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Book review: ‘A Clock in the Far Past’ by Sarabjeet Garcha

Reviewed by Shikhandin

A Clock in the Far Past

Title: A Clock in the Far Past – Poems
Author: Sarabjeet Garcha
Publisher: Dhauli Books
Price: INR Rs 250/ $14/£ 11

Human bodies are heavy, slaves of Earth’s gravity. Human hearts, on the other hand, weighing little more than sparrows, are still strong enough to pull the weight of memory. Perhaps this is where poetry is born.

Sarabjeet Garcha’s book of poems, A Clock in the Far Past, leaves one immersed in a certain feeling. Something more like residue, or a whiff of a sensation, almost like distant memory, or the memory of a memory, ticking away for the sake of what is here and now.

As the titular poem of the volume says:

It wasn’t 10:10, as images of clocks

are fond of showing, but some hour
that’s been swallowed by some windy
darkness of a tunnel, now extinct.
But what you can’t figure out now

Is the sudden urge to make
That stopped clock tick again-
As if a few tweaks to it
in the far past would set at least
something in your present right.

The clock’s hands move. Sarabjeet Garcha’s poems ferry the reader across like a time machine, albeit an astral one. This can be, and is already, disconcerting. These memories do not belong to the reader; and at times they seem not to belong to the poet. Then why this recurring sense of turning back the hands of one’s own clock? Is it because Garcha has made

a handful of lines
out of a lifetime’s work
shine…

These lines speak to me of Garcha’s humility before his muse. And this too – when he recognises with thanks that

seated
figure of some rare unknown
reader of his paltry work, he wants

to snoop on the underscores
and thank her for doing
what was almost
undoable for him…

(From “Radium”, the last poem in the volume)

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Book Review: Lullaby of the Ever-Returning by Sarabjeet Garcha

Reviewed by Ranga Chandrarathne

Lullaby_cover (1)

Title: Lullaby of the Ever-Returning
Author: Sarabjeet Garcha
Publisher: Paperwall Media & Publishing Pvt. Ltd
Pages: 74
Price: INR 200/-

 

Sarabjeet Garcha’s poetry collection titled Lullaby of the Ever-Returning is, in essence, a masterly exploration of universal themes coloured by cultural conditioning and geography. It gives the book a universal appeal, while at the same time codifying the unique culture of the soil.

Love is a recurrent theme in the book, a theme which is craftily manifested not only in a finely woven tapestry of poetry but also in prose which belongs at one level to the exclusive cultural experiences of the Sikh community and at another to the entire humanity. Both in the pieces of prose and in poetry, what Sarabjeet encapsulates is the multifaceted-ness of love beautified and made colourful by the powerful human agent. Although love is a universal experience, it has been aesthetically situated in the Sikh culture, adding a unique cultural dimension to it yet preserving its universal character.

A significant aspect of love in Sarabjeet’s work is the portrayal of its social manifestation, by and large defined by the moral codes of a given society. The poet amply manifests and reinforces the universal adage that a writer or a poet cannot afford to be universal without being local or without being firmly rooted in one’s own culture. The contours of the poet’s discourse of love are defined by a diction enriched with powerful metaphors and imagery masterly employed in the poems and in the pieces of prose in the collection. It is a literary feast that one would partake with delight.

Your Handwriting
for Sudhanshu

the silt of
an ink river

rolling into

a relic chamber
painted with

the heart’s hieroglyphs
the soul’s trompe l’oeil

The poem is dedicated to his friend and the nostalgia is reawakened through the lines of a link, obviously written in his handwriting. It is not just the feeling of love, but something much deeper than that. On the one hand, the poem is dedicated to someone’s handwriting and, on the other, it hits out at the destiny that unfolds layer by layer before us. The changes would happen for the good. The poem is marked for its brevity of expression and the metaphor-rich language.

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Master of the lean poem

Seven poetry collections over a span of 35 years might not seem too many, but what elicits surprise, no matter how mild, is that four of them were published in the past seven years. A readerly intimacy with the poems in Manohar Shetty’s Full Disclosure: New and Collected Poems is bound to assure you that the poet not only does not mind mildness, but revels –even excels – in it. After his third book of poems, Domestic Creatures (1994), he took a literary pause that lasted 16 years, during which time he “never slept, / Only passed out and woke up”, while never cringing “From that same old taunt: / ‘Yeh sala Manu ban gaya bewda’”. Addiction and poetry do not necessarily make great sleeping partners, yet their occasional camaraderie might lead to interesting outcomes in the arena of creativity. If alcohol did any damage to Shetty’s poetry, it doesn’t show. In fact, his post-hiatus fecundity confirms that the poet not only emerged whole and hale from the deep dark pit notorious for ending the careers of scores of artists, but also preserved the integrity, purity and vigour essential for writing elegant poems,

Those unsigned hard won
Stanzas in longhand given
Away as keepsakes,
As prayers, bookmarks,
Or anniversary cards;
A bequest with no return
Address—a piece of paper
Folded close to the heart.

Those in possession of his words would do well to copy some down on a sheet of paper, fold it and slip it into their shirt pockets, for the pull of a Shetty poem is such that it demands many celebratory re-readings. On the other hand, he doesn’t mind if his precious missives to the world, smugly lost in its collective distractions, go missing. No matter what happens, “He would be game to the last”, exhorting the interested reader/listener to “not be taken in by the rows / Of books touching the ceiling”, but to “Listen instead / To the scratch of words / On the page, any page, white / Or ochre with age”. In India, the relationship between ochre and age goes back to ancient times. The colour is still sacred to many, although in the past two decades or so, it has acquired connotations that are far from savoury. It seems unlikely that Shetty had this sense of the word in mind, but then, what’s poetry without its share of accidental implications?

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Kitaab interview with Sarabjeet Garcha : ‘What we see in ample is usually refined mediocrity, which has had the benefit of resources’

Sarabjeet Garcha Revisiting the fascinating strands of rich culture, Sarabjeet Garcha interlaces his personal experiences into universal experiences of humanity.  Love is a recurrent theme in the anthology Lullaby of the Ever-Returing, a theme which is craftily manifested not only in finely- woven tapestry of poetry but also in prose which are at one level belong to the exclusive cultural experiences of the Sikh community  but at another to the entire humanity. Both in the pieces of prose and in poetry, what Sarabjeet encapsulates is the multifacetedness of love which is beautified and made colourful by the powerful human agent. Although love is a universal experience, it has been aesthetically situated in the Sikh culture adding a unique cultural dimension to it yet preserving the universal character of it.

A significant aspect of love at Sarabjeet’s hand is the portrayal of its social manifestation, by and large, defined by the moral codes of a given society.  Sarabjeet amply manifest and reinforces the universal adage that a writer or a poet cannot afford to be universal without being local or without being firmly rooted in one’s own culture. The contours of Sarabjeet’s discourse of love are defined by a diction enriched with powerful metaphors and imagery masterly employed in poems and in the pieces of prose in the anthology. In essence, it is a literary feast that one would partake with delight.

Garcha was interviewed by Sri Lankan journalist Ranga Chandrarathne.            

In a way, your poems encapsulate not only your personal life experiences but also the milieu you live in and the complex system of beliefs and culture in general. For instance, the poem Your Handwriting, though a personal experience, evokes the universal feeling of love and also epitomises the rich imagination on the part of the narrator. Your comments..?

Garcha: Anything most personal is necessarily universal, and all universal feelings can be traced back to certain fundamental emotions. They are the same everywhere and so is their perception, but their expressions vary. It’s the permutations of these expressions that give rise to novelty and freshness, the key elements that make poetry work. Nothing’s more universal and more universally understood or misunderstood — depending on how you look at it — than love. And it is so much more than just a feeling. The poem you refer to does not just point to the handwriting of the person it is dedicated to, but also to that of the much dreaded but equally celebrated Moving Finger of providence or destiny, for which the Hindi word praarabdha sounds better to me. Besides being interested in what this finger writes, I am fascinated by the looks of what it writes, by how life unfolds itself to us layer by layer, by the way these micro, or say nano, revelations affect and change us, and change us for good, irreversibly. Continue reading