Three of my poems “At Rajiv Chowk Metro Station,” “Khas Pidgin” and “Foreign Tongue” appear in the latest Sage issue of Coldnoon, an international journal of travel writing & traveling cultures. These poems are part of my debut collection, Khas Pidgin.
I think I wrote the poem “Khas Pidgin” in 2008/9, and “Foreign Tongue” in 2014/15. I am certain that I wrote “At Rajiv Chowk Metro Station” in 2014, because I have these notes for the poem written for a poetry-challenged friend the same year:
While waiting for the train at Rajiv Chowk, I was reading Amit Chaudhuri’s essay titled “Beyond ‘Confidence’: Rushdie and the Creation Myth of Indian writing in English” from his collection Clearing House.
He writes that there was Indian writing in English before Rushdie, a fact that the arriviste India seems to have forgotten. He concludes:
That’s why Indian writing, in the last one hundred and fifty years, represents not so much a one-dimensional struggle for, or embodiment, power, as a many-sided cosmopolitan. It isn’t enough, today, to celebrate Indian writing’s ‘success,’ after having identified what its marks of success are (as if the whole tradition must only, and constantly, be thought of as an arriviste would be); one needs to engage with its long, subterranean history (as hard-earned as political freedom itself) of curiosity and openness.
When I closed the book and lifted my eyes, they caught a brief but warm reflection of a face on the glass door of the metro. I thought it was mine, but I can’t be certain now.
The Indian writing in English is a blob and its seeming triumph, perhaps a brief rupture in what the western critics (dust and chatter) consider their canon (text).
And Indian writers (brown light) writing in English can’t be blamed for not knowing exactly who they are writing for (and the question is irrelevant, Chauduri argues)—they are faceless dots in the literary world, the mirror of their times.