Poetry: My City for a Poet

Shrikant Verma’s Magadh is brought to new life in Rahul Soni’s translucent translation. Reading it in modern-day ‘Magadh’ is a revelation, says Sumna Roy in the Open Magazine

Having lived in a small town for most of my life, one of my sad grudges has been its inability to inspire any literature around its name. Siliguri was just Siliguri, nothing more; the geo-political nickname, ‘Chicken’s Neck’, didn’t help either. Reading Shrikant Verma’s Magadh in Rahul Soni’s brilliant translation, I was reminded of that disappointment again.

For though they may be collected under the title ‘Magadh’, Verma’s collection of poems is about Hastinapur and Kashi and Nalanda and Takshashila and Mathura and Pataliputra and Kannauj and Ujjaini and Amravati—and Magadh. In this, it answers once and for all the question: what is a city? No, do not call it a city if it cannot birth a poem. For what is Paris without its Baudelaire, Calcutta without its Sunil Ganguly, London without its Eliot? And so it is with Shrikant Verma’s Dilli—New Delhi, by any other name would be just as Magadh.

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