Monday, July 26, 2010

Bankimchandra Chatterji's Debi Chaudhurani, Hindu nationalism, and Hinduism in the Indian novel

A slightly different version of this essay appeared this weekend in The National.

Hindu nationalism today has a considerable presence in Indian politics: the BJP and smaller state-level organisations; support in sympathetic publications and TV channels; even celebrity endorsement. But one realm that has been persistently indifferent to the allure of Hindu nationalism, whether in its benign or militant incarnations, is the Indian novel, particularly the Indian novel in English.

Hindu nationalism argues that Hinduism is the engine of Indian history, and asserts the equivalence, at the level of culture if not always of religion, of the terms “Indian” and “Hindu”. It believes that Hinduism in India has been for centuries under siege: first from Muslim invaders from the north-west who converted swathes of Indian society to Islam; then the British; and finally the new Indian nation-state. It holds that modern-day Hinduism (which it often views as a cohesive entity) continues to move towards marginalisation because of the encroachment of proselytising religions, the neglect or limitations of the secular Indian state, and the lack of religious consciousness and embarrassment about religious assertion exhibited by Hindus themselves.

Yet the story of India’s past and present narrated by the Hindu right rarely makes it into fiction, except within an ironic frame. The political rise of Hindu nationalism over the last three decades has generated many persuasive ideologues, but the movement does not, in English at any rate, have a house novelist, someone to turn ideas and abstractions into characters and plots.

This is a shame. Firstly, it allows Indian novelists of a certain ideological disposition a free run of the land. The result is often a facile secularism, a kind of reflexive celebration of India’s diversity, that borrows its vocabulary and its tropes from well-worn ideas, and thus has no linguistic or narrative energy to call its own. Tellingly, when Hindu nationalists appear in such novels, they are condemned from first sight by the narrator as zealots, driven by anger, hate, and lust (Arya in Manil Suri’s The Age of Shiva, or the cartoonish Minister Prasad in Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi’s The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay).

Secondly, it would appear that there is a want of serious engagement in the Indian novel in English not just with Hindu nationalism, but with the immense weight of Hinduism itself. Not only is Hindu nationalism artistically unfashionable (except as a convenient source of villainy and conflict), its absence points to a deeper failing that ironically might be seen as lending credence to the Hindu nationalists’ complaint about the falling away of Hinduism from the wellsprings of culture. Barring exceptions such as Raja Rao’s Kanthapura, Hinduism itself is rarely explored or interrogated in an extended way in modern Indian novels in English.

This suggests a narrative orientation in the Indian novel in English that is not just politically centrist or left-of-centre, but which engages with religion more at the level of observation and backdrop than of sympathetic immersion or experience. Hinduism’s massive repository of ideas, fables, images, exemplars, proverbs, aphorisms and narrative structures have left an impression on the Indian novel in English far smaller than the one that it exerts on public and private life in India. One might say that, while Hinduism should be part of the Indian novelist’s wealth, the challenges of realising a mainly Sanskritic worldview persuasively in English are such that it is usually treated as a tax.

This background makes all the more significant the appearance of an English translation of Debi Chaudhurani, a late work by the Bengali writer Bankimchandra Chatterji (1838-1894), India’s first major novelist. One of the earliest recruits of the Indian Civil Service established in the middle of the 19th century by the British, Bankim – so familiar a name in Indian letters, across linguistic traditions, that he is usually referred to by his first name – spent his working life as a deputy magistrate in the colonial administration. But, even though he represented the vanguard of a new class of anglicised Indians (going so far as to write his first novel, Rajmohan’s Wife, in a sonorous English), Bankim’s ear remained close to the ground.

His novels, particularly those of his late “nationalist” phase, are preoccupied with contemplating the future (and reprising and sometimes reimagining the past) of a predominantly Hindu Bengali society hobbled, from without, by the martial superiority first of Muslim rulers and then the British, and from within, by a stagnation of thought, social structure and gender roles. Debi Chaudhurani (1884), loosely based on the story of a real-life female bandit in 18th-century Bengal, offers the reader a deeply felt vision of “the Hindu way of life” – one that celebrates but also interrogates Hindu tradition. If one were to imagine contemporary Hindu nationalism as its best and most intellectually coherent (something it is mostly not), this might be the kind of reading of Hinduism it would offer.

Like many 19th-century realists (Hardy, Flaubert, Zola), Bankim was fond of female protagonists, the better to portray the constraints and inquities of the patriarchal society that was, as much as the individual, the subject of his enquiry. When we first see his heroine, a young woman called Prafulla, it is as the victim of the neglect of society and “the pinchings of poverty” (this is one of Bankim’s lovely phrases from his one and only English novel).

Although married into a prosperous Brahmin family, Prafulla has been thrown out by her father-in-law Haraballabh (a representative, in Bankim's view, of many of the malignant tendencies of upper-caste Hindu society) because of allegations made against her by members of her village. Even though he loves her, her young husband Brajesvar is powerless to defend her. Although Brajesvar forsakes Prafulla at Haraballabh’s command, we find that the narrator provides only a muted critique of this decision, setting against it Brajesvar’s memory of a verse from the Mahabharata that emphasises duty to the father. This is one of several instances where the reader finds his or her long-settled assumptions about duty and family upended by Bankim, whose vision of an ordered Hindu society leads him to privilege or at least defend the right of parents to filial obedience.

Left on her own, Prafulla is kidnapped by a local goon, and then abandoned in the forest after the venture goes awry. Here she finds herself at the mercy of a bandit called Bhabani Pathak. But Pathak, a Brahmin, also turns out to be a scholar of Hinduism. Impressed with Prafulla’s native intelligence, he sets out to train her for five years in a syllabus that aggregates the great texts of Sanskrit grammar, logic, literature and philosophy. The last text to which Prafulla is exposed is the Bhagavad Gita, “the best of all works”. One might think of this reading list as a nationalist’s reply to the policy of English as a medium of higher education advocated by Macaulay’s Minute in 1834, and imposed by the British in India thereafter.

Even more unusually, Prafulla is shown receiving a physical education. She learns, in tussles with a female adept, to wrestle. The implication is that Brahmins, hitherto the intellectual elite of Hindu society, must learn in a time of crisis to fight. Once Prafulla’s education is complete, she becomes the revered leader and moral compass – hence the honorific “Debi Chaudhurani” – of a band of skilled vigilantes who apply their private vision of justice to a lawless realm. “Each [fighter] had a staff tied to his back – the weapon typical of Bengal,” remarks the narrator. “The Bengali once knew its proper use; it was when he abandoned the staff that he lost his spirit.” Versions of this lament about the pusillanimity of modern Hindu civilisation are widely echoed in contemporary Hindu nationalist tracts.

Yet Prafulla’s major victories in the text are achieved not by force, but by love and ethical action. Elevated by her education, she becomes an exemplar of the ideal of nishkama karma or selfless and detached action, advocated by the Gita, and of the dharma, or vision of order and justice, central to Hindu philosophy. All along she remains steadfastly faithful not just to Brajesvar, but to the well-being of the patriarch who cast her out (even as the reader roots for his downfall). The novel’s final chapter shows her renouncing banditry and returning, under an alias deciphered only by her husband, to her bridal home, to take charge not just of the household but, in due course, of the entire estate.

Breaking down the fence of the European realist novel to make room for his ideological project, Bankim, in his closing chapter, makes his protagonist, elevated by the best that Hinduism has to offer, not just the idealised wife of Hindu tradition but indeed an ideal for all Hindus. Strikingly, he claims Prafulla as an incarnation of the Krishna of the Gita who declares: “To protect the good, to destroy the wicked, and to establish right order, I take birth in every age.” These are the closing words of the novel – words that would have, in the unfamiliar context of a novel and as applied to a female protagonist, amazed and roused the book’s original readers, and also words that suggestively replace a Western idea of linear time with a Hindu one of cyclical time. Possibly no other Indian novel is as steeped in the glories of Hinduism, and so self-consciously preoccupied with a vision of the rejuvenation of Hindu society, as Debi Chaudhurani.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Introduction to India: A Traveler's Literary Companion

Here is the introduction to my new book India: A Traveler's Literary Companion, recently published in the USA by Whereabouts Press. The anthology brings together both classic and contemporary Indian writers, and Indian writing in English as well as Indian literature in translation. An Indian edition of this book, which was originally commissioned by Whereabouts for an American audience, should be available later this year. The entire series of literary companions to different countries published by Whereabouts is here.

Much of the pleasure of storytelling comes from all that is left unsaid—from the things for which we readers are given a direction, but not an end. So too, so much of what we feel for the world of a story derives from the flavour of the local—from a turn of phrase, a glimpse of a patch of earth, a memorable detail, that is absolutely specific to the worldview of a particular character or culture.

When, for instance, Chandrakant, the youth leaving his village for the first time in Jayant Kaikini’s story “Dots and Lines,” feels the wind on his face on the train to Bombay, and imagines that the same wind “had just blown the tarpaulin off the night-halting bus on the banks of the Gangavati before reaching this place,” this image makes us see Chandrakant in two places at the same time. Not only does the idea of the wind from home catching up with the train going away from home encapsulate Chandrakant’s longing for what he has left behind, the specificity of the image of “the tarpaulin of the night-halting bus” being ruffled by that wind registers very strongly on our own imaginations. This is one of those flares of detail that make fiction burn brighter than other kinds of prose writing.

Similarly, in Bibhutibhushan Bandhopadhyay’s “Canvasser Krishnalal,” we are told of Krishnalal, the itinerant seller of medicated oil, that “he would ply like a weaver’s shuttle, from Shiyalda to Barasat, from Barasat to Shiyalda.” This detail not only makes Krishnalal seem like a mechanised object himself, operating upon the world with the same regularity and constancy as that of a season or the trains, it also suggests the man’s jaunty temperament—it might be a metaphor thought of by Krishnalal himself. We understand, from such details, why Eudora Welty thought that while fiction’s reach, its themes, were universal, the power of a story was “all bound up in the local.”

This anthology brings to you a basket of such stories, plucked out of the gardens of India’s many language-literatures: works that are intended to bring you closer to the Indian landscape and the Indian imagination in all its variety, even as you enjoy the universal pleasures of storytelling. About half the stories here were written in English, and the other half are translations, each from a different Indian language.

Indeed, the most striking feature of Indian literature when seen as a whole—a source of its strength and variety, but also of the difficulty in navigating it—is that it is multilingual to a degree not matched by any other national literature in the world. Even if we exclude classical languages and contemporary dialects, we find ourselves before a field divided up among at least two dozen languages. As with any other language, each one of these languages represents not only a particular matrix of sounds and grammatical structures but also a distinct imaginative universe, with its own myths and beliefs, its own social structures, its own view of history and time.

Thus we arrive at the paradox: because of its profusion of languages, most of Indian literature is a foreign country even for Indian readers, who at their best can be no more than trilingual or quadrilingual. I myself speak English, Hindi—which is the closest that India has to a “national” language—and my mother tongue Oriya, and, I am ashamed to admit, can only read and write in the first two, although I can sing you a number of devotional songs in the third.

Unsurprisingly, as English is the language of university education and also the favoured language of the Indian elite, a link language between people whose first languages are different from each other, and also a powerful force in business and advertising, it is Indian writing in English—a realm in which much exciting work is being done— that receives the most attention both at home and around the world. Another factor inhibiting the appreciation of the literature from other Indian languages has been the paucity of good translations into English.

These are the conditions that led Salman Rushdie and Elizabeth West to controversially declare, in their 1997 anthology Mirrorwork: 50 Years of Indian Writing 1947-1997, that “the prose writing . . . created in this period by Indian writers working in English, is proving to be a stronger and more important body of work that most of what has been produced in the 16 ‘official languages’ of India,” and that “‘Indo-Anglian’ literature represents perhaps the most valuable contribution India has yet made to the world of books.”

This is a contention—as I hope this book will demonstrate—that is being disproved rapidly. But the point remains: many of the riches of Indian literature are lying invisible in the shadows, waiting for a translation that will release their rhythms and energies into the world. It is my hope that some of the stories in this volume showcase the best of what is currently available of Indian fiction in English translation, and arouse in you, the reader interested in India, the desire for a more sustained encounter with writers whose work is every bit as good as their better-known counterparts who compose in English.

As with other anthologies in this series, the stories here are arranged on a geographical basis, almost laid out on a map. Each of the five regions in which I have divided the country could potentially have been the subject of an individual book, but here I have limited them to two or three stories each. Where the stories are set in a specific city or town, those have been named; otherwise the general region or state in which the story is set has been provided.

I have tried to make sure that the book gives a sense of the different realities of urban, small-town, and rural India, from the world of upper-class Delhi represented in Qurratulain Hyder’s “The Sound of Falling Leaves” to the village people gossiping and squabbling by the pond in Fakir Mohan Senapati’s “Asura Pond”. The stories also gesture at the diverse primary allegiances of Indian people, whether it is to the city (Bandhopadhyay’s Krishnalal), the guild (Nazir Mansuri’s fisherman Lakham Patari), caste (Phanishwarnath Renu’s villagers) or the tribe (Mamang Dai’s heroine Nenem).

The works brought together here are both old and new: the earliest was first published in 1902, while the ink is still not dry on the most recent one. Some of the writers here are legendary figures known to, even if not always read by, readers all over India; others represent the new generation, and are slowly making a reputation for themselves. I have made some notes on aspects of their craft and style in the individual introductions to the stories.

Not the least of the pleasures of the stories brought together here is that, while rooted in a particular world, they often hum with the stirrings of distant worlds that have made India such a diverse and fecund civilization. The architect of the Taj Mahal in Kunal Basu’s “The Accountant” looks at an architectural plan “drawn not simply from Hindustan but from Isphafan and Constantinople, Kabul and Samarkand—from the whole world”. In Nazir Mansuri’s “The Whale”, a trader in a port village on the west coast of India ferries “lime, dates, onions, and garlic to Basra, Iran, and Africa” till one day he never returns. Now these stories, too, go out into the world—many of them are being published outside India for the first time—and it is my hope that wherever they go, they will provide the same pleasure that they have given at home.

Chandrahas Choudhury
Mumbai, March 2010

Friday, July 09, 2010

Rage and love in Manu Joseph's Serious Men

A shorter version of this piece appears today in The National.

If you want to understand India, don’t talk to Indians who speak English,” says Salman Rushdie – or at least he does so in Manu Joseph’s gripping new novel about race, caste, sex and power in India, Serious Men. This citation of what appears to be an intriguing but improbable remark by Rushdie appears in the novel in the form of a “quote of the day” on an organisation’s chalkboard. The fabricator of these ingenious quotes is Ayyan Mani, a middle-aged Dalit who works as a secretary to the director of a fictional institute of physics in Mumbai called the Institute of Theory and Research.

Ayyan – the narrator always refers to him by his first name – deeply resents the power structures that continue to privilege the high-born both within the institute and more widely in society, while ceding a few concessions here and there to men like him. It is only under an alias – in this case Rushdie – that Ayyan can make himself heard, since in this environment the name matters as much as the thought. The remarks left by Ayyan on a noticeboard of the institute (and attributed to a mysterious “Administration”) constitute one of the ways in which he carries on a sardonic commentary, much of it within his own head, on the affairs of the institute and its elite, self-absorbed class of scientists, most of them Brahmins. As if fulfilling the ancient duties of their caste, the Brahmins spend most of their time thinking “deep, expensive thoughts” on abstruse scientific subjects – or else plotting a way forward for themselves, in little cliques and cabals. Ayyan loves these machinations that run in parallel to "the search for the truth" that seems to him such a charade, and does everything he can to stoke them, hoping to set off a “war of the Brahmins” that will provide plenty of viewing pleasure from his ringside seat.

Joseph’s novel opens with Ayyan sitting on a Mumbai seafront at twilight, ogling at attractive young women with their “tired high-caste faces” as they walk past. It stays with him as we see his envy of all the things around him that he cannot have, and goes home with him to the dilapidated room in a congested chawl where he lives with his wife and son. Ayyan is “something of a legend” in the chawl, having risen up to a white-collar job in contrast to the menial labour or joblessness of other men around him. But although he would like to cut himself off from his roots and take his family someplace better, more middle-class, there is nowhere for him to go, and he perfunctorily keeps up the old social connections. Here is Joseph's reading of why Ayyan behaves the way he does in the neighbourhood he should think of as home:
Even though the men here loved Ayyan through the memories of a common childhood, he had long ago cut himself off from them. He laughed with them always, lent money and on humid nights chatted on the black-coated tar terrace about who exactly was the best batsman in the world, or about the builders who were interested in buying up the chawl, or about how Aishwarya Rai was not very beautiful if she were observed closely. But in his mind he did not accept these men. He had to abolish the world he grew up in to be able to plot new ways of escaping from it. Sometimes he saw bitterness in the eyes of his old friends who thought he had gone too far in life, leaving them all behind. That bitterness reassured him. The secret rage in their downcast eyes also reminded him of a truth which was dearer to him than anything else. That men, in reality, did not have friends in other men. That the fellowship of men. despite its joyous banter, old memories of exaggerated mischief and the altruism of sharing pornography, was actually a farcical fellowship. Because what a man really wanted was to be bigger than his friends.
Nor can Ayyan, even though he wishes to, forsake the burdens of his religion. As a gesture of rebellion against the disabilities and racial suffocation visited by Hinduism on the lowest castes for millennia, Ayyan has converted to Buddhism. But his wife Oja still retains her belief in Hindu gods, and ascribes the part-deafness of her son Adiya to their wrath. “Buddha’s eternal smile, she had always interpreted as the peace of a cosmically powerless man,” we are told (and what is striking about this sentence is not just the scathing thought but the odd syntax, which gives us Buddha’s smile on its own for a half-second, as Ayyan might see it, before Oja arrives to scythe it down with her contempt). “It was the other gods, the Hindu gods, who had all the magic.”

Even if Joseph’s novel was only a depiction of this densely imagined subaltern resentment and gloom (far more complex and convincing than the treatment of the same theme in Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger), it would be a striking achievement. But as it turns out, Ayyan is merely one half of the field of consciousness sympathetically explored by the novel through a focus on particular characters, and the other half is that of a representative of all that Ayyan mocks about caste, class, and science: Arvind Acharya, the aging director of the Institute, and one of the “them” of Ayyan’s bitter binary worldview.

Like most Brahmins, Acharya is not greatly concerned by caste issues – his place in the caste order makes him oblivious to the privileges and constrictions of caste. Nor is he greatly interested, as his secretary is, in love or sex. These drives are to him are sublimated in the practicalities of marriage, and to him his body is more the shell for his mind than an agent or object of desire. What possesses him is science, and a search for the truth, even if that truth is only a new step into the abyss of all that is unknown, soon to itself fall away and be replaced by a new consensus. He seeks, and has always sought, "A moment in time – a rare moment in time – when man was about to learn something more about his little world."

What is more, Joseph has the confidence to not merely assert these things about his protagonist, but to explore in great depth what the life of the mind of a man of science may be like. This makes his book stand out in the field of contemporary Indian novels. He works up a memorable picture of Acharya’s big, shambling figure, his bald head, his beautiful face that has something of an infant’s innocence, his impatience and irritability, and the iron hand with which he runs the institute. But he also explores, dramatically and persuasively, Acharya’s pet theory: that life on earth was seeded by alien microbes, and that the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is taking the wrong form by imagining aliens as intelligent beings not very different from humans.

Acharya’s dream project is to send up a balloon forty-one kilometres above the earth, where no life is thought to exist, to return with samples of the air there. If any trace of life are discovered in this vicinity, “it would mean that it was coming down, not going up.” But Joseph thickens our sense of Acharya’s flaming mind by relaying to us his speculations not just about alien life, but on all kinds of conundrums. “Through life,” we hear Acharya say, in a moment of reverie, “the universe saves itself the trouble of making whole star systems by concentrating vast amounts of energy as consciousness.”

Nor is the auditor of that remark insignificant, for she herself represents a consciousness and an energy to which Acharya, despite himself, finds himself powerfully attracted. Oparna Goshmaulik, an attractive young collaborator on Acharya’s Balloon Mission and the only woman of stature at the institute, falls for Acharya’s unique charms. In attempting to seduce and possess him, she visits upon him all those agonies of body and mind, painful and pleasurable at the same time, that are commonly the torments of youth. Yet Acharya feels a loyalty to Lavanya, his wife of several decades, and walks away from Oparna’s first invitation to a tryst in her basement laboratory. Their short-lived affair (spied upon by the all-seeing Ayyan) and its disastrous repercussions are described by Joseph with a fine awareness of all that passes between two adults who have shared, and now regret, intimacies. What is most unexpected and pleasing about Serious Men is that his microbe-loving protagonist is one of the most unusual lovers in Indian fiction. Acharya seeks aliens, but instead finds something almost as strange and wonderful in the basement of his own institute.

Among the dozens of finely judged vignettes in the book, here is one. It has nothing to do with any of what we might consider the novel's primary themes, and so is all the more pleasing for the care with which it has been brought off. Acharya has promised to return early from the institute to drive Lavanya to the hospital for a check-up. Both husband and wife are now something of a mystery to one another; neither can quite believe how old the other has become, so different from the Acharya and Lavanya called up by their decades of memories. Here they are, driving to hospital in "an ancient sky-blue Fiat". The long sentence in the opening paragraph is one of the few in the book that sound off-key, excessive, but nevertheless the scene is striking:
Acharya did not say anything to her. That was not unusual. They got into the car and drove in silence. Taxis broke lanes and crossed his path, singing cyclists almost died under his tyres and gave him self-righteous glares before resuming their songs, buses were at his bumper and pedestrians stood in the middle of the road waiting to cross the other half, but Acharya's blood pressure did not rise.
'This country has become a video game,' he said. He did not speak for the rest of the journey.
When they reached Breach Candy Hospital, he got out of the car, locked the doors and went into the porch. At the reception, he realized he had left something in the car. He went back, muttering to himself. Lavanya was sitting inside the car with a calm expression on her face.
'You can open it from inside,' he told her.
'I know,' she said, as she struggled out of the vehicle.
'Then why didn't you do it?' he asked angrily. 'Why are you being dramatic?'
'I am being dramatic?'
'I know I forgot you in the car. So?'
'So nothing. It happens. Did I say anything?'
"At the reception, he realized he had left something in the car." That "something" is not used (although on second reading it might seem so) just because if the narrator said "Lavanya", the pay-off of the next few sentences would be destroyed. It also accurately describes the interim stage of discordance by which Acharya arrives at a perception that his wife is missing. And then (although Acharya himself accuses his wife of being dramatic for her passive resistance) what is striking is the undramatic nature of the conversation that follows, which nevertheless moves us, because we are allowed to fill in the gaps, to imagine what the faces of Acharya and Lavanya might be like as they stand next to each other, perhaps not looking one another in the eye. Good dialogue, one realises, is surprisingly rare in fiction.

If there is a fault in Joseph’s novel, it is that the complexities and many layers of caste tensions in India are reduced, in the novel’s scheme, to a face-off between Dalits and Brahmins, with no other groups in between. This was almost inevitable, one sees, if the material had to be brought down to manageable limits, and the other aspects of the story simultaneously nurtured. But Joseph’s writing has an unmistakable assurance and intelligence, and he steers almost completely clear of the contrivances of plot, infelicities of style, stereotypical narrative arcs, and oddly ingratiating manner found in so many contemporary Indian novels in English. Ayyan and Acharya are shown to be, in their own ways, serious men, comprehending their fraught positions in great depth. Their disparate worlds and ambitions, and their belated, surprising complicity, are expertly realised in this very fulfilling first novel.

And here is an old post on another very good Indian novel about caste set against the backdrop of education: Vinod George Joseph's Hitchhiker.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Indian poetry in Mint Lounge

For a while now Mint Lounge, the Saturday newspaper for whom I work as a book critic, has been publishing, fairly regularly on its books pages, short poems by some of the best Indian poets at work today, written in a range of forms, from free verse to sonnets and ghazals. Sometimes the paper also publishes an excerpt from new collections or translations of classical literature. The idea is to take English poetry out of the exclusive province of literary and little magazines and out of tiny niches inside bookshops, and to show, by putting it out where a mass audience can find it over their morning coffee, that it may be read for aesthetic pleasure, may elicit a response on the level of both language and music, by just about anybody who can bring himself or herself to slow down and follow the beat of a poem.

Here is a selection of them. The links to the poets lead off to other websites on poetry, or the links to their books, and will allow you to form a small beginner's map of Indian poetry today. "The Herons Have Come" by the Sangam poet Orampokiyar, "New Delhi Love Song" by Michael Creighton, "Moult" by Gieve Patel, "Dogwalker" and "Intimations of Unreality from Recollections of Early Cricket" by Mukul Kesavan, "Not Those" by Ashok Vajpeyi in a translation by Sudeep Sen; "Daybreak" by Sridala Swami, "Identification Marks" by Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih; "Ghost Sounds" by Aruni Kashyap, "Still" by Rohit Chopra, "Rome: winter" by Karthika Nair, "War Poetry" by Aseem Kaul, "Distant Gods" by Anjum Hasan, and lastly my own "If I Should Let Every Feeling".

And two old posts: "An Indian poetry special in The Literary Review" and "Tigers in the poetry of William Blake and Salabega".