He used to weep
His single grief
In ten different ways


Go and tell your one-headed Rama
To do whatever he liked in his life
But never try his hand
At poetry

Leave such things
To people like us

And drown himself
In that one-headed Sharayu


I have seen this world
Ten times more than you have
I have seen clearly
With my twenty eyes
How all things have ten sides

Pray tell me then
How can I shed light
On my ten-headed world
With your one-headed language?
How can I express
What I feel about Sita?
How can I explain
What I felt
When they humiliated my sister?

My mother tongue
Has ten grammatical numbers

How will I write poetry
In your language
Which has only two?


Valmiki must have managed somehow
To write the flat one-headed story
Of Rama’s life

But kindly assign
The job of writing
My authorized biography
To Vyasa

And appoint ten Ganeshas
As his stenographer
For composing this Maha-Lanka


Your three stepped syllogism
Is useless
When it comes to understanding me

The seven-stepped logic
Of the Jainas
Is equally futile

Discover first
A ten part syllogism
First invent a language
With ten grammatical numbers for me

Bury your mono-directional
Monotonous language first

Throw away the formula
Of the Rama nama chant
And recognize me
As the true Deity of your heart

With my single head
I can watch ten different channels
At a time on the TV

At a time
I can browse
At least ten different brands in the mall

I can chat at least
With ten different people
At a time

I can discuss twenty different topics
With twenty different people
With my twenty cell phones
On my twenty ears


Welcome, folks to my palace

Look at my well furnished bathroom
But I hope you won’t be so stupid
As to ask me why
There are ten mirrors here
Or ten tooth brushes
Or mouth fresheners of ten different flavours
Or ten tongue cleaners here

My soul is dual-core
Multi-tasking is my very nature


My mother had just two breasts
Women unfortunately just have two
That’s the reason why
I need either
At least ten women at a time
Or a single complete woman
With ten hands and ten breasts

However, I feel Lord Shambhunath
Has benevolently obliged womankind
By not creating such women

Had he made such a woman
We would have committed
Atrocities on her ten times over

Even if men have a single organ
Their hunger is of ten different kinds
Their thirst has ten faces

Conversant as I am
With these things
In my old age
I am planning to write
For the ten-headed men
A different Kamsutra with ten sutras

Book your copy today
And get a prepublication discount
On my autographed copy

Ten conditions, of course


You must have realized by now
That this glossy resplendent world
Is my empire

My close circuit cameras
Watch over all ten directions

I have detailed information
About what you do
Or do not do
In the mall

This world is my circular prison
All of you are my unknowing prisoners
My innumerable cameras
Keep a close watch
Over your every move
Over infinitesimal vibration of your thought
If you do anything out of the way
Mind you
You will have to face me


Only I know my true tragedy

Your one-headed Rama
Could never fathom my secret
His puritan Brahmastra
Could never find its way to my navel
As he never knew
Where it was

My heart has sprouted ten heads too
I sit and cry
In the ten-headed darkness

This Sharayu of yours
Is made of my ten types of tears
I have cried
Till my heart has turned schizophrenic

You alone can find my navel
And free me of my ten souls
Or else in the end
I will have to commit
Postmodern Harakiri myself

( Translated from Marathi by the Poet)

If you are interested in the collection, please feel free to write to me at sachinketkar at gmail dot com.