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Dr. Sukrita Paul Kumar
 
 

Introduction

 

 

Sukrita Paul Kumar was born and brought up in Kenya and at present she lives in Delhi, writing poetry, researching and teaching literature. An Honorary Fellow of International Writing Programme, University of Iowa (USA) and a former Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, she was also an invited poet in residence at Hong Kong Baptist University. She has published five collections of poems in English including Rowing Together, Without Margins and Folds of Silence. She is the Guest Editor of Crossing Over, a special issue of “Manoa”, the Journal from the University of Hawaii, USA. Some of her publications also came out of the work done in Canada as a recipient of the Shastri Indo-Canadian Research Grant. She was also granted the Charles Wallace Grant more than a decade ago. In mid-2008, she, along with a colleague and with a research grant, prepared an e-lesson on “Managing Diversity in India and Canada”. Some of her poems are prescribed for study by different School Boards of Studies (including NCERT) and universities in India and abroad.

 

Sukrita’s major critical works include Narrating Partition, Conversations on Modernism, The New Story and Man, Woman and Androgyny. Some of her co-edited books are Ismat, Her Life, Her Times, Interpreting Homes in South Asian Literature and Women’s Studies in India: Contours of Change. As Director of a UNESCO project on “The Culture of Peace”, she edited Mapping Memories, a volume of Urdu short stories from India and Pakistan. She has two books of translations, Stories of Joginder Paul and the novel Sleepwalkers. She is the chief editor of the book on Cultural Diversity in India published by Macmillan India and prescribed by the University of Delhi.

 

A recipient of many prestigious fellowships and residencies, Sukrita has lectured at many universities in India and abroad. A solo exhibition of her paintings was held at AIFACS, Delhi. A number of Sukrita’s poems have emerged from her experience of working with homeless people.

 

Two Poems: Traffic Signals and JAVA House

 

TRAFFIC SIGNALS

 

 

 

 

Do I see the flicker

of life in that corpse

…a shiver in the hand?

…a quiver

in the lip? The nose twitch?

Does the eye tremble

savouring the taste of

zafrani biryani in a dream?

 

Is that corpse real?

Laid out amidst incense and camphor

on the cold cement

of the divider

on that wide

wide road

the ghost of the man

dressed all in smoke,

from just above the body,

peers at me

from the vacant sockets

of the little boy

his arm extended,

the palm limp

and loud,

 

Hushed words slide down

his tongue

“Kafan, sahib,

money for the shroud, Babuji!”

 

My fingers roll the glass down

the foot pressing hard on the breaks

 

The car’s movement

punctuated

with

Death

crawling like

black ants on the boy

 

ants that

do not sting

but crawl as pinpricks

down one’s back

 

 

I drop my questions,

doubts crack up

I look death

Direct in its eyes

 

The boy with the limp palm

a genius in mimesis

 

Each night

The corpse rises for his biryani

 

each day

 

The boy is buried deeper

into his ant hill.

 

Two Poems

 

 

 

ARRIVAL

 

JAVA  HOUSE,  IOWA  CITY

Café  au  lait

 

 

Unleashed from the contours

of a smile

I felt the American Indian

feel me

with his brown native eyes,

reaching out from just above

the edges of the table

pushed against the farthest wall,

on which hung his portrait

with his arms as if

resting on the table

 

In Java House

amidst the buzz of

alien coffee percolators

and strange twangy English,

he and I

waited for the first move

 

he with his crown of feathers

I with the perfect round

teeka on my forehead,

 

both Indians in exile

one on his own land

the other for whom

the rising of the sun

was at once its setting

as on her own land

seven seas away

 

In the corner stood our witness

The piano with its

stern, philosophic countenance

European in its temper

Pregnant with sopranos and crescendos

 

Our homeland

we agreed

was the horizon

where all the Indians go

after they die

 

Delicate rings of smoke

rose from coffee-cups

and the songs of silence drowned the piano;

 

Inside Java House

the earth met the sky

for us to reach

our homeland.

without dying.

 

 

Two Paintings:

 

 

 untitled

 

 

Translation





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