Sunday, September 26, 2004

Arun Kolatkar

The poet Arun Kolatkar passed away last night. Only last week I read his books Jejuri, Kala Ghoda Poems, and Sarpa Satra. No other contemporary poet has impressed me this much. Kala Ghoda Poems and Sarpa Satra were released in book form very recently (on July 14, 2004). This 'reclusive' poet's name was pretty visible in the mainstream media thereafter (as I Googled and found out later). Here is a review of Kolatkar's books by Gowri Ramnarayan, which appeared in this month's Hindu Literary Review. Same issue also contains an interview of Kolatkar by her. Apparently this one is conducted six years ago. A more extensive, and more revealing, interview is the one by Eunice de Souza in her book Talking Poems.

I came to know about this extremely talented poet very late. I heard about him for the first time just a fortnight ago, on September 12. That sunday morning I was skimming through the Hindu Literary Review which was published the previous week. I casually read Gowri Ramnarayan's interview, and this did not attract me very much. I would have forgotten that interview, and perhaps his name too, if another curious coincidence did not occur that afternoon. While lazily browsing the shelves at the Oxford bookstall at Churchgate, I noticed Eunice de Souza's interview of Kolatkar. And then I really really wanted to read Kolatkar. Oxford did not have him, and does not have him. Ditto with Crossword. Among hundreds of good looking, beautifully displayed copies of Sheldons, Archers, and Dan Browns, Amitav Ghoshs and Naipauls, Samit Basus and Siddharth Shanghvis, Kolatkar was not to be seen. The pavements of Kala Ghoda too did not have space for the poet whose poems silently and eloquently spoke about Kala Ghoda. I should have enquired at the right place at the starting. The guy at the 'ancient' Strand book stall took just a couple of seconds, to locate Kolatkar, in its thickly packed almirahs, full of books-- dusty and not-so-dusty. Oxford is good to spend time glancing through the fashionable books, good and bad. Also to waste money on tea or coffee at the Cha Bar there, where I end up paying thirty ruppees for a cup of tea which otherwise costs me three ruppees!

I finished reading all the three books in one sitting, fully understanding that an understanding of the works will take many more readings, also may require readings at a slower pace. But you feel the strength of Kolatkar's voice, the shock of 'Sarpa Satra' or 'Breakfast Time at Kala Ghoda', the very first time you go through it. I was hoping that Kolatkar would publish more, as he published two books together after a gap of twenty five years. (Jejuri was first published in 1977). And now he is no more. I do not read many books. I do not read literary supplements very carefully. (I might not have noticed Kolatkar's name on the 12th September in the Hindu.) Nor do I frequent book stalls. Having a chance to look at Eunice de Souza's interview looks like a miracle now. Perhaps I was destined to get to know Kolatkar's poetry just before his death.

What saddens me is this. I wanted to write in detail about Kolatkar's poetry in this blog, especially about Sarpa Satra. I postponed it thinking that I would attempt it after understanding it a bit more. I thought I wouldn't write about Kolatkar before that. And now...

13 Comments:

At 7:55 AM, Blogger anurag said...

Incidently, I also read 'No Easy Answers' after Kolatkar passed away. I was impressed by the title and read it and later searched net to get more on Kolatkar and got your blog and found he is no more. Are there any links where I can read on him and his poetry more.
~anurag

 
At 10:41 AM, Blogger Anand said...

A few of Kolatkar's poems are there on the net. The butterfly, Yeshwant Rao, An old woman etc. You could google and get these links. His books are available in some bookshops in Bombay. For instance the Strand book stall has these books.

 
At 1:49 AM, Blogger anurag said...

Thanks Anand.

 
At 5:00 AM, Anonymous Vistasp Hodiwala said...

Guys, you'll are looking at the wrong book stalls to begin with. While Strand is definitely good, Oxford and Crossword are just about okay.

If you want Kolatkar's works, go to Lotus Book House Bandra, Mumbai's finest book store. It's housed on the first floor of the IOC Petrol Station bang opposite the big green Bandra Masjid. Tel: 2645 8510 and ask for Viraat.

Vistasp Hodiwala

 
At 9:53 AM, Blogger Mc Guire said...

I am doing a course in Indian Enlish Poetry... have an exam tomorrow... I have two beautiful poems of Kolatkar named "Crabs" and "An Old Woman". I have the as hard copy. If you want I will mail them to you after exams. Just put in a mail to me in case I forget.
nishantku@gmail.com

 
At 9:23 AM, Blogger Shankari said...

Came by here thru a google search for jejuri. Amazing but I just can't get a copy in Bangalore for the past 4 months! So Mumbai wasn't so different, eh? Shall keep trying or else will end up buying the pricey edition on the next trip to a *city* of sorts!!!

 
At 7:01 PM, Blogger olidhar said...

thanks for the links to the review and the interview. loved the interview. are there more?

 
At 8:51 PM, Blogger The Chapatikid said...

A bit late, but I worked on a BBC 2 documentary called "Roots and Water" in which we dramatized Kolatkar's poem, "An Old Woman" in the first section. A Google search will help you find it if you want to see the documentary. If I remember correctly, that particular section of the series won an award as well.

 
At 2:55 AM, Blogger UK said...

Hi anyone know where I can buy a copy of Sarpa Satra and Kala Ghoda poems? Or even the address of the publisher?

 
At 11:31 AM, Blogger DR. RAM said...

really shocking news
DR. RAM SHARMA
MEERUT, INDIA

 
At 11:33 AM, Blogger DR. RAM said...

ARUN KOLATKAR WAS INSPIRATION TO MANY AND HIA DEATH HAS MADE A VOID
DR. RAM SHARMA
MEERUT, INDIA

 
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